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Glossary of Bridge Terms

Based on the Glossary at
These terms should be known by anybody interested in the game of bridge

A FIT: What your Partner has when you make a bad play or bid. Also a discovery between you and your Partner of a suit that you both want to be trump. (see GOLDEN FIT).

BALANCED HAND: No Singletons or Voids. At the most one Doubleton. see DISTRIBUTION.

BALANCING: Getting back into the auction after the opponents have stopped bidding at a low level. You can do this by doubling, bidding a suit or No Trump. Jumping out of your seat and waving your hand won?t really work, but might get you barred from the local bridge club.

BATH COUP: Holding up the Ace with A J x x after an opening lead of the King. The temptation to win the first trick is great and must be overcome. (Try a cold shower.) If you hold up though, your Ace will take the Queen if it is led on the second trick making your Jack a winner. Your opponents have just been Bath Couped.
There are other coups in bridge, but they come up very infrequently - maybe once every five years if you played a lot of bridge. see HOLD UP.

BELOW THE LINE: In Rubber Bridge all the scores entered below the horizontal line on the score sheet. This includes everything but Overtricks and Penalties. The Overtricks and Penalties go Above the Line. If you are on the line . . . get off.

BID: A Bid is the naming of a suit (or no trump) plus the number of tricks above six (Book) that the bidder expects he and Partner can take with the named suit as trump (or no trump).

BLACKWOOD: A conventional bid of 4 No Trump asks partner to tell how many Aces he has. This bid is used to investigate slam possibilities and is usually used after a trump fit has been found. see GERBER.

BONUS: Extra points scored for bidding and making certain premium contracts such as slams and games.

BOOK: The first six tricks taken by Declarer.

BREAK: The distribution of the outstanding cards in a suit. A good break is normal distribution. Abnormal players tend to get bad breaks and abnormal distribution.

BROKEN SEQUENCE: A Broken Sequence is a three card sequence where the third card is replaced by the fourth card.
In the Example 1 the 9 replaces the 10. (The normal three card sequence would be Q J 10.) In the Example 2 the 10 replaces the Jack. (Again the normal three card sequence is K Q J.) The top of Broken Sequences can be lead against No Trump contracts. see SEQUENCE .

CAPTAIN: The partner who knows the most about the combined hands and will direct the partnership to the best contract. The Captain does not have to be the partner with the most points. Two Captains on the same team will usually have serious confrontations that could extend into the next hand. . . . or even for a day or two.

COMBINED HANDS: The cards making up both hands of one partnership. Bidding and Playing must be considered in terms of Combined Hands.

COMBINED POINTS: The total number of points belonging to the partnership. This can determine the contract level. Points needed are:
less than 26 == part score or defend
26+ == game in the Majors or No Trump
29+ == game in the Minors
33+ == Small Slam
37+ == Grand Slam

CONTRACT: The final declaration of a suit or a No Trump followed by three passes. This differs from an underworld contract. (In Bridge there is usually less violence.)

CONVENTION: There are all different types of conventions. There is the very popular Stayman Convention (see Stayman); and the Agoraphobic Society Convention (no one shows up). In Bridge however, conventions are a sort of code or language between two players. Alert the opponents if you are using a convention that is not part of SAB. (Standard American Bidding.)

COVER: Playing a card higher than the one led. There is the old bridge maxim: Cover an Honor with an Honor. As with most bridge maxims note the exceptions. Failure to do so has often resulted in the ruin of many an innocent, unsuspecting, young bridge player. The old bridge players didn?t do that well either.

CUE BID: A bid of a suit that was bid by the opponents (or a bid of a suit after a fit has been established. Note: the bidder does not wish to play the contract in the suit that was Cue Bid. A Cue Bid suit could be a singleton or even a void. This is forcing; it is a super Green Light bid; and partner must bid at all costs. (see TRAFFIC LIGHT BIDS)
A pass could mean that Declarer will be playing in a suit contract with less than 3 trumps in the combined hands. Watch it! After the exhilaration and the challenge of the play is worn off, the Declarer will most likely strangle her partner.

CUT: After shuffling the deck, the player to the right of the Dealer divides (cuts) the pack of cards approximately in half. The cut half is traditionally moved toward the Dealer. The two halves are then put together by the one doing the cutting. Others at the table may watch.

