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Bridge-Bidding Decision Making - Qualified Perceptions
Bridge-Bidding Decision Making
So, one of the reasons that I rarely end up in an argument with harrock is that we have a ridiculously simple method for deciding on things (I know I've mentioned it to some people before, but in my new vague quest to talk about things other than book reviews, I thought I would talk about it...). Basically, it works the way bidding in bridge does.

An example, using the Classic Disagreement of "Where Should We Go For Dinner?" which seems to constantly plague society.

1: Want to go to Uno's for dinner?A mild suggestion, no strong preference. Call it one club.
2: I had pizza for lunch; something else would be good.You can't bid "not one club", you have to actually suggest something else.
2: I had pizza for lunch; how about Indian?It's not a much stronger preference, but it's a little bit of one. This might be one spade.
3: Or we could do Chinese, if you'd rather.This is still mucking around in sounding like "I don't really care" area, it's like bidding one diamond, and it's too late for that. You have to actually bid *higher*.
3: Oh! Hey, there's a new Chinese place at Fifth and Main I've been wanting to try. How about that?A legitimate overbid. Maybe it's two notrump.
Alternate 3: I was really looking forward to Uno's, actually. I've been thinking about pizza skins all day.Back to the original suit, but at three clubs or so now. I personally think it's better form to open with the three clubs to start with, but this is still an acceptable bid.
4: Okay.Pass. The last person to bid has made the decision.

The only real rule is that you can counter (not veto) the previous suggestion, but only if you care more. My mild whim doesn't overrule (can I use "trump" here in absolutely the *wrong* bridge context?) your fond desire - my mild whim doesn't even overrule your mild whim, if you bid first.

I suppose it doesn't have much automatic compromising built in, other than that each person is better off picking suggestions that the other person likes, so they'll be less likely to be outbid.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

33 comments or Leave a comment
From: desireearmfeldt Date: May 10th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I often run into a situation where one of us has thought about the question at hand and has some pre-formed opinions, while the other (presumably the one who didn't bring it up) has to formulate them on the spot. For the dinner question, that's not a problem, but some things require more thought.

I'm pretty swift at thinking things out on command, but I have to do it out loud, which may well sound like mucking around in the not-serious zone because I'm trying out possibilities to see if they sound good (or, alternatively, I may come across as way more committed to something than I really am because I say it in a serious tone of voice). But I think there's a class of people who can't pull up an answer on the spot and have to go off and think about it.

So all that is about the logistics of negotiation, rather than the tactics/mechanism. But the thing I wondered was: how much is the bidding system affected by the ability to have your opinion ready when it comes up for bid?

Presumably "I don't know what I want, let me think about it" is a legitimate move-which-is-not-a-bid. But I often feel in life that the person who suggests things ends up with a lot of default power, and I'm not sure it's the case that being slow to suggest, or to articulate a response, means you never have things you want.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 10th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
But the thing I wondered was: how much is the bidding system affected by the ability to have your opinion ready when it comes up for bid?

I probably wouldn't recommend making the decision about a Big Important Thing in the very first conversation that it ever comes up. ("Hey, dear, have you ever thought of having kids? We should decide today...") If you don't need to decide Now, and you don't have an immediate opinion (*and* you think it's a question that you're going to care more than one club about - I can often determine immediately that I'm not going to have a strong opinion even if I think about it), then there's no reason not to do some research and decide later.

twe From: twe Date: May 10th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I often feel in life that the person who suggests things ends up with a lot of default power

I think this is the root of all large group dithering amongst people we know, especially when countertorque is not around to cut through the dithering.
jdbakermn From: jdbakermn Date: May 10th, 2007 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
That sounds good, except I sort of start with categories, like "How about pizza" or "How about chinese", instead of a specific suggestion. Perhaps that's why our bidding process takes much longer than the one that you've outlined. Oh, and we have three players typically (Swami, Puffin and me) instead of 2.

I usually assume if someone starts off with "How about Uno's" that it's the equivalent of 3C or something.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 10th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, then you have to use a second rule, which is that in response to "How about pizza?" you can either counter ("I'd rather have Chinese") or offer a subset of the original ("Pizza's good; how about Uno's" / "Ooh, can we order from somewhere that does ham/pineapple?") or pass.

