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Does a 4H (4-level) Overcall Need to be alerted with 6 Cards?

#1 User is offline   msheald 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 12:30

Hello! In a game today, I opened 1 Diamond and my left hand op overcalled 4 Hearts. Everyone passed, and he went down 1

At the end of the game, it turned out he had 10 HCP with 6 hearts to the King and Queen, with 4 diamonds to the queen, 3 spades to the king, and a void in clubs. It turns out, it made 6 clubs our way (I had 5 diamonds and 4 clubs, and partner had 6 clubs)

It seemed like 2 Hearts was the appropriate overcall. I asked the director about it, and he said it was a legal overcall.

When I reviewed ACBL rules, it looked like it should have been alerted or been considered a psych bid.

"NOTE: Partnerships whose systems include extremely aggressive methods, such as frequent use of four-card overcalls at the two level or higher, weak two-bids with bad five-card suits, or three-level preempts with bad six-card and/or most five-card suits must pre-Alert the opponents before the round begins."

This was a 4-level preempt. A 3-level (3-heart bid) preempt would not have been alertable from my reading of the above.

I think a sacrifice would have been fine at 4 hearts after partner bid/passed. However, I think ACBL guidance indicates that an alert should have been made or that it be considered a psych bid?

What do you think? Best regards.

Mike
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#2 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 13:01

The question that needs to be asked also is "How is this alerted?" Does his partner know that the 2 overcaller makes this sort of bid on a hand that looks not adequate for the bid. Or does the overcaller alert the opponents only that my 4 bid could be what normal partnerships bid 2 on?

It is definitely a psychic bid imo because it overstates the strength and shape of the hand. I would be angry if this happened at my table :angry:
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#3 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 13:10

Vulnerability ? did you deal and open or was there a pass first ?

At favourable, void, KQJ10xx, KQJxx, xx I would overcall 4 over 1 like a shot in the hope that neither opp could reopen and they both had spades, but on this hand it looks a strange choice.

I'm not sure if the pre-alerting regs only apply to opening bids.
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#4 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 13:11

The note is mostly about super-light/aggressive *opening bids*, and is also from an out-dated version of the ACBL alert procedure and is no longer in the current one. In any case it's not a psych, it's just more aggressive than you prefer. Just because it's a 6-4 hand rather than a 7-4 hand (which would be quite normal) doesn't really make it a "gross distortion". He has long hearts and was willing to take his chances at game, what more do you think you are entitled to know?

Besides, even if alerted as being possibly 1 cd shorter than you might expect, what different action do you think your side would know to take just because of the extra possibility? You weren't damaged at all even if the ACBL deemed such actions alertable.

Basically, grow up. Some people are going to be more aggressive than you. They're going to choose actions you wouldn't, or think is strange. Sometimes it's going to work well for them. Sometimes they'll go down unnecessarily when they would have bought it at 2H/3H and you can't make anything, and you'll win. If it works more often than it doesn't, perhaps it's the right call ...?

You're only entitled to information about special partnership agreements, stuff that their partner is privy to. If someone wants to bid 4H on Qxxxxx and out, that's their business. This person had 6-4 and some extra HCP. It might not look percentage to most of us but it worked this time. Good for them. Shrug your shoulders, maybe you'll get them next time when they're down 1 and you can only make 3c not 6c.
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#5 User is offline   msheald 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 15:20

Thank you for your note. I appreciate the input.

It was a BBO ACBL tournament, Neither side was vulnerable.

It is a question of when the level of aggressiveness exceeds ACBL standards for alerting. In BBO, the 4H bidder would be the one to alert the bid for ops, and his partner would not have seen the alert. Technically, we were entitled to know as much about the bid as the ops did and as much as the 4H bidder did. In this case, we did not because we assumed the 4H overcall was standard when it was actually significantly weaker than that. Upon review, it seemed like a bid whose aggressiveness exceeded ACBL standards.

I realize that I might be wrong about the how. And if updated ACBL guidance is available, I would appreciate seeing that for my own education. I was using the following guidance.
"

PART I: NATURAL CALLS

Most natural calls do not require Alerts. If the call promises about the expected strength and shape, no Alert is necessary. Treatments that show unusual strength or shape should be Alerted.

