By Bill Michael, Tournament DIrector from Colorado Springs, Colorado

Over the past two months I have, for some reason, gotten into several arguments with players about the application of the revoke penalty. At least one of these players is a certified club director. Because of this, I am going to write about revokes this month.

A revoke is the failure of a player to contribute a card of the suit that was led to a trick, when that player has at least one card of that suit in his hand. A revoke becomes established when one player of the offending side plays to the next trick. It does not become established just because cards were turned over, or even if the non-offending side plays to the next trick. Until a revoke is established, it must be corrected.

To correct a revoke, the offender replaces the card he played with a card of the proper suit. If the offender is a defender the previously played card remains on the table as a major penalty card. If the offender is declarer the previously played card is returned to his hand. The defenders may lawfully use the knowledge that declarer has that card to their best advantage.

Once a revoke is established there is usually a transfer of one or more tricks from the offending side to the non-offending side. There are no tricks transferred if the offending side fails to take either the trick on which the revoke occurred, or any subsequent tricks. If the offending player (not the offending side) doesn’t take the trick on which the revoke occurred, but his side takes at least one trick from the point of the revoke on, the offending side transfers one trick to the non-offending side. If the offending player (not the offending side) does take the revoke trick, two tricks are transferred to the non-offending side. This is only true if the offending side takes at least two tricks from the point of the revoke on. In no case are more tricks transferred than the offending side takes from the point of the revoke on.

The caveat. If the revoke penalty does not restore equity to the non-offending side, then as many tricks as are necessary are transferred to achieve a fair outcome. This mainly happens when a player loses communication with his partner. For example, if declarer has KQx of a suit opposite his dummy’s Axxxx he is entitled to five tricks when the suit splits 3-2, even when dummy has no entries other than the ace of that suit. But suppose that one of the defenders, holding JT9, fails to follow suit. Now the suit, which should yield five tricks, will only yield three (the ace, king, and queen). In such a case the director should award at least two tricks to the declaring side, even though the offender did not win the trick on which the revoke occurred. The unmentioned situation: Dummy revokes. Generally this only occurs if dummy has a hidden card. As everybody is somewhat responsible for any cards that are face up, there is no penalty for a revoke from dummy. The declaring side, however, is more responsible than the defending side is, and therefore, as in our above example, equity must be restored if the revoke is detrimental to the defending side. This can happen quite simply - for example, if the defenders are due a trick that dummy ruffed, one trick should be transferred - to some more esoteric situations. If the defense would have changed had one defender or the other known there was a card in dummy of whatever suit appears to be missing, the defense should be credited with that result.

One of the main complaints I’ve received from players who receive a revoke penalty is that “it made no difference in the outcome.” That is frequently the case, and not actually relevant to the ruling. Equity is to be served to the NON-offending side only. Equity to the offending side is not the goal.

I hope this clarifies the revoke ruling for everybody.

See you at the tables.

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