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Marty Fleisher Interview: Part 2

This interview is continued from Part 1 of the Marty Fleisher Interview

BW: Okay, so then back to your partnership with Michael.
MF: Then I played with Michael that spring and summer of 2003. Then, he told me that the options trading was not going well, and that he was leaving it to play bridge, and that Christal Henner-Welland had hired him. I was disappointed because the partnership was going well, but I knew he had to make money. So that ended our partnership.

BW: Then what did you do?
MF: I played with Debbie Rosenberg for a few years, but then she got hired to play in the women's events. Then I played with Steve Beatty, Bill Pollack, and Chris Willenken a little bit. I also played one tournament with Barnet Shenkin (Orlando, in the fall of 2005), where I won my first national event, the National Swiss.


BW: Right, with Vince and Gavin?
MF: Yes, it was also their first national championship. I believe I went longer than anyone else to go from 2nd to 1st in a national event (over 29 years), and that Vince and Gavin were the fastest as they had placed 2nd in the Spingold the national before.

BW: Interesting, that's pretty remarkable.
MF: But, I didn't have a real partner until Michael stopped playing with Christal. So then I started playing with Michael on regular amateur teams for awhile. We played a fair bit with Adam and Doug and Bill Pollack and Steve Beatty. Plus one tournament with Mark Feldman and Bart Bramley where we got to the round of 8. We also beat Bobby and Steve and the Jacobs team in the round of 16 in that event.

BW: Okay, so now as of 2006 you are playing with Michael on these amateur teams.
MF: Right. But unless we were playing Bobby and Steve we couldn't really win a match. Wink

BW: What prompted you to decide to hire a full team?
MF: Well, I stopped being a lawyer and started to make a fair of amount of money running the insurance investment funds. I considered becoming a bridge sponsor but always felt uneasy about it. But, the fact of the matter is, we just could not find amateur teams from tournament to tournament that I felt were competitive---everyone was becoming a professional. And I began to have enough money that I could do it. And I thought it would be fun. Chip Martel and I had become close and we wanted to do something together. I was confident that would have to involve some other top pair. Lew and Chip's main goal is to play on teams with both people they like and also have a competitive team. When Larry Cohen retired from bridge and their team with Aubrey Strul broke up, it seemed like a natural time to do it.

BW: So this was around the time you turned 50?
MF: Yeah, but I don't know if that had much to do with it. Well, maybe it had something to do with it.


BW: Did you have other secondary goals such as winning a Vanderbilt or World Championship when you hired a team?
MF: Not really. I wanted to do well. But, I never thought my goal is to hire a team in order to win a Vanderbilt or World Championship, or whatever. I just figure I'd take what comes. You don't have to quote me on this because Bobby would probably leave the team, but I would rather play well and not to do well, then vice-versa.

BW (Steve): Really, are you sure you still feel that way? I felt that way at one point in my life, I definitely don't feel that way now.
MF: If this team was doing well, but I was playing badly, I would not continue. It would not be fun for me if I felt like I was being carried every match. Obviously, some matches I have played poorly and some matches I played well, but if I did not feel like a contributor I would stop doing this. I don't want to seem like some sort of moral hero here, but i really do feel that way.

BW: We know you want people dead, so you don't have to worry about that. Were you concerned about the perception of being a sponsor?
MF: Absolutely, and to some degree I still am. I don't like being a sponsor at all. But, I felt if I am going to continue to play bridge and play on teams that are remotely competitive it is really my only choice. Obviously, I didn't have to do it, but amateur teams are very hard to find. And everyone who is very good needs to make money somehow.

BW: So when you made this decision to go with an expensive big-time team, did your wife think you were crazy?
MF: No, she knew that bridge was important to me. In fact the way I posed the question. I asked her how she feels if I retire. She said "Well if we have the money to do it, it is up to you, but I don't think you will be very happy." I said, "Well, I don't really want to retire, I want to work. But, what I would like to do instead of retiring is hiring a bridge team."

BW: That's an interesting way to go about it. What was her reaction?
MF: It was fine. She was actually very very supportive, and she always has been of my bridge playing, even though she doesn't really play herself. She doesn't come to tournaments, except only occasionally.

BW: She flew in for the finals of the trials.
MF: Yes, she was very excited about them and was also very excited about the finals of the Vanderbilt.

BW: With this success do you think she feels: "Wow, Marty really did the right thing here"?
MF: Yes, once I was going to do it, she certainly wanted me to do well.