As to length, ACBL accepts as NATURAL any offer to play in a suit for the first time that shows:
(1)Three or more cards in a minor suit.
(2) Four or more cards in a major suit.
(3) Four or more cards for an overcall in a suit at the one level.
(4) Five or more cards for a weak two-bid.
(5) Six or more cards for a three-level preempt."

If this guidance has changed, I would appreciate guidance so that I can "grow up."

So the question is, would most people make a 4-level overcall in the second seat with the described hand? If not, then I think the bid should have been alerted. I do not think sacrifices need to be alerted. So, if this would be considered a sacrifice, it would not need to be alerted. However, typically sacrifices occur later in the bidding sequence and there is not doubt about that, which gives the opposing time an opportunity to rationally consider a double.

Thank you again for your guidance. Best regards.

Mike
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#6 User is offline   smerriman 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 15:46

Bids of 4 of a major are dual-purpose (and not covered in your list) - rather than solely obstructing the opponents like 2 or 3 level jumps, you're bidding it in the hope that either you make the contract, OR it preempts the opponents if not. Alerting it here would be silly.

To be honest, your suggestion of a 2 overcall would be much more of a stretch from what I'd expect..
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#7 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 16:26

View Postmsheald, on 2022-April-29, 15:20, said:

Thank you for your note. I appreciate the input.

It was a BBO ACBL tournament, Neither side was vulnerable.

It is a question of when the level of aggressiveness exceeds ACBL standards for alerting. In BBO, the 4H bidder would be the one to alert the bid for ops, and his partner would not have seen the alert. Technically, we were entitled to know as much about the bid as the ops did and as much as the 4H bidder did. In this case, we did not because we assumed the 4H overcall was standard when it was actually significantly weaker than that. Upon review, it seemed like a bid whose aggressiveness exceeded ACBL standards.

I realize that I might be wrong about the how. And if updated ACBL guidance is available, I would appreciate seeing that for my own education. I was using the following guidance.
"

PART I: NATURAL CALLS

Most natural calls do not require Alerts. If the call promises about the expected strength and shape, no Alert is necessary. Treatments that show unusual strength or shape should be Alerted.

As to length, ACBL accepts as NATURAL any offer to play in a suit for the first time that shows:
(1)Three or more cards in a minor suit.
(2) Four or more cards in a major suit.
(3) Four or more cards for an overcall in a suit at the one level.
(4) Five or more cards for a weak two-bid.
(5) Six or more cards for a three-level preempt."

If this guidance has changed, I would appreciate guidance so that I can "grow up."

So the question is, would most people make a 4-level overcall in the second seat with the described hand? If not, then I think the bid should have been alerted. I do not think sacrifices need to be alerted. So, if this would be considered a sacrifice, it would not need to be alerted. However, typically sacrifices occur later in the bidding sequence and there is not doubt about that, which gives the opposing time an opportunity to rationally consider a double.

Thank you again for your guidance. Best regards.

Mike

What makes you think that 4H was according to partnership agreement rather than one player deciding to take a shot?

Since when is this game supposed to be so regimented that unusual actions are immediately seen as reflecting an illegal agreement?

As Stephen pointed out, weird actions usually don’t work…if they did, they’d soon become normal actions. But all weird actions will once in a while generate a good result. Live with it.

Now, if any player or pair consistently does weird things and they almost always work out…then we may have a problem. So it’s ok to report weird stuff, but don’t go down the rabbit hole of thinking that you’ve been cheated in some way (even if only by what you think was a failure to alert).
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#8 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 17:06

View Postmsheald, on 2022-April-29, 15:20, said:

It is a question of when the level of aggressiveness exceeds ACBL standards for alerting. In BBO, the 4H bidder would be the one to alert the bid for ops, and his partner would not have seen the alert. Technically, we were entitled to know as much about the bid as the ops did and as much as the 4H bidder did.

No. You are not entitled to know the contents of bidder's hand just because it is in a self-alerting situation or you are on the bidder's side of the screen in a high-level competition using screens. This is a misunderstanding of the rules. You are entitled to know if the opponents have a specific special *agreement*. If a bidder decides to deviate from what their partner might expect, overbid a level from what you or most people consider normal or whatever, they are entitled to, and *they don't have to tell you about it*. You are entitled to know as much about *the agreement* as the 4h bidder does, not about *the hand itself*.

