Unlucky Louie ascribes his miserable results to bad luck despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Rose, my club member whose courtesy and kindness are so admirable, has tried to help him.

"It's sad," Rose told me. "Not so much his results, but his losing attitude."

Some of Louie's misadventures cost more than others. He was today's South, and when North jumped to four hearts, promising a solid suit, Louie roared into 7NT. West led the jack of spades, and Louie won and took the A-K of hearts. East threw a diamond.

"Heaven forbid that I should ever get a normal split," Louie growled. He next led a club and finessed with his jack, and West produced the queen. Down one.

"It was so quiet you could hear a tear drop," Rose told me.

"He thinks he was unlucky," I remarked, "and I guess he was."

"He's such a fatalist that he misses the winning play."

How could Louie overcome his luck?

Louie has 11 top tricks. After he wins the first spade, he should take two more spades and three diamonds, observing East-West's plays. As it happens, East discards on the third spade, and West discards on the third diamond. Louie then takes the A-K-Q of hearts.

When East discards diamonds, Louie has a complete count. He knows East had 2-1-6-4 distribution, so even if a finesse with the jack of clubs wins, East will still win Trick 13 with the queen. Louie's only chance, based on his distributional count, is to take the A-K of clubs, hoping West holds Q-x. This time his luck is in.