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Go To The Bridge Club…Could We Spend The Afternoon Hold Venomous Snakes Instead?

I have seen some articles on Bridge Winners discussing what can be done to attract more people to the game. I won’t pretend to have an answer. I do have some thoughts, or at least experiences, about not frightening people from it, at the club level anyway.

Fifteen years after I first learned how to play the game, I was still too terrified to go to a bridge club without being accompanied by a junior champion. While, some people may say, “Amy, that is ridiculous,” it may be, but I wasn’t the first person to feel that way, and I won’t be the last.

What was so terrifying? Perhaps that is best explained by a conversation between me and said champion ten years after he first taught me to play. 


“You know, I have always found bridge clubs intimidating.”


“Like I would rather spend the afternoon holding venomous snakes.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Amy.”

“Honestly? I am so nervous about getting yelled at by our opponents or the director. I mean those bridge players have take-no-prisoners-mentalities. And that is probably a gross understatement.”

“They’re not that bad.”

“That’s your story? They’re not that bad? Really? The second someone commits some kind of bridge faux-pas, a bid out of turn for instance, they scream ‘director’ and the Bulgarian man or his equivalent comes running to resolve the dispute. And if he doesn’t make it to the table quickly enough, the player who called him has wrath to spare. And when the director finally arrives, he gives you resolutions consisting of ‘you can accept the bid or the offender will be barred from the auction and you will be subjected to lead penalties.’ I don’t fully understand how all of this works, but barred? Penalties? I thought bridge was supposed to be fun? You would think the resolutions were worse than criminal sentences the way the club players and directors carry on.”

“Would you breathe, please? I see your point. And I admit, I have seen some outrageous outbursts over the years. But even if they all scream, nothing bad is going to happen. I promise.”


Why is this important? (It may not be. And I've taken a breath, but...) Earlier this year, I was talking to a coworker.


“You play at clubs and tournaments?” my coworker exclaimed.

“When I am not working eighty-hour weeks,” I told her.

“The clubs make me nervous,” she admitted.

“They can be intimidating,” I said recalling my own experience. “Like you would rather spend the afternoon holding venomous snakes.”


“Never mind. I’d be happy to play with you one day when things slow down,” I offered.

“At the club? Oh, no…” she said, shaking her head. “Thanks for offering. You’re probably really good. I would love to play with you, but I don’t want to go to the club. At the clubs, people are far too serious, and I find myself becoming a terrible player the minute I set foot in one. I much prefer rubber bridge with friends -- it's social, fun, relaxing. This is not to say that when I play I don't take the game seriously --I do, but I don't have to worry that someone is going to be mad at me if I make a mistake,” she confessed.


To my coworker: I’m not really good. I don't know whether you are good and really do become terrible at the club. I may keep trying to encourage you, even if it’s futile, but not if it makes you uncomfortable. I can tell you, what somebody once told me, "Even if they all scream, nothing bad is going to happen. I promise." I could add, if anyone is making the mistake, sometimes it is the players or the club and not you.

To players: maybe when you see new faces at your local club, make them feel as relaxed as possible. If an irregularity occurs maybe explain the procedure is to call the director before screaming about how he or she did this or that.

To directors: maybe make sure the regulars are being nice to the new players. And go over the resolutions slowly. The new players may not understand them at that speed.

Bridge is a lot of things, but to some of us (and, for once, it's not just me), going to a club is supposed to be, well, something we would rather do during the afternoon, than hold venomous snakes!

P.S. Except the venomous snake thing (that was just me)! And, truthfully, I am more afraid of sharks!

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