Now, if the opponents had a specific agreement that 4H was super wide ranging and included both normal 4H calls and say 3622 8 counts that are normal 2H calls, one could argue that he should alert. But again, even then your auction wouldn't change without the alert, so there's no damage. You aren't arguing that with an alert, your partner clearly would have bid and you'd find 5/6c. You are just mad that they made it hard for your side with the extra preemption and won the board. An alert wouldn't have helped you, only forcing them to bid only 2H so partner could presumably have an easy 3c call or whatever would have. Maybe partner was supposed to bid 5c anyway, you didn't say what his hand was.

The guy had a 10 count and a void, he was obviously bidding as a 2-way shot, it wasn't that far away from a normal 4H call in my book. And in any case, the ACBL doesn't have any regulations on what a 4H call is supposed to look like, anyway. Game bids tend to be wide ranging since they can be done both on lots of shape and few HCP and with less shape + some more power, as people can give up on slam after an opp's open and bid game heavy as a tactical maneuver. So the guy decided 6 cds was enough having a void on the side, so what? There's no rule against it, nor any rule requiring any alert of it. Plus you weren't damaged even if there was an alert rule.

Current ACBL alert procedure is:
https://web2.acbl.or...-Procedures.pdf

You should note that the requirement to alert natural calls of "unusual strength /shape" as under the previous alert chart has been deprecated. I would argue that opp's 4H call wasn't alertable even under the older rule.

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In this case, we did not because we assumed the 4H overcall was standard when it was actually significantly weaker than that.
No, the 4H was 10HCP. It wasn't significantly weaker than a std 4H call. It had one fewer card in the main suit than you'd normally expect, but so what? That's at the bidder's risk. And how would that change your auction even if you knew? Fewer cards in the suit and average HCP actually make it less likely your side is suppose to bid on, not more.

It was the *level* of the bid that hampered your side, not the lack of knowledge of the bid. You can't force the opps to preempt less to make it easier for you. It's not like knowing the length of 4H was 6-9 cds rather than 7-9 cds would have gotten your partner to bid 5C.


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Upon review, it seemed like a bid whose aggressiveness exceeded ACBL standards.
No stds for 4 level preempts.


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So the question is, would most people make a 4-level overcall in the second seat with the described hand? If not, then I think the bid should have been alerted. I do not think sacrifices need to be alerted.
Probably not, but it's not weird enough to be alertable IMO even under the old rule, clearly not under the current rules, and in any case alerting would not have helped you at all from your story.

I don't understand your distinction about "sacrifices" not needing to be alerted. All game preempts tend to be possible sacrifice or possible make. If you don't think sacrifices should be alerted (and there is nothing in the rules about sacrifices), why do you think your opp's pre-empt should be alerted.
And how do you think your opp's preempt being alerted would have changed your auction in any way?
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#9 User is offline   msheald 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 17:16

Hello! Thank you for your note.

I think part of the problem comes from me not asking him at the time what the bid meant and what the expected point count and card length were. That way, there would not have been any misunderstanding about the bridge. When in doubt, ASK! That was my mistake, and I take ownership of my responsibility.

I am puzzled about some of the comments, though. I am not claiming that I was cheated, but I was asking for folks' opinion of alert procedure in this situation for my own edification/education. As I noted above, I'll be more careful in asking about bid meanings in any situation that might seem a bit out of place.

To clarify - unusual bids are called psych bids, and they are allowed infrequently in bridge. If a person does something unusual too often, that person can/should be reported to the Director since ops are ALWAYS entitle to know what a bid means (except for psych bids, which, by definition, do not mean what they seem to mean and are designed to deliberately mislead the opponents).

Are folks are saying that this person's bid is unusual and should be classified as a psych bid? In that case, then I agree. There would be no expectation of alert. The only caveat is that a person who uses psych bids should be followed, and if he/she frequently uses psych bids, then that would require adjudication by the Director. That was one reason I asked the Director to be involved. If this person had a history of frequent use of psych bids, then adjudication by the Director would have been warranted.

If it is being said that this bid was usual and customary, then I am asking for folks to weigh in - would enough people do a similar bid such that it would not be considered unusual or a psych bid? That is how preempts that do not need to be alerted get established - enough people play them with general agreement so that alerts are not needed. Unusual preempts would still need to be alerted since opponents are ALWAYS entitled to know what a bid means, and in BBO it is the bidder who alerts.