DEALER: The Dealer is the player who passes (deals) out the cards to the other players at the table. Cards are dealt clockwise (one card at a time) to each player in rotation, starting with the person to the left of the Dealer. The entire deck of cards is deal.
Each player should have 13 cards. Bridge etiquette requires that the cards are not to be picked up until the Dealer finishes dealing. And then only with the left hand and pinkie raised.

DECLARER: The player who bids the suit (or no trump) first.

DEFENDERS: The opponents of the Declarer are called the Defenders (you may wish to call them something else). They try to prevent the Declarer from making his Contract. This is usually done at the Bridge table in an orderly well mannered fashion.

DISCARD: Play of card (other than trump) of a different suit then the one being led.

DISTRIBUTION: Shape of the hand. Some hands are flat or balanced: no voids or singletons and at the most one doubleton. Other hands are unbalanced or distributional: long suits, voids, singletons or two doubletons. Some partners are unbalanced. See UNBALANCED PARTNER.

DOUBLE: A Call in bridge. The other two Calls in bridge are Pass and Redouble. What you call your partner for misplaying a hand is not considered a bridge Call.

DOUBLETON: What the word implies: double cards in a suit. Which does not sound right. Double = Two is better. So a Doubleton is two cards in a particular suit.

DRAW TRUMP: To play trump until the opponents have none left. see PULL TRUMP or TRUMP EXTRACTION .

DUCK: The Declarer loses the first (or second or third) trick in a suit in order to maintain a link between hand and table.

DUMMY: Partner of the Declarer exposes his cards (hopefully nothing else!) after the Opening Lead is made. This exposed hand is called the ?Dummy?. The player who tables the Dummy (Declarer?s Partner) is called the Dummy. There is at least one Dummy at the table. Many times it is your Partner.

ENTRY: A card that provides a means of winning a trick in a particular hand.

EQUALS: Cards of equal rank in a suit. If you have 9 8 7 3, then the 9, 8 and 7 are Equals. There can even be equality amonst Honors. If you have K Q J then these three Honors are Equal. (Of course individually some honors are more equal than others.)

FINESSE: Trying to win a trick with a lower card than that held by your opponents. This involves playing to the low card. Not all finesses work. If they did your opponents would be quite annoyed.

FIVE CARD MAJORS: A bidding system where the opening bid in a major shows five or more cards in that suit. This is a cornerstone of SAB. (Standard American Bidding.)

FORCING BID: A bid that forces Partner to bid again. A pass by Partner can sometimes cause objects (and words) to fly across the table.

FORCING DEFENSE: A strategy in which the Defender makes the Declarer ruff. If the Declarer does this enough times he will eventually have less trump the Defender and lose control of the hand.
For this plan to work the Defender should refrain from trumping. Make the Declarer trump. General Patton: The way to win a war is not by dying for your country, but by having the other SOB die for his.

FOURTH HIGHEST: The fourth highest card of a suit (counting down from the top). Also referred to as the fourth best. Example: K J 8 7 5 2 the 5 is the Fourth Highest. A lead against a No Trump contract or even a suit contract (top of a sequence is usually safer.)
When leading the Fourth Highest the suit should be headed by at least one honor; like the above example. If the suit has no honor then go out and get one. If you can?t then lead a different suit.

GAME: Bonus points are awarded for bidding and making certain contracts. These Game contracts are:
3 No Trump | 4 H or 4 S | 5 C or 5 D
Bonus points are also awarded for bidding and making Slam contracts.

GERBER: A conventional bid of 4 Clubs (4 C) that asks partner to tell how many Ace she has. This bid is used to investigate slam possibilities and is usually used after a No Trump has opened the bidding. see BLACKWOOD.

GOLDEN FIT: Named after the Golden Retrievers who used to kibbutz (see TO RUFF). A minimum of eight cards in one suit between you and your partner. Hopefully this will be the trump suit. The eight cards do not have to be in one hand.

GO DOWN: Not making the contract. Being Set.

GO UP: Play the highest card of the suit being led. Note: this is not the opposite of Go Down.

HAND: One game of Bridge. Or the 13 cards held by any player.

HIGH/LOW: Play a high card then a low card. This is a message to partner (hopefully partner is awake and can read the message) that shows an even number in the suit. If done on opening lead it is usually a doubleton.

