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All comments by Jonathan Steinberg
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Consider: A $1 increase in membership fees every year would bring in $166,000. Every 2nd year: $83,000. If every 3rd year $55,000 a year. Is that not more equitable than punishing tournament players?

IMHO, just 12 issues of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin is worth at least $60 – a mere $5 per issue. Membership fees are not high.

But to attract more players to play in tournaments (isn't that the goal?) the ACBL must make them affordable. Raising entry fees $10 per day per player is not the answer.

One can argue that an extra $100 per tournament is no big deal. But for some it may be the breaking point. For others, psychologically if they feel they are being ripped off or the value is just not there… they will stop or cut back on playing.

Obviously expenses must be cut, the Board of Directors should be drastically reduced in size, and ACBL management must do a much better job. I have yet to see any positive signs.
Nov. 22, 2018
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I'm staying at the awesome Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk, about a 10 minute walk to the playing area (via street or much nicer along the beach boardwalk).

Having recently returned from beautiful, inexpensive (cheap), safe, friendly Mexicans at the Puerto Vallarta Regional (shameless plug: Nov. 4-10, 2019) it is quite a sticker shock to be in Hawaii.

From $7 street hot dogs to Cheeseburger Beachwalk ($16 and up) at the low end, I'm wondering whether Manhattan or Waikiki is number one as the most expensive US location to live & play in. Turkey Thanksgiving dinners range from $35 to $70 per person but most places are sold out.

Amid all the almost obscene wealth are the struggling Sheraton workers on the picket line (7 weeks and counting). One reason why Thanksgiving table space is limited – many Sheraton restaurants closed. I spoke to one of the friendly strikers (Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection, owned by Sheraton) last night who is hopeful a settlement and contract will soon be reached. The Marriott chain has purchased Sheraton (Starwood Preferred and Marriott Rewards now linked). Perhaps these massive organizations should share some of the wealth…

But hey, if you can afford it… excellent Pearl Harbour & City tour yesterday… looking forward to snorkeling with Dolphins, Sea Turtles, possibly seeing a whale… perhaps winning a masterpoint or two!
Nov. 22, 2018
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Ken, you make an excellent point. I have forwarded your thoughts to a few members of the ACBL Board of Directors. Perhaps they will follow through. We shall see.
Oct. 29, 2018
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Dale, you are most assuredly correct. The CDR is revised on an ongoing basis. Which most likely explains the discrepancy. Perhaps in a perfect world, employees would have time to correct, update, put an asterisk beside historical records but clearly not a priority.

It truly amazes me that this thread continues long past its best before date but such is life on Bridge Winners ;)!

I'm sitting at the Omaha airport waiting to fly home after a fun and successful tournament. I had the pleasure of meeting BW contributor Jim Perkins who was duly photographed.

Shameless plug. You can view all my photos at: http://imageevent.com/jon911
Nebraska Regional photos should be posted before the end of the week.
Oct. 29, 2018
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Daniel Korbel messaged me: “Why is this a problem? 4NT is automatic and I hope we don't miss a slam”.

He was correct. Slam made but only because Clubs were 2-2. The other hand was AKx, x, AJTxx, Axxx.

Thanks to all who voted and/or commented.
Oct. 29, 2018
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And what, pray tell would you bid? 2D with only 3 but the appropriate values? Jacob Morgan told me it is hands such as this one that is the reason many experts today play the negative double as showing 4 or 5 Spades while 1S shows less than 4 but some useful values.

On a more important note, Congratulations to Danny Miles on the birth of his second daughter :)
Oct. 28, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Oct. 28, 2018
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Randy you raised a valid point. Many younger players have no idea who John Blubaugh is or where he is coming from. If you check

http://web2.acbl.org/discipline/CurrentlyUnderDisciplineList.pdf

you will see that Mr. Blubaugh has been on “indefinite suspension” since January 4, 2006. My recollection is that the Ethical Oversight Committee convicted Mr. Blubaugh of unethical behaviour but before he could be expelled, he resigned his ACBL membership. Thus the never ending suspension. I think the ACBL changed its rules after that so that if a member resigns before a Committee hearing, he/she can still be expelled. Not 100% sure.

Bottom Line: Mr. Blubaugh has an ax to grind against the ACBL and has not been a member in good standing for more than a decade. Which perhaps explains his consistently hostile posts towards the ACBL.
Oct. 26, 2018
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Clearly, only hearing from one side (Nic H) will never explain how or why the ACBL failed so poorly. But with former League Counsel Peter Rank having died and former CEO Robert Hartman having moved on, listening to only one side will not enlighten us.

Mr. Hammond, as his right, informs us what he wants us to hear and withholds what he doesn't want us to know. Clearly he doesn't want us to know how much money he personally profited from ACBL's disaster. And while his software programs perform well (as do many), I thought the major project was a complete revamp of ACBL Score. The ACBL still says it is so fragile that it is impossible to make any changes to the flawed ACBL masterpoint formulas for fear the entire system might collapse. An ongoing problem that $1 or $2 Million down the tubes has not solved.

In 2018 the ACBL is short order fired its new CEO Bahar Gidwani (arbitration and eventual settlement will undoubtedly cost the League more money), the ACBL long time and well liked Meeting planner, Wendy Sullivan, the relatively new Director of Field Operations, Gary Blevins, and finally Mitch Hodus, their IT Director. The League announced another almost $400K write-off on the CMA failed technology program, announced losses might reach $1 Million in 2018, refused to cancel the Hawaiian
Board meetings, and have made this public plea for help on Bridge Winners. Wow!

Just heard that yet another well liked an respected Horn Lake employee in Human Resources has moved on (not fired, left on own volition). Morale must be at an all-time low. Hard to believe it is a happy or productive place to work.

IMHO, the ACBL has a captive base that should easily fulfill its NABC room block if it is at all reasonable. Average age mid-seventies, people have physical handicaps, don't want to walk or drive at night, super wealthy clients fight over the few available Penthouse suites at the host hotel. No reason to ever have a problem IF a decent contract had been signed.

But for an NABC to be successful there must be alternative housing options available for those who are able to walk and have limited incomes. Notwithstanding the few duds (Birmingham, Norfolk, now costly Hawaii miscalculation… if you consider 3 NABCs per year times say 40 years = 120, the success rate is pretty good for selecting a decent location. NABC TDs do an amazing job accurately predicting attendance numbers and staffing appropriately. It is in the room block area that the ACBL has been remiss, either not enough rooms in the host hotel, not enough alternative housing, or a disastrous miscalculation on room rates that would attract its members.

Firing people does not solve any problems. The underlying issues and systemic problems remain. The ACBL is in a crisis.
Oct. 23, 2018
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Wear your best smiles. I'm bringing my camera. BW folks who I haven't personally met … please say hi!
