When I got to the club for a morning duplicate, Unlucky Louie was asking all the players to participate in a one-question survey:

1) I've been good this year.

2) Well, most of the time.

3) Once in a while.

4) Never mind, I'll buy my own gifts.

"Who are you," I asked as Louie thrust a slip of paper into my palm, "an agent of Santa Claus?"

"No such," Louie replied. "I'm finding out who has been doing well at the table so I can line up good partnerships for next year."

I checked "most of the time" - all I think any honest player could do. Cy the Cynic, who knew what Louie was up to, selected the bottom option.

Alas, Louie hasn't been so good himself this year. He plays too fast, gives up too easily, and then attributes his results to bad luck. Louie was South in today's deal and roared into four spades, reasonably enough, after West opened the bidding. When West led the queen of hearts, Louie won with the ace and cashed the A-K of trumps, scowling when West discarded.

Louie next led a diamond, but West rose with the ace and led another heart. Louie won, stewed for a while, and conceded a heart, a club, and a trump for down one.

"You were cold for it," North sighed.

After Louie wins the second heart, he can take the A-K of clubs and lead a third club. East wins with the nine and leads the jack. Louie ruffs, takes the queen of trumps, and exits with a trump. When East wins, he must lead a diamond - all he has left - and Louie's losing heart goes on dummy's king.