Some hands are difficult to bid, and can require thought. Problems can arise for your partner if you stop and think – and then decide to pass. You have given your partner ‘unauthorised information’ that you have something to think about – e.g., you have some good cards, but can’t make up your mind what to bid or whether to bid, so you pass. This situation is known as a ‘slow pass’ or a ‘hesitating pass’.
Contrary to (some) popular belief, your partner is NOT now barred from bidding, but if partner does bid then he / she must ignore the fact that you have given the impression of holding good cards, and partner’s bid must be justified simply on the basis of the cards in his / her hand and any legitimate bids earlier in the auction.
Note that your opponents are allowed to draw any inferences they like from your ‘slow pass’ – but at their own risk.
In order to keep the flow of the game going, the new procedure is that if you sense that there was a ‘slow pass’ by your opponent you should draw both of your opponents’ attention to it before the partner of the ‘hesitator’ bids so that he / she knows that he / she is ‘under caution’. There is no need to call the Director at this point unless there is disagreement as to whether or not there was a hesitation. It is quite in order – and ‘gentlemanly’ - for the partner of the hesitator to volunteer acknowledgement of the hesitation.
The hand can then be played out and the Director only needs to be called to adjudicate if the opponents feel that:
Use was in fact made of the ‘unauthorised information’
That they suffered ‘damage’ as a result
If the Director agrees that both points hold good the he / she may award an adjusted score on the board; usually in such circumstances the Director will judge what the contract and outcome would have been had use not been made of the unauthorised information.
Please also see a separate more general note available on this website on the subject of 'Unauthorised Information'