In contract bridge, an overcall is a bid made after an opening bid has been made by an opponent; the term refers only to the first such bid. A direct overcall is a bid made directly over the opening bid by right-hand opponent; an overcall in the 'last seat' (made over a bid by left-hand opponent and two subsequent passes) is referred to as a balancing overcall.



The overcaller has one or more of the following objectives:

  • To secure the contract
  • To suggest a good lead from partner
  • To induce the opponents to a higher-level contract
  • To find an effective sacrifice
  • To hinder the opponents in their bidding

Suit overcalls

In most bidding systems, an overcall in an unbid suit is natural denoting length and strength in the suit bid. The common requirements include:

  • A good 5-card or any longer suit; the definition of 'a good 5-card suit' is subject to partnership agreement.
  • 8-16+ high-card points (HCP) for an overcall at the 1-level.
  • 10-16+ HCP for an overcall at the 2-level.
  • A higher level overcall (e.g., after an opponents' preempt) requires at least opening-bid strength.

The rule of thumb is that the weaker a hand is in high card points, the better the bid suit should be (i.e., longer or with more honors).


According to modern bridge theory, the following hands:

 632  AKJ96  8752  4

 A32  AKJ96  752  104

 A3  AK986  KQ5  742

all warrant a 1 overcall over an opposing 1/1 opening. Stronger hands such as  A3  AK986  KQ5  Q42 are considered too strong for an overcall, and should be bid via a takeout double followed by the most economical rebid in hearts.

Notrump overcalls

Notrump overcalls at the 1-level normally indicate 15-18 points in a balanced hand, with at least one stopper in opponent's suit[1]. Usually Stayman is 'on' but transfers are 'off'.


The hand  KJ63  AQ2  A84  Q93 is suitable for 1NT overcall over any opening bid, as well as 2NT overcall over an opponents' weak two bid.

Jump overcalls

Jump overcalls are made by skipping one level of bidding, e.g. 1 – (2).

In the past, such bids described either "strong" overcalls (e.g. with 17 points or more) or "intermediate" ones (11-15 points with a 6-card suit). Today, a far more common treatment is to use a weak jump overcall (WJO) to show the same hand shape and values as would an opening preempt at the same level[2].

Other overcalls

Some partnerships utilise more exotic overcalls. An example are the canapé overcalls used by the Italian top pair Norberto Bocchi and Giorgio Duboin. In canapé overcalls the suit bid typically contains a three card, whilst the hand contains a five card in another suit.

Conventional overcalls, such as Michaels cuebid, Unusual notrump and Raptor, denote specific hand types.

Responses to overcalls

The system of responses to overcalls typically adheres to:

  • pass: weak hand (no fit guaranteed)
  • support bid: three trumps, 7-10 HCP
  • cue bid: A) three trumps, invite or better (11+ hcp), B) game forcing hand
  • jump support: four or more trumps, weak
  • new suit: at least five card, round forcing
  • 1NT: 9-12 hcp, no fit, stopper(s) in opened suit

See also


  1. ^ Downey and Pomer (2005), p. 100
  2. ^ Downey and Pomer (2005), p. 101


  • Downey, Ned; Pomer, Ellen (2005). Standard Bidding with SAYC. Toronto: Master Point Press. ISBN 978-1-897106-03-7. 

Further reading

  • Lawrence, Mike (2009). The Complete Book on Overcalls in Contract Bridge (2nd ed.). Toronto: Master Point Press. ISBN 978-1-897106-45-7. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • overcall — [ō΄vər kôl′; ] for n. [ ō′vər kôl΄] vt., vi. Bridge to make a higher bid than (an opponent or an opponent s bid) when there has been no intervening bid n. such a bid …   English World dictionary

  • overcall — Date: circa 1903 transitive verb to make a higher bid than (the previous bid or bidder) in a card game intransitive verb to bid over an opponent s bid in bridge when one s partner has not bid or doubled • overcall noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • overcall — v. /oh veuhr kawl , oh veuhr kawl /; n. /oh veuhr kawl /, v.t., v.i. 1. Cards. to make an overcall. n. 2. Cards. a bid higher than the previous bid. 3. Bridge. a bid on a higher level than, or in a higher ranking suit than, the previous bid of an …   Universalium

  • overcall — o•ver•call n. [[t]ˈoʊ vərˌkɔl[/t]] v. [[t]ˌoʊ vərˈkɔl, ˈoʊ vərˌkɔl[/t]] n. 1) gam a bid in cards higher than the previous bid 2) gam a bid in bridge higher than an opponent s bid that was not followed by a bid or double by one s partner 3) gam to …   From formal English to slang

  • overcall — 1. verb To call a bet after another player has already called Jill bet, Tommy called, and Julie overcalled. 2. noun A call which occurs after another player has already called …   Wiktionary

  • overcall — v. (Cards) bid too high; bid higher in level or suit than the previous bidder (in Bridge) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • overcall — /oʊvəˈkɔl/ (say ohvuh kawl) verb (t) (in cards) to bid higher than …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Overcall — Make a bid high enough to supersede the preceding bid …   The official rules of card games glossary

  • overcall — v. & n. v.tr. (also absol.) Bridge 1 make a higher bid than (a previous bid or opponent). 2 Brit. = OVERBID v. 2a. n. an act or instance of overcalling …   Useful english dictionary

  • overcall Bridge — verb bid higher than an opponent. noun an act of overcalling …   English new terms dictionary

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