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Just finished reading Under the Table......

I suggest that all serious bridge players get this book and read it cover to cover. Don’t just take others opinions—get the book, read it, and form your own.

The evidence is, sadly, devastating and overwhelming. Just two examples: the off-shape takeout doubles portion of the book alone is powerful. And the numerous examples of bidding when there is a fit but strangely staying out of the auction when there is no fit or partner is weak.  The only other explanation for some of these actions would be that ESP is real. A couple such odd hands would not be a big deal, but dozens and dozens?

The Blue Team issues go back 40, 50, 60 years but it forces one to confront the fact that bridge is a game that is almost uniquely vulnerable to cheating. The information that can be passed is just too valuable—and it totally destroys the game. Contrast this with, say, the steroid problem in baseball. Yes, some players cheated by abusing steroids, but they were still just a few players on a team of several dozen players, and taking steroids did not come close to guaranteeing that your team would win. But with bridge, cheating utterly destroys the game, creating a situation where a non-cheating pair has little chance of beating a cheating pair of roughly similar abilities. It would be like playing poker where one player can see all hidden cards—the advantage is just overwhelming and utterly destroys the game, rendering it a near-joke.

I had two other observations after reading Under the Table. One is how inexplicable the actions surrounding the 1963 Gerber letter were. Mr. Gerber seems like he was a nice guy (I remember seeing him on an old Goren bridge tv show from the 1960’s on Youtube.) But how in the world could he be so totally naive as to ignore the letter that was sent to him? How could he put his head in the sand and pretend that cheating wasn’t occurring? This is akin to getting a letter from your doctor advising that you have a serious disease, but instead of seeking treatment, simply destroying the letter and pretending that you are healthy! He may have been a nice guy, but he did a tremendous disservice to bridge.

It is also hard for me to believe that the American players went back to the Bermuda Bowl year after year, despite their strong belief that they were being cheated. My gosh, if I am being cheated, I sure as heck am not just going back for more year after year. They needed to do SOMETHING. Document the cheating, boycott the competition, but don‘t go like lambs to the slaughter time and time again. I find the American teams‘ actions hard to swallow, frankly. We’re they so confident in their abilities that they thought they could win despite everything? Granted, it would have been hard to take strong action, but that was exactly what was required. 

Bridge is such a magnificent game that it is sad that the issues raised in Under the Table were allowed to occur. But acting like Mr. Gerber did in 1963 by putting our heads in the sand and pretending there is nothing to see is not a wise option, in my opinion.

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