One day eight years ago, I had stopped for a cup of coffee at the counter in a Chicago railway station restaurant when a man slipped onto the stool next to mine and, in a husky, faintly accented voice which I instantly recognized, asked for a glass of milk. The man was Ely Culbertson.
"Charlie," he said kindly, "you have been doing very well as a Culbertson teacher. Why do you want to ruin yourself with this silly idea of a point count?"
A few months earlier, Ely's warning—putting my own worries into words—might have shaken me. By the time we met, however, point count had already established itself with average players and had proved its efficiency.
Until that time Ely had retained his title of undisputed czar of the world's bridge tables by the wise policy of incorporating into his system every good new idea that came along. But he failed to get the point of this new point count—the improvement that distinguished it from all the earlier point count ideas.
The realm of contract bridge has become, if not a democracy, at least a constitutional monarchy. Its kings and queens no longer possess vaguely limited powers which vary in accordance with their combines with other royalty. Each honor card wears a plain price tag: ace 4, king 3, queen 2, jack 1. The total high card value of the pack is an unvarying 40. And, most important of all, the tricky vagaries of distribution are measured with the same kind of points.
There has been so much discussion about the birth of my point count that perhaps you'd be interested to know how it came into existence.
Critics have said, "Point count isn't new," and they are right. Milton C. Work used the 4, 3, 2, 1 method of valuing the high cards way back in the days of auction bridge—and it wasn't original with him.
Critics have also said, "There is nothing new about point count," and there they are wrong. The old point count worked well only for no-trump bidding. It was useless for suit bids because it did not take into account the power of distribution—the long suits that made high cards more valuable; the short suits that could make high cards impotent. We had to find a formula to measure these values as well.
So, with the aid of a brain trust of skilled mathematicians and expert bridge players, I sat down to study thousands of hands until I was satisfied that we had come up with point values that accurately measured the worth of a doubleton, a singleton and a void suit.
In the eight years since its introduction, point count has met every test. It is used by experts as much as by average players because it is an accurate expression of playing valuation.