Join Bridge Winners
Think globally, act locally?

We talk a lot about cleaning up the game; we complain about the reinstatement of cheaters and the CAS and the WBF.

Meanwhile cheating and unethical behavior is rampant in clubs. Usually even the most outrageous instances are not recorded.

I am not suggesting that inexperienced players in clubs should be held to the highest standards after breaks in tempo or missed alerts. I am saying that experienced club players who usually finish near the top of the rankings should be held to at least some basic standards, and the most blatant offenses should be recorded and eventually lead to discipline.

Here are two stories from recent club games. Potentially identifying details have removed and changed to make the specific individuals less identifiable while keeping the spirit of the events. I mention these purely as examples of the type of behaviors that IMO we should not ignore. Don’t assume that you have correctly identified the actual individuals by reviewing hand records.

1. My LHO opens and my partner overcalls. RHO responds 2 of a major (non-jump). All pass. RHO had an aceless hand that is nominally under strength for a 2 level response and somehow LHO decided it was the right time to pass a normally forcing bid with 3 card support and comfortably more than a bare minimum. They are successful players at the club and play together often, but he said they have no agreement about whether that auction is forcing. Then he said it was “semi-forcing”. Then he said he had lost a card. 

2. On the opening lead I table a K (should be from KQ). Declarer calls for the A and partner plays a spot card. Declarer holds a card near the table and partner says “can I see your card please”. Declarer says “it’s not played yet.” He takes it back and re-inserts it into his hand. He thinks for about 10 seconds more and detaches the 4. When I get in and continue, he ruffs.

Neither or these players were beginners. 

I think we all have a responsibility to record actions like these. If they were flukes, no pattern emerges and nothing happens. If they are repeated, a pattern will be established and there can eventually be discipline. But it starts with the actions being recorded. This is all of our responsibility, and we need to take it more seriously. 

What is at some level most upsetting is that I wasn’t that surprised by either action; there are a handful of players that I think locals know do things like this. I would bet that without trying to go through hand records if someone like Michael Bodell who knows the local club players (privately please!!) sent me a list of suspects these players would be in the top 5. Yet the behavior continues. 

It continues because we don’t record it.

I have resolved to record these types of issues. If it is just me our local recorder will think I have a vendetta against certain players (if he doesn’t already). If others join me, I think we can have a better game. 

To be clear, I don’t bother doing anything about most infractions in club games, and I don’t think that inexperienced players will ever get most UI or disclosure issues right. But when highly experienced and successful players at the club do things that if they were patterns (and not accidental/flukes) would be cheating, I think we should record it and see if there is a pattern. 

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