HOLD UP: The Declarer refuses to win the first (or second or third) trick of a suit led by the defense. This is done in order to break the link between the defenders? hands. Do not get the Hold Up and the Duck fowled up: the Duck is to maintain communication between Dummy and Declarer?s hand; while the Hold Up is to break communication between the defenders.

HONORS: The royalty of Bridge: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and even the 10,

INTERNAL SEQUENCE: Any sequence that has a card higher than the highest card of the sequence. (And that highest card is not part of the sequence.)
EXAMPLE 1: A Q J 10 EXAMPLE 2: K 10 9 8 are Internal Sequences.
Usually lead the top card of the Internal Sequence. In the Example 1 lead the Queen and in the Example 2 lead the 10. see SEQUENCE.

INVITATIONAL BID: A bid that invites partner to bid game (or Slam) with maximum values and to pass with minimum values.

JORDAN: A bidding convention. After an intervening take out double a bid of 2 No Trump shows 10 + points and a fit in partners suit. A redouble show 10+ points and no fit. This convention is easy to remember and should fit into your bidding repertoire.

JUMP OVERCALL: An overcall that is preemptive in nature (a long suit with two honors and less that 10 points). The salient characteristic of the Jump Overcall is that it skips (or jumps over) a level of bidding.

LHO: Left Hand Opponent. The player on your left who will bid and play after you.

MAJORS/MINORS: The Majors are the two top suits on the bidding ladder: Spades and Hearts. The Minors are the two bottom suits on the bidding ladder: Clubs and Diamonds. As in baseball most bridge players prefer to be in the Majors. The salary is considerably higher.

MAXI PASS: Not something women buy at the drug store. A Maxi Pass is the maximum number of points you could have and not be able to open the bidding. You have just under 13 points: 10, 11 or 12. To show a Maxi Pass make a forcing bid, jump or smile.

MISTAKES: Everybody makes mistakes: your partner, the opponents, friends, relatives, even the President. The important thing is to own the mistake: I did it, me, nobody else, it was my error. Then it is possible to learn from the mistake and avoid repeating it. And the more you play bridge the more advanced the mistakes become. It is impossible, even for experts, to eliminate them totally

OFF THE TOP: A trick or tricks that can be taken without giving up the lead to the opponents.

OPENING BID: The first player to bid a suit or no trump. If there is more than one Opening Bidder per game please consult your local Bridge doctor.

OPENING LEAD: A card put face up on the table by the player to the left of the Declarer. Note the difference between this and an Opening Bid: mechanical vs. oral.

OPENING LEADER: The first person to put a card face up on the table and start the play

OPENER?S REBID: The second bid by the Opener. This of course assumes that someone else has bid preferably Opener?s partner. The Rebid gives the Opener a chance to further define his hand.

OVERCALL: A bid made over the opening bidder. This bid can be made from your seat with 10+ points. The suit bid should have five or more cards headed by two honors.

OVERRUFF: Playing a higher trump than one played by the opponent. Can you Overruff an Overruff? Yes, but try not to smile if you over ruff the overruffer. Ruff Ruff.

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OVERTAKE: Playing a card higher than the one played by your side. Hopefully for the purpose of creating an Entry. If that is not the reason you will soon know because your partner will start to squirm, sneer, show displeasure and perhaps even leave the room.

OVERTHERE: A song written by George M. Cohan around the time of World War I.

OVERTRICK: A trick won by Declarer in excess of the contract. Important factor in Duplicate scoring.

PARTIAL PULL: Not extracting all of the trumps from the opponents, but leaving some outstanding. (Usually only one.) You can pull all of the trump some of the time, but not some of the trump all of the time.

PARTNER: Bridge is a partnership game. The player sitting opposite you is your Partner. Winning Bridge players treat their Partners with respect and courtesy at all times. (Even married couples.) They do not criticize; they do not teach. Just in case, do not have any weapons (or heavy objects) with you at the Bridge table.

PART SCORE: Sometimes called a Partial. A contract that is below the level of Game. It could also be the score of that contract.

PASS: The most common Call in Bridge. Sometimes found around the house and often misused and abused.

PASSED OUT: A deal where none of the four players bid. No need to panic. Life - and Bridge - will go on. Just deal agaain.

PENALTY: Bonus awarded to the Defenders for defeating a contract.