I have been taught that bid categories are narrow. Either a bid is usual and customary, in which case it does not need to be alerted; unusual and with partnership agreement, in which case it needs to be alerted; unusual and obviously a sacrifice, in which case it does not need to be alerted; or a psych bid that does not have partnership agreement, in which case in does not need to be alerted since it would be considered a rare event.

Please note that I am not including mistakes or weird bids here. We all do those from time to time, and usually the penalty for doing so is in the play of the hand. However, in those situations where a violation of the bid rules occurs when a mistake was made, penalties are applied by Director, even if the team suffered a poor board based on that play.

Thank you for your comments. I can see that there are some differences of opinion about the need for alerting, and I appreciate the guidance. Best regards.

Mike
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#10 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2022-April-29, 17:46

View Postmsheald, on 2022-April-29, 17:16, said:

To clarify - unusual bids are called psych bids, and they are allowed infrequently in bridge. If a person does something unusual too often, that person can/should be reported to the director since ops are ALWAYS entitle to know what a bid means.

NO. Unusual bids are not the same as psych bids. A psych bid "deliberately grossly misstates" strength and/or shape. Psyching would be say opening a 10 count 3rd chair favorable 1nt showing 15-17. Or bidding 1S on short spades after 1h-dbl-? to try to pick off the opp's suit. Major distortions, not minor ones.

Having 1 fewer heart than normal is slightly unusual, but is *not* a "psych". A person can be "unusual" as often as he wants to, there's no regulation against it. He might have trouble keeping partners, but there are no rules about being a weird bidder (I might have liked such a rule to constrain some of my former partners!). The only constraint is if you are unusual enough consistently with a certain sequence with a certain partner often enough to form an implicit partnership agreement that would also be an alertable agreement.


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Are you saying this person's bid is unusual and should be classified as a psych bid?

Absolutely not a psyche. Slightly unusual. Not unusual enough to require alert under old regs IMO. Definitely not unusual enough under current regs, as current regs have extremely few alertable natural bids (read link above, there is practically nothing about preempts, except that you have to alert if there is a 2nd way to show same suit at same level, e.g. 4h if playing namyats, or 2H if playing that as weak with multi-2d being a garbage 2H. Also jump overcalls that are intermediate+ rather than weak are also alertable). Current regs removed the "alert natural calls of unusual strength/shape" of previous reg.


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Bid categories are narrow. Either a bid is usual and customary, in which case it does not need to be alerted; unusual and with partnership agreement, in which case it needs to be alerted; or a psych bid that does not have partnership agreement, in which case in does not need to be alerted since it would be considered a rare event.

Most unusual natural bids don't have to be alerted under current rules. You can ask opponent about style, e.g. expected strength and length ranges. And they only have to tell you what their partner expects, not if they have chosen a one-off flyer on a particular hand with one fewer card than normal.

Remember you are only entitled to know if the *agreement* is alertable, not if the bid itself might have slightly deviated from the agreement (unusual bid) or grossly deviated (complete psych). And very few agreements on natural bids are actually alertable.
And you can ask about the style of natural unalertable bids, but again they only have to tell what their partner expects, not if they decided to stretch the boundaries this one time for whatever reason. "Normally 7+ hearts" is a reasonable explanation, they don't have to tell you "this time I only have 6", or "partnership agreement is 6+ hearts", if they think 6+ is abnormal and they are knowingly taking a slight flier.

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#11 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2022-May-10, 17:26

Michael, you conveniently failed to mention that the opponent was 3rd seat at favourable. Most pairs play extremely wide-ranging overcalls in this sort of situation. Rather than complaining about the overcall, you would do better discussing with partner about dealing with competitive situations. This is not a psyche, it is a bidding error from your side that led to a poor result.
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#12 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2022-May-11, 02:37

It was an aggressive overcall but not a psyche. It luckily found East with a near perfect hand whilst stuffing your side up. Last week I saw someone overcall a weak NT opening with a minimum weak two in diamonds which worked for them, because my friend who was partnering someone else incorrectly assumed bidding her suit at the two level over it was forcing. Overcalls like that happen at my club frequently and you have to take it on the chin when it works. If you swap the spade king with the heart jack that would likely be a reasonable 4 bid by your standards but you would have still had the same problem. Maybe North should have strained a TOX, at least you find 5, although even then, the opps might bid 5 which is only two down.
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#13 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2022-May-11, 12:12

There is a difference between a psych and a deviation. You have a partnership understanding. You can deviate from that understanding if you like, at your own risk. Here's the relevant law:

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Law 40C. Deviation from System and Psychic Action
1. A player may deviate from his side’s announced understandings, provided that his partner has no more reason than the opponents to be aware of the deviation [but see B2(a)(v) above]. 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 assess a procedural penalty.
2. Other than in C1 above, no player is obliged to disclose to the opponents that he has deviated from his announced methods.