I *think* it ought to work for three, in principle, though if you weren't careful you'd have two people going back and forth without the third one getting to bid.
twe From: twe Date: May 10th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oddball edge cases

Me: Are you hungry?
Him: I don't know.

It's puzzling to me, but he claims to rarely feel hungry. (Though I have learned to detect when he is probably hungry from changes in his mood. :)
navrins From: navrins Date: May 10th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oddball edge cases


Yeah, if that's the "him" I think it is, it sure sounds like him.

firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 10th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oddball edge cases

That's funny. :)

(I would work this in my system by starting with the one-heart of "I'm hungry. Time for dinner?" Then he'd have to be detectably and significantly Not Hungry in order to outbid you with two-clubs for "I'm not hungry yet; how about in an hour?")

(Of course, I do realize that not everyone is required to use my system. But it solves all ills and is a dessert topping *and* a floor wax!)
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: May 10th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oddball edge cases

We occassionally have that failure mode, but this is readily handled by IfWeDoNotGetFoodSoonIWillGnawYourLegOffExceptionHandler:

Alyse: I'm hungry. Let's get food.
Dave: I'm not. No wait, I like ambulating. Ok, where do you want to go?

I think, in our case, the person who brought it up is driving the process, since if they weren't hungry, they wouldn't have mentioned it. So since they care, the other person usually defers.

This doesn't work as well if we had picked a time to get dinner, in which case, we explicitly throw DoYouCareException, for which the entire point is to establish "are you just throwing out Uno's so we don't just stand here and eventually starve to death, or did you really want to go to Uno's?".

I don't think we have a built-in "not one clubs", although bidding "not one clubs" often causes NotACounterSuggestionException to be thrown; the rest of the time, it triggers "did you have other ideas?", which is used either because the person bidding "not one clubs" has a mild suggestion but is querying for the existence of strong preferences. Of course, "did you have any other ideas?" can, in and of itself, cause NotACounterSuggestionException to be thrown, which I think implicitly rebids One Unos to Two Unos.


I've been up since 5:30, see? This totally makes sense to me. :)
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 10th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oddball edge cases

Yeah, I often don't know if I'm hungry, but if I start snapping at people it usually turns out that I needed calories.
From: tirinian Date: May 10th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I think I am more willing to accept "not one club" than you are. Partly, that is because I'm more likely to be negotiating not just "where should we go to dinner" but "are we going to dinner together" as one conversation. In that case, "I had pizza for lunch, but maybe something else" makes it easier for the other party to say "Hmm, I really kind of wanted Uno's, maybe another time" than saying "not Uno's, but we should go to Mary's!" does. Once you have agreed there will be a plan, it's much poorer form to say "not that plan" without a counter-offer than when you're still unclear if there is a plan.

I also think there should be room for an opening bid of "Pick one of these choices," which doesn't make for as clean a bridge analogy. ('I bid three pizza, but only 1 Uno's vs. 1 Bertucci's.')
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 10th, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I think I am more willing to accept "not one club" than you are.
Yeah, you definitely do still turn out to be negotiating "Am I going to dinner?" when I think we're onto "Where are we going?" more than I do - for me "I wanted Uno's, maybe another time" is a failure mode in which the planning method has crashed and burned. :)

I also think there should be room for an opening bid of "Pick one of these choices"
Definitely. (And yeah, I just didn't get into it because it muddied the metaphor, as opposed to actually being a bad thing).

There's also a failure mode in overspecifying what you're bidding without including why you're bidding it - if you're bidding two clubs for Uno's, is that because you want pizza, or you want cheap but sit-down, or you had to pick up something at CVS and want somewhere in Porter Square? The general solution for this is "use more words", but you especially have to use more words when re-bidding your original suggestion to a higher level.
sorceror From: sorceror Date: May 10th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
So clubs are Italian, spades are Indian, and no-trump is Chinese.

Are diamonds and hearts MacDonalds and Mexican respectively?
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: May 11th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
This conversation is helping me understand bridge bidding.
mijven From: mijven Date: May 12th, 2007 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

I will store this conversation up, for the eventual day when 'going out to dinner' is a real option. Right now it means Indian or Babysitter.
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