PENALTY DOUBLE: A Double with the intention of increasing the penalty bonus for defeating the contract. Can be huge. Sometimes even more than the Declarer?s phone number.

PHANTOM SAVE: A sacrifice over an opponent's game or slam that they cannot make. Unfortunately this is found out after the bidding is over and the hand is played. If the opponents are of a decent sort they will refrain from gloating. Gloating is in bad form at the Bridge table and should be discouraged. A large heavy object will sometimes do the trick

PLAY FOR THE DROP: You can facilitate your opponents dropping by adding something to their drink. To get the Queen to drop however, you have to play the Ace then the King.
If the Queen was originally sitting as a doubleton, Q x, then it would Drop (or fall) under the King.

PRE-EMPTIVE OPENING BID: A bid in a suit of 2 D or higher with a hand containing a long suit and limited high card strength. The purpose of the bid is to interfere with the opponents? auction.

PROMOTION: Increasing the trick-taking potential of cards as higher ranking cards of the suit are played. If a hand has Q J 10, then any card can become a winner if the Ace and King are played. Note that promotion always involves losing tricks and giving up the lead. So be daring; Promote.

PULL THE DOUBLE: Negating your partners Penalty Double by making a bid. If your partner wants to insure that you do not pull his Penalty Double, he should stand on the chair and yell DOUBLE! There are opponents who might object to this; and some opponents might even quit the game.

PULL TRUMP: Draw trump. Play trump until the opponents have none left. To pull or not to pull; that is the question that declarer asks. Whether 'tis nobler to keep trump out in a sea of trouble or to take arms and extract them. Aye, there's the rub. Who s aid Shakespeare didn?t play Bridge?

QUICK LOSER: A loser that will be lost as soon as Declarer gives up the lead. A Super Quick Loser (SQL) will be given up even sooner. see SLOW LOSER.

REDOUBLE: A call that can only be made after an opponent doubles. If the contract is played Redoubled, then the trick score; and the over and under tricks are greater. You can be Redoubled into game. One Spade Doubled/Redoubled is game. Modern bidding methods have extended the use of Redoubles. They appear in third world countries, mostly the Pacific rim nations.

RESPONSE: The first Bid made by the Partner of the Opening Bidder. The player who makes a Response is the Responder. Makes sense. There is no Respondees in Bridge.

REVERSE: Reversing the natural order of things by bidding the lower ranking suit first and then the higher ranking one. For a Reverse to be a Reverse the second bid must be at the two level. (Or else it is just a Verse.)
Thus if you open 1 C and partner responds 1 H and you rebid 1 S that is not a Reverse. But if you open 1 D and partner responds 1 S and you rebid 2 H then you reversed the order by bidding Diamonds before Hearts and this is a Reverse.
To make a Reverse you need 16+ points. Why? Because you are asking partner to chose one of your two suits. If partner chooses your lower ranking suit then it has to be bid at the three level.

RHO: The Greek letter Rho. In Bridge however, it stands for your Right Hand Opponent.

RUBBER BRIDGE: Bridge played by only four people with a specific method of scoring. To "win the rubber" (not to be confused with being awarded a birth control device) is to win two out of three games. see VULNERABLILITY.

RULE OF ELEVEN: There are lots of rules in Bridge and lots of exceptions to the rules. Maybe more exceptions than rules. Of course if that were really the case the exception would become the rule and the rule become the exception. But for the Rule of Eleven - unless there is an error by your partner - there is no exception. The Rule of Eleven is used after your partner makes the opening lead of the Fourth Best.
Subtract your partners spot from eleven. This number is the number of cards higher than the card played by your partner. Where are these high cards? They are either in the Dummy, in Declarer?s hand or in your hand. You should be able to make good use of this information. If not give it to someone who can.

SACRIFICE: A bid higher than the opponents to keep them from playing in a game or slam. Hopefully the penalty from the sacrifice is less than the bonus from the opponent's game or slam. Get a note from your doctor before you sacrifice over an opponent's part score.

SECOND HAND: The player who plays the second card to the trick. The maxim Second Hand Low applies only for Defenders.

