“Upside-Down” is an alternative to Standard American signaling technique; in fact, many describe it as “the opposite of Standard”. 

Most signaling systems use the concept of “High” and “Low” cards.  High and Low are situation dependent, as a 5 or a 9 could be a high card or a low one, depending on what’s in the dummy, in discarder’s hand or previously played. 

As in all signaling systems, Upside-Down signals don’t exist in isolation because the bidding always provides context, especially if defenders have bid.  Similarly, the opening lead gives information to 3rd hand about the leader’s intentions.

Attitude. A basic component of Upside-Down is the use of attitude signals opposite from Standard: a low card shows interest in the suit led and a high one discourages. Attitude can be given on partner’s lead or declarer’s lead or even a lead from dummy.  

In “Standard”, the discard of a 2 or 3 is discouraging, denying interest in that suit, and a high card shows interest. The disadvantage of playing a high card in a desired suit is obvious; a fundamental flaw of “Standard” technique.

In Odd-Even, an odd card discard encourages continuation of the suit if led, or suggests to partner it is a desired suit to lead.  An even card discourages.

Count. Count can be played “upside down”, but many prefer to use “standard” count, where high-then-low shows an even number of cards and vice versa.  Some don’t use count signals at all unless there’s a clear benefit to the defense, so as not to give unnecessary information to the declarer. (Recommended)

Attitude and Count are shown in the suit led.

Suit Preference.  Suit preference, playing Upside-Down, is shown by the discard or play of a low card in a desired suit. Similarly, the discard or play of a high card indicates no interest in the suit, and, by inference, possible interest in the fourth suit.  Suit Preference can be shown when following to partner’s or declarer’s lead when attitude or count are no longer relevant to that suit, as when dummy or declarer is void.

Negative Discards. All effective signaling systems must include the concept of a negative discard, meaning “Partner, please don’t lead the indicated suit”. This is an important technique, as we shouldn’t discard any card from a suit we hope to establish, or run, especially at NoTrump.  Generally, one should avoid discarding from any 4-card suit at NoTrump or when keeping length with the dummy in a suit contract

Lavinthal Discards.
The classic negative discard technique is the use of Lavinthal Discards, wherein the first discard carries a primary message: “Partner, don’t lead this suit”.  It can have a secondary message, if the card played is “unusually low or high”. In that case, it is suit-preference for the higher or lower of the 2 remaining non-trump suits.

Example: with Spades as trump, the discard of the ¨9 could mean “Don’t lead Diamonds; please lead Hearts, the higher of the non-trump suits”. A ¨3 in this same example could mean “Please lead a Club”.

Upside-Down Negative Discards. Playing Upside-Down, the discard of the ¨3 means the player likes Diamonds, and the discard of a ¨9 means she doesn’t.   The ¨9 could also be a suit preference signal for the 4th suit. 


Continuing this example, if we have 4 Heart cards, we certainly don’t want to use one of them as an encouraging discard if we have hopes of establishing the Heart suit or preventing declarer getting the 13th card Heart trick. Using a negative discard discouraging Clubs could suggest Hearts is our suit of interest.


Standard Negative Discards. Playing Standard, the play of a small card is a “negative discard”, possibly suggesting the 4th suit. 

Odd – Even Negative Discards.  Playing Odd-Even, an odd card encourages and an even one discourages and can imply suit preference, similar to other systems.

Thus the “negative discard” in a side suit is a valuable part of all discard techniques because it can convey an important message, yet preserves length in the desired suit.


Upside-Down techniques apply throughout the hand; they are not limited to the “first discard”, as other systems often are. The first discard in a particular suit is relevant to that suit, positive or negative or neutral, but subsequent play, leads or discards may carry messages about other suits.

(C) Bob McConnell, 2012