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Law 40B2(a)(v)
The Regulating Authority may restrict the use of psychic artificial calls.

That latter provision doesn't apply to this case, of course.

A psych is, by definition, "a deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength and/or of suit length". A deviation need not be gross, or for that matter deliberate. Only if it is both is it a psych.

The only one who can know for sure if a player psyched is the player himself.
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#14 User is online   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-May-11, 13:02

Stephen has given the current regulations, and warned you about using the old ones. I agree with the director's ruling.

One of my issues with the current regulations (and the way the previous ones were ruled) is that surprisingly unusual agreements, if Natural, are rarely Alertable (or pre-Alertable). This applies specifically to agreements that are significantly weaker than what "the average player" expects. Unfortunately, there is a huge difference between what is "surprising" in expert circles and what is "surprising" to the average player, and why would anyone mention something that "everybody [that I play with/against] plays"? So I believe it was given up as a bad joke.

Now this applies whether it's surprising to everyone (EHAA preempts, for instance) or just surprising to players who have never seen it before (like 1 third seat on AKJxx and out, or (2)-2 on J9xxxx and a void, or a third-seat 4 call meaning "I have some hearts and want to play 4, whether it's 8-to-the-KJ, or AKQxxx and a card, or an 17-count that I'm going to gamble doesn't make 6").

I was told the new convention card will solve all these issues, if the [-] directors will enforce having it on the table all the time. I have ideas about that, too, which I'm sure the regulars can repeat along with me, but that's *way off* the (admittedly barely on- already) topic. They're not completely wrong, though - there are spaces for "Bids that might require preparation", "minimum expected HCP for opening and responses", and "3-level style" and "4-level style" in the Preempts section. We shall see, for FtF, but unfortunately for now, BBO is still using the old card which doesn't have this information.

So, yes, you probably do have to ask about style. And in my experience, you are likely to not get a great answer. I hope it gets better as more people become aware.

BUT.

Psychs are not "bids you wouldn't make". They're not even "bids nobody else in the room would make". They are "deliberate and gross missatements" from *the bidder's agreed system*. Which they are required to give you knowledge of according to the regulations in force (which are not perfect, see above, and probably can't be perfect, also see above). If you look at history, there are a lot of threads about "psychs" that get the response "no, that's aggressive but perfectly normal - frankly, I'd have done it without the Q. You've just never seen it before; now you have."

They made a bid you would not have made. As Stephen says, it was the fact that they took away every non-game bid that caused your problem, not that they did it on a hand that you didn't expect. It is not Alertable (it would be if it *promised* "at least Average strength", but not if it just "could have"); it is Natural (Any suit overcall at any level showing 4 or more cards in the suit bid); and you'd never come across it before. And failed to double (for probably still a poor score, but if vul, +200 beats all partscores). But it's not a psych (which would be legal) and it is a legal agreement (all Natural Overcalls are legal on even the Basic chart).

They made a good bid - a gamble, sure, but it worked this time. You got the same zero that the next table over got on the next hand because their opponents play Precision and were the only ones with the tools to bid 7, and the same zero as Table 2 where declarer knew how to perform the pentagonal squeeze, and the same zero as the defender who made the only opening lead that let 3NT (which the opponents found on a totally bonkers auction) make. If it works a lot - in particular, if it works a lot in the games you play in - maybe the right thing to do is start playing this style yourself.

[Off-topic: wow, three years into reading this and I didn't realize quite what is legal for overcalls - (1)-2 showing 4-4 or better in the majors? go for it. suit-and-unknown overcalls? No problem, as long as one of the suits is bid. In the 99er game? Bully for you. You'll have to Alert them, whatever - and EHAA 2-overcalls are not Alertable (only the IJOs are)) Not sure what I think of this.]
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