There is a very simple (and almost universal) method of counting points. Points are used in many conventions,
and can be used to discuss hands after the play. Here is the table of HCP, or high card
However, you also get points for distribution. Obviously, a hand with a distribution like
6-4-2-1 (6 cards in one suit, 4 in another, 2 in another, and 1 in another) is worth more in a suit contract
than a hand with distribution like 4-3-3-3 (unless the singleton or doubleton
is in the trump suit), because you can trump in the short suits in the first hand, but it will take a long time
(if ever) to be able to trump in the second hand. In notrump, doubletons and singletons are very bad, because the
opponents can run that suit on you. Usually, distributional points are not counted in a notrump
contract. Here is the table for distribution points.
To open 2 of a suit, you should have 20 or more points, and a long suit. This is a
forcing bid. To open 2 NT, you should have 22-24 points, and a stopper in
almost every suit. To open 3 NT, you should have 25-27 points, and a stopper in every suit.
With a very long suit (7 or more), and not enough points to open, consider opening 3 of that suit. This is called a
preemptive bid. The purpose of a preemptive bid is to cut the enemy's communication so they cannot
reach a contract. For example, you should open 3 spades with this hand:
A Q J 9 7 5 3 5 8 4 3 8 2
To open 4 of a major suit or 5 of a minor suit, you should have 8 or 9 cards in that suit, with very few points outside that suit. For example, you would open 4 hearts with this hand:
2 A K J 9 8 6 5 3 2 J 4 5
However, if you are going towards a slam in notrump, a bid of 4 NT is not Blackwood! (This bid will be discussed later)
If you are going towards a slam in notrump, use the Gerber convention to ask for aces. A 4 bid is Gerber; here is a table of responses:
Number of Aces
0 or 4
Notice that, in both Gerber and Blackwood, the responses are ascending with increasing number of aces (except for 4).