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An Innovative 299'er Event

     A new, innovative, club-generated event is challenging 0 - 299 master point players in Rockford, Illinois, and helping them grow in bridge

     The Bridge Center of Rockford is owned by its 225 dues-paying members.  The club runs 8 open games and 5 limited games (all with different master point parameters) each week, plus a monthly open birthday bash (a pot luck luncheon with monthly birthday recognitions and free plays for the celebrants.)  Occasional Unit games are also available to both open and limited players.   The club offers a variety of 8 - 9 week lessons for both beginning and intermediate levels three times each year.  

     Out of these raw materials, "Play for Percentage," a special competition for 0 - 299 players, was born.  It runs for eight weeks.  Contestants enter as single players, not as set partnerships.  Each entrant must play in at least five open games with another 0 - 299 player, but does not have to play with the same partner each time.  He may play in as many open games as he wishes, but only his top five scores count.  The player with the highest average percentage over his top five games is the winner.  The more open games a contestant plays, the better are his chances.  

     Because this is a club-generated event, and therefore non-sanctioned by the ACBL, the Center cannot award extra master points to the winners.  So the club has made this event the only club event to award cash prizes.  The competition is in its fifth year, now, and cash prizes (including free club plays) over the years have varied in number and amount.  But the top average percentage has always won $100.  

     The benefits of this program have more than exceeded the club's expectations.  More limited players play in open games while this competition is running.  They are growing while competing, gaining in confidence, and learning through enjoying their games that tougher bridge is more fun.  This event has helped instill a strong sense of club unity and group identity.  We really get to know each other through this event.  This event, in part, has inspired the spontaneous creation of a "Booster Club," pairs of players on different levels who commit to a short series of mentoring games.   Several of these have become permanent partnerships.   As limited-game players slowly acquire master points and make the transition into open games, they find the transition easier because of their earlier experiences in this event.  And, importantly, the event boosts club attendance.  The Rockford club usually runs this event from mid-January through early March, as a means of "spicing up" the winter doldrums just a bit.  This period also includes a District 8 STAC week.  

     Rockford players on all levels would encourage other clubs to try such an event.  It's fun, it stimulates bridge growth, and it boosts club table count.  As Martha Stewart might very well say, "It's a good thing."  

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