SEQUENCE: A numerical sequence of cards of adjacent rank in a given suit. The suit may contain additional cards not in the sequence. Usually, the highest ranking card in the suit is at the top of the sequence.
A Two card Sequence: A K or Q J 4
A Three card Sequence: K Q J or 10 9 8 4
If you are the first person to play the suit, lead the top of the Sequence. If you are the third person to play the suit, play the bottom of the Sequence. see BROKEN SEQUENCE and INTERNAL SEQUENCE.

SET: When Declarer does not make his Contract he is Set. Sometimes it is not even his fault. see GO DOWN.

SHORT CLUB: Nothing to do with a small stick. When playing Five Card Majors there is a hand:
4 Spades 4 Hearts 3 Diamond 2 Clubs
that presents a peculiar problem. Either bid a three card Diamond suit or a two card club suit. The SAB (Standard American Bidding) people open this hand One Diamond.
The Short Club people open the bidding One Club. This bid is alertable; that is the opponents must be told you are playing a Short Club. Failure to do so could result in a beating, exile, death or both.

SHUFFLE: To mix the cards thoroughly. Then it's off to Buffalo.

SIDE SUIT: A suit other than the trump suit (or the suit that you want to be trump).

SIGNALS: Signaling in Bridge, which goes back to the days of Whist, is done by the Defensive team only. No sense signaling Dummy; and Dummy should never signal Declarer. Since most signals are made with spot cards, (no gestures, grimaces or cell phones) it is crucial to take notice, and even to remember, what card partner plays.

SIGN OFF BID: A bid that asks Partner to pass. Sometimes called the "Drop Dead Bid". Why? Because if your Partner bids again he should drop dead.

SINGLETON: What the word implies: a single card in a particular suit. Again it is possible to have more than one Singleton per hand. Deal again if you have four Singletons

SLAM: A Small Slam is any six (6) level contract that is made. A Grand Slam is any seven (7) level contract that is made. Reason for bidding Slams? Because they are there and because they offer a very nice bonus.

SLOW LOSER: A loser that can not be lost as soon as Declarer gives up the lead, but may be lost at a later date. This gives Declarer the opportunity of eliminating the loser. This is usually done by standard Bridge methods such as Trumping, Dumping or Finessing.

SPLIT: The distribution of the outstanding cards in a suit. See BREAK.

SPLITTING HONORS: Second hand play on defense is usually a low card. But if you have two or more honors and want to insure getting one trick in the suit, then you might have to Split your honors that is play one of them

STAYMAN: So you want to find a 4/4 fit in the majors after partner opens 1 No Trump. Not so easy. At least not until Sam Stayman invents the Stayman Convention. (He called it the 2 C Convention.) A bid of 2 C over partner's 1 No Trump opener asks partner to bid a four card major suit. This is a very popular convention that can be found in almost every home.

STOPPER: A combination of cards which will stop the opponents from running a suit if they were to lead that suit. Stoppers are a concern when bidding and playing in No Trump. In playing in a trump contract the trump suit is the Stopper and the Stopper is the trump suit and trump suit is the Stopper etc.

STRONG NO TRUMP: Another cornerstone of SAB. (Five Card Majors being the other.) This means that the range of an opening bid of One No Trump is 15 to 18. Most people either play 15 - 17 or 16 - 18.

STRONG TWO BID: The traditional use of an opening two-bid in a suit to show a powerhouse hand. The modern equivalent is the Weak Two Bid, which has become part of SAB (the Standard American Bidding system). Anyone still wishing to use the Strong Two Bid should be encouraged to visit a Bridge Psychiatric Clinic.

SUPPORT: The number of cards held in a suit that partner has bid. Good support is the Golden Fit - eight cards in the Combined Hands. If partner has a seven card suit, then good Support is one card. If partner has an eight card suit, then good Support is a void. Here is a case where you can support someone with nothing. see A FIT.

SURE TRICKS: Are tricks Off the Top. Sure winners. It requires no great bridge talent to take the Sure Tricks. A smart chimpanzee can do it. Bridge brilliance is creating winners not taking winners.

TAKE OUT DOUBLE: A double that asks partner to bid a suit.

TECHNICAL TERMS: Try to refrain from using the Technical Terms Great, Fantastic, Wowwee, Super Duper, especially in a high stakes money game. Your opponents might construe these Technical Terms to be beyond the pale of standard Bridge bidding and correct the situation by moving your nose to the side of your head.