BW: So after getting the okay from your wife, it sounds like Chip and Lew were a natural selection for the team, what made you choose Bobby and Steve?
MF: Chip and I knew that they were by far the best pair who might be available. I can't say that I knew either of them that well. I knew Steve a bit better than Bobby. I played against him when he was young. We were both friendly with Larry Cohen. Although they had been successful on the Jacobs team, the rumour had it that they might consider other options. So I approached Steve out of the blue and asked him if they were interested. An hour later he came back, and said he thought it would work out.

BW: What's your relationship like with your team?
MF: Chip and Michael are two of my closest friends. I've gotten to know Bobby and Steve infinitely better. I've known Lew a long time and have been quite friendly with him and his wife Joanna. I feel like everyone on the team gets along well together. Some of the people on the team have more edge in their personalities than others, but overall we get along well

BW: Do you spend much time as a team away from the table?
MF: No, remarkably little. We've had a couple of team dinners, but we do not spend a lot of time together. The partnerships spend a lot of time together and I spend a lot of time with Chip, but it is not one of those teams that regularly goes out to dinner together.

BW: Do you feel like there is camaraderie there or is it just 3 separate partnerships working together?
MF: I feel like there is some camaraderie, and a fair amount of mutual respect among all the people on the team. We had a slow start, but came on strong. In the events that we won, each pair has been strong at various times. I feel like that has been good for camaraderie. I don't think that any pair thinks that they are going to leave the room having had a bad set and that their teammates will have gotten killed as well in the other room. Everyone thinks, "If I had a bad set, then probably my teammates have done really well."

BW: So how are the captaining-type decisions made?
MF: Our model has always been with the assumption if Michael and I are only going to play 2 sets then we will play 2 and 3, because that would give the pairs playing 3 sets a break along with dinner. I know that sponsors typically play 1 and 2, but I felt this is a much better plan. Also if possible I would rather play the stronger pair. I do that because I think it is advantageous for our team, and also I enjoy it more.

BW: Do you see your current team staying together for awhile? Or would you like to find a better pair to replace Bobby and Steve?
MF: I would surely like to get rid of Bobby and Steve if I could. I would like our team to stay together, but I understand that one of the things about professional bridge is that it is a business of professionals. I think our team has done incredibly well, and performed well in excess of expectations. I think that eveybody thinks that.

BW: Absolutely, your record in the past year has been pretty phenomenal.
MF: We beat DIAMOND 3 out of 3 and NICKELL 2 out of 2. It's been a great experience, and I'm really looking forward to playing in the world championships.

BW: I can imagine, we certainly wish you the best of luck in that. So who do you see as your toughest opponents.
MF: In the World Championships, Italy and Poland havegreat teams and the Netherlands is always good. I'm sure there are some others I'm not thinking of. The American tournaments have a much stronger field then the Bermuda Bowl, because in the Bermuda Bowl there are only 12 Americans, 6 Italians, and 6 Poles. But, at the nationals every top player is there.

BW: Would you pinpoint pairs that are very difficult for you and why?
MF: Meckstroth and Rodwell to me have always been the hardest pair to play against. They are very active and so good. All these people tell me "Oh, I always do so well against Meckstroth and Rodwell." Well they have certainly won a lot of tournaments with all these people doing so well against them. Balicki and Zmudzinski are really tough. Our team has never played a match against them, but there was a period where I would come to the nationals and always play their team and they always played amazingly well. Those are the 2 pairs that have played best against me.

BW: What was it like winning the trials?
MF: I was excited to win the trials. I thought we had a reasonable chance. After the infamous coin flip where we had to play Nickell then Diamond, I thought we will have to beat 2 really good teams, and it was fortunate that we did. I was happy to win the trials and happy to be playing in the Bermuda Bowl, and am very very excited.

BW: Are you planning on doing any special preparation for the Bermuda Bowl?
MF: I do lots of preparation before every tournament. Before the Bermuda Bowl we will have to do some system preparation. Before every tournament Michael and I practice online, both playing as well as bidding hands and refining our notes. We do not have much of a chance to play live. At the tournament I am very focused. I do a meditation tape before every set I play, unless I have to play two in a row. I'm really focused on when I eat carbohydrates, when I eat protein, when I eat sugar, when I have caffeine, and when I don't have caffeine. I'm really focused at the nationals in both body and brain chemistry and mental focus and discipline.

BW: Would you mind going into a bit more detail about some of your dietary regimen?
MF: I have fiber and carbohydrates a few hours before I play in the morning. I never have carbohydrates right before I play or during. I only eat proteins and vegetables between sessions. During the session I have caffeine and sugar available, and after a hard hand I try to have some sugar to replace the glucose I might have lost. All my secrets are getting revealed. Smile I never have caffeine a long time before a set. About half an hour before the set I have some caffeine and do my meditation tape then go play.

Here is the 3rd and final part of the Marty Fleisher Interview

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