There is often debate as to whether a card that has been seen is played or not. Under what circumstances can you change a card that you appear to have played?

Law 45: Card Played

A. Play of a Card from a Hand

"Each player except dummy plays a card by detaching it from hand and facing it on the table immediately in front."

Note: 'on the table' means played in such a way that everybody can see it

45C. Card Deemed to be Played

  1. "A defender’s card held so that it is possible for partner to see its face is deemed played to the current trick"

    Note: If declarer or dummy can see the card that does not make it a played card.  A defender can show declarer his entire hand if he so chooses without any penalty.
  2. "Declarer is deemed to have played a card from his hand if it is:
    a) held face up, touching or nearly touching the table; or 
    b) maintained in such a position as to indicate that is has been played.

Card on show

Note if declarer holds his cards in such a way that a defender can see them they are not considered to be played cards. There has to be intent to play the card.

If a card accidentally drops from declarer's hand it is not a played card.  Nor is it a Penalty Card – declarer cannot have a Penalty Card.

Advice for Defenders

Defenders are entitled to take advantage of any knowledge obtained.  Does this help when declarer says. "Oh, I did not mean to play that"?   How should we react?

A Better Behaved player does not enjoy taking advantage of another's misfortune.  Do not appear gleeful; do not insist aggressively on your rights.

Should you allow declarer to take the card back?  You should do so if the play is an accidental mechanical error.
You may wish to do so if declarer has been distracted in some way or suffers from some physical problem that makes card selection difficult.

Some players wish to allow declarer to replace a wrongly played card rather than take advantage of another's error. That is going too far; we should adhere to the Laws.

A declarer who knows he has played the wrong card in error rather than by accident should refuse such kind offers. Playing the wrong card is just another error, put it down to experience! Do not attempt to change it, just apologise to partner and play on.

There are situations where the card cannot be a played card

  • If declarer has already played another card to the trick he can pick up the second card without penalty, unless it is actually an attempt to lead to the next trick. 
  • If declarer has revoked and realises his error in time he must follow suit, replacing the
    wrongly played card in his hand without penalty (later plays to the same trick can also
    be changed without penalty).   If RHO changes his card – say they have realised that they have
    revoked – declarer can also change their card