THIRD HAND: The player who plays the third card to the trick. The maxim Third Hand High applies only for Defenders.

TO RUFF: The same as ?To Trump?. Comes from the time when dogs were present at Bridge games and were signaling their masters.

TO TRUMP: Any player may, at his turn to play, providing he has no cards remaining in the suit led, play a card of the trump suit. A trump beats any card in any plain (non-trump) suit.
If more than one player trumps, the highest trump played wins the trick. You do not have To Trump but may play a card in any other suit. There have been those who wanted to change the word ?trump? to ?donald?. But ?To Donald? would seem foolish.

TOUCHING HONORS: Two or more honors in a sequence. In a hand where you have K Q J 3 2, the first three honors are touching. All Touching Honors are Equals. see SEQUENCE or EQUALS.

TRAFFIC LIGHT BIDS: RED: A close out bid. Partner shut up, do not bid again. GREEN: Forcing. Partner you must bid again. If you pass, you die. YELLOW: an Invitational bid. Partner it is up to you: pass or bid again. If you obey the traffic signals and do not try to jump the light, then the bidding will be easy. If not there could be a Bridge accident.

TRICK: After each Player in turn has played a card, the highest card of the suit led (or trump) wins. These four cards are called a Trick and are taken by the winning team. (They are returned at the end of the game.) The person who won the Trick plays the next card. All this is quite easy and not at all tricky.

TRICK SCORE: The number of customers seen by a prostitute in one evening. Or in Bridge the number of points scored for making the contract. (Could be in the evening or day.) This does not include bonus points for game or slam; bonus points for making a doubled contract; or the special rubber Bridge bonuses. Trick Score is the same for all types of Bridge: Duplicate, Rubber, Chicago, etc.

TRUMP EXTRACTION: Pulling or drawing all of the opponent's trump. This could sometimes even involve giving up the lead. But it might be better to momentarily lose control then to lose the contract.

TRUMP SUIT: Selected cooperatively by Declarer and his Partner. Deciding factors are suit length (preferably eight of more cards between the two hands) and suit strength (preferably one or more of the top honors).

UNBALANCED HAND: A hand that is not a Balanced Hand. It will have at least a Void, a Singleton or two Doubletons.

UNBALANCED PARTNER: Some one who wants to play Bridge more than 10 hours a day.

UNDERBID: Not bidding game or slam when it might be there. Not living up to one's potential. Being greedy: taking a sure part score rather then trying for a game that might not make. Being afraid: scared to be set. These two factors, Greed and Fear, distinguish a persons approach to bridge - and to life.

UNDERTRICKS: The number of tricks that the declarer was set by. Example: if the bid was 3 No Trump and the declarer made 7 tricks then he was set by 2 tricks or there there were 2 Undertricks.

UNDERWEAR: Clothing worn next to the skin under the outer garments. Nothing at all to do with Bridge. See OVERTHERE.

UPPERCUT: Ruffing high by one Defender in order to promote a trump trick in the hand of the other Defender. Failure to ruff high enough will soften the blow and not promote anything.

VOID: No cards in a particular suit. It is possible to have two Voids per hand. Three Voids is unlikely (thirteen cards in one suit.) And four Voids per hand is. . . very Zen.

VULNERABILITY: We are not all vulnerable all of the time; but some of us are vulnerable some of the time. The side that has won a game in Rubber Bridge is Vulnerable. In Chicago the Vulnerability rotates. In Duplicate, Vulnerability is indicated on the boards and the pockets are usually red. (For danger!) To be Vulnerable is to be subject to higher penalties and bonuses.

WEAK NO TRUMP: The range of an opening bid of One No Trump is 11 to 14. Once a popular bid that became part of SAB (Standard American Bidding) but rarely used today. A very dangerous bid if playing for money. There are people now living at a Bridge Shelter because they used the Weak No Trump.

WEAK TWO BID: A mild pre-empt. Usually a six card suit (not Clubs), and 6 - 10 points. It would be nice if the suit was headed by two honors and there was no Side Suit in a four card major.

YARBOROUGH: A hand with no honors. Named after the famous Duke of Yarborough, who during a Bridge session had three hands in a row without an honor. He politely left the table and went to his room. He emerged a week later with two cards rolled up; one in his left ear and the other up his right nostril. (Some authorities claim that it was his right ear and left nostril.)

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