The key to the game of bridge – as well as life – is not just about holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.

Before you play to the first trick, you should have a general plan of how to play the hand: Are you going to draw trump and take winners without trying for overtricks? Crossruff? Set up a long suit? Execute an end play against an opponent to avoid a finesse?

The list goes on. Here are some tips to consider in making your plan.

1. You must remember the bidding if the opponents have bid and draw inferences about high card strength and distribution from this information. You might be able to locate key honors.

2. Note the opening lead. Ask the opponents what their leads mean. You might be able to draw inferences about honor cards and distribution in this way.

3. In a suit contract, count your losers first. Successful play of a suit contract depends on declarer’s ability to get rid of losers. If you have enough sure winners, consider how to safely play for an overtrick or two.

4. If you have a source of tricks outside the trump suit to use in making your contract, pull trump as soon as possible so the opponents cannot trump your good tricks.

5. However, if you see that you need to ruff some losers before pulling trump, do so immediately.

6. If you are playing your contract as a crossruff, be sure to cash your side suit winners first.

7. Holding Q32 in hand and J54 in dummy, do not lead the suit yourself – you will almost always lose tree tricks. But, if the opponents lead the suit for you, you will always get one trick.

8. Lead up to KQ6 or AQT, not away from these holdings. Take advantage of potentially favorable card placement in the opponents’ hands.

9. Play high cards first from the shorter side of any suit you are running after trumps are gone so the suit will not block.

10. Remember to use safety plays to guard against bad distribution when you can afford to do so.

Kathie Walsh, accredited by ABTA, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club.