Why do players become upset when their opponents psych against them?
Even though genuine psyches are legal, and indeed sometimes backfire on the psyche, players who are the victims of a successful psyche often are upset by what they sometimes view as an unfair tactic. It doesn’t help the situation any when the psycher chooses this time to gloat. Problems may arise where:
- Inexperienced players may be confused and discouraged by tactics they don’t understand.
- Repeated psyches may establish undisclosed partnership understandings, and ultimately lead to unethical non-disclosure. (Bluntly, cheating.)
- Also, once a psyching pattern becomes an understanding, it is subject to systems and alerting regulations … eg a practice of light openings in third seat non-vulnerable. Players need to make sure they follow the system regulations and alert/disclose everything they should.
The Laws of Duplicate Bridge define a psychic call as "A deliberate and gross misstatement of honour strength or suit length." The key word is "gross."
If you forget the meaning of a call or make a call with 12 points when your partnership agreement calls for a maximum of 11, it is not a psych. If you are playing five-card majors and open the bidding with one spade on a four-card holding, it is not a psych. Laws of bridge specifically allow psyches
Law 40 says:
C. Deviation from System and Psychic Action
1. A player may deviate from his side’s announced understandings always provided that his partner has no more reason to be aware of the deviation than have the opponents. Repeated deviations lead to implicit understandings which then form part of the partnership’s methods and must be disclosed in accordance with the regulations governing disclosure of system. If the Director judges there is undisclosed knowledge that has damaged the opponents he shall adjust the score and may award a procedural penalty.
2. Other than the above no player has any obligation to disclose to opponents that he has deviated from his announced methods.
Clubs may wish to provide mechanisms and support to ensure people who psyche do so within the rules and obligations of sportsmanship.
If psyching is a problem clubs may wish to provide:
- education for players
- a mechanism for the recording of psyches to establish a pattern of behaviour so that further action against offenders can be taken
- counselling and other disciplinary measures for players who offend.
Players need to be informed early in their bridge careers about the legal and social dangers of psyching. These warnings should be repeated from time to time. The best vehicles for this are bridge bulletins, regional newsletters and directors.
For any action for psyching to be taken against any player it is important to establish a pattern of bad behaviour.
This may be done by means of a Psych Register. In general this would be held by the club manager or director.
In best practice, all psychs should be reported twice — once by the psycher and once by the side psyched against. Penalties should be assessed if the psycher fails to report a psych.
Policing can be organised through tournament organisers and club directors. Invite people psyched against (not psycher) to report and ask psychers to respond.
In practice directors etc may receive reports from victims of psyches and ask the psycher to fill in psyche report.
Sometimes it is clear that the partner of the psycher has bid in such a way as to allow for the possibility that partner has psyched — no other interpretation of the call seems to make much sense. Bidding to cover the possibility that your partner psyched indicates at least an implied understanding which is clearly in violation of the Laws. The director should make an adjustment to repair the damage, possibly give a procedural penalty, and deliver a stern warning to the offenders.
If it appears that a pattern of bad behaviour has been established, the club’s managers or committees may need to raise the problem formally or informally with the offender. Before any formal action is taken it is vital that the pattern of behaviour is established so as to afford the psycher procedural fairness.
The club should then undertake counselling, and further action if this is not successful. Any formal action must be undertaken according to the Club’s own Constitution, procedures and rules.