The information in this section is from the ACBL website. More details are available here (opens a new window).
Before you play, you and your partner need to fill out a convention card. A convention card is just that: a card that shows the conventions you use along with your general approach to bidding. A sample card is shown below.
At first sight, the card can be intimidating. Don't worry about filling it out in detail. You'll see that it already has common conventions such as Stayman and Blackwood used by many social players. Dozens of other conventions have been invented to describe various hands, and you'll discover some you enjoy using.
The card serves two purposes: One, it tells your opponents what you play. Two, making out a card allows you and your partner to get your understandings straight. Many longtime partnerships have improved just on this alone.
In ACBL games, such as the weekly game at Hart House, each player is required to have a convention card legibly filled out and on the table throughout the session.
Sometimes you meet a partner for the first time just minutes before the start of the game. On those occasions a club may be lenient and allow you to proceed - on that first occurrence - in the interests of getting the game started on time. But if you have played with your partner before, you need completed convention cards at the table.
Remember, you are choosing to play in ACBL games and to potentially earn ACBL masterpoints, so you are expected to follow the ACBL convention card rule.
To save space, the convention card uses quite a few abbreviations. The ACBL has prepared a step-by-step guide to explain those shorthand references and to help players fill out their cards. The guide is available from the ACBL website here (opens a new window).
Blank convention cards are available from the ACBL webste here (pdf). The back of the convention card, or page 2 of the pdf, is a scoresheet that you can use to record your results during the game. The scoresheet is not an essential part of your convention card.
One option we can recommend is to use the card shown above (what the ACBL calls a basic system) as a "starter" card. You and your partner can then add to it as you work out the details of your partnership agreement. The basic system card is available from the ACBL website here (pdf) or simply click on the image of the card above.
Having your convention card helps you achieve two goals: One, you will now be following ACBL rules. Two, you will be clarifying with your partner the meanings of your bids and, as a consequence, improving your game and your results. Fill one out today!