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The one wild deal in 45 billion
Charles Goren
June 10, 1968
Lord Yarborough used to bet 1,000 to 1 against the deal of a hand with no card higher than a 9-spot. It would take a terribly confident player to buck these odds since the chance of holding such a hand is 1 in 1,828.
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June 10, 1968

The One Wild Deal In 45 Billion

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Lord Yarborough used to bet 1,000 to 1 against the deal of a hand with no card higher than a 9-spot. It would take a terribly confident player to buck these odds since the chance of holding such a hand is 1 in 1,828.

When one player does hold a Yarborough, the odds become astronomical against another player having one on the same deal: approximately 45,675,000,000 to 1. But it did happen recently, and when it did, the player with one of the Yarboroughs was hapless, hopeless and trickless. The player with the other made three bids, wound up as declarer and had the values to bid and make a grand slam.

North's two-club opening bid was artificial and forcing. He had just about as big a hand as anyone is ever likely to hold. South's two-diamond response also was artificial and showed a weak hand, and no one will deny that South had the values. West's jump to three no trump was intended to make life difficult for the vulnerable opponents. Had West dared to leave himself in when North doubled, he would have saved points; as the cards lay, he was sure to win four tricks and show a profit even against a small-slam bid. West would also have been better off had he sold out for six diamonds. However, it is always difficult to judge that opponents who have voluntarily stopped at six can, in fact, make seven if driven to it.

The situation was nowhere as difficult for North-South to judge. The key bid was North's pass of seven clubs. South could be sure that North had not bid six diamonds almost singlehandedly with the faintest intention of letting the enemy play seven clubs undoubled. Therefore, North's pass was forcing. It contained a precise question for South: "Do you want to double seven clubs? I am prepared to have you bid seven diamonds." The inference was that North could win the first round of clubs; had he held one little club, he would have been dutybound to double and not leave the choice to his partner. South, in addition to his four diamonds, had a void in spades. So he bid the grand slam.

There was one point of interest in the play. How should South play the spade suit? He could draw trumps and take a ruffing finesse against East, hoping that East held the spade king. Or he could play to ruff out the spade king, with the added prospect that if it did not drop he might be able to play a crossruff. He decided on a combination play that also left him the chance of establishing the heart suit. After ruffing the first club in dummy, he cashed the diamond ace. The bad trump break didn't matter because South had taken the precaution of ruffing the first club with one of dummy's honors. He cashed the ace-king of hearts. When hearts broke, he played another high trump and ruffed a spade to his hand. He ruffed the third round of hearts high and came back to his hand by winning the third round of trumps with the 9 of diamonds. Dummy's Q-J-10 of spades were then discarded on South's three established hearts and the hand was made. As it turned out, since the spade king was going to drop anyway on the third lead of the suit, South could have made the grand slam an easier way. But would you have gambled your play on a 45 billion-to-1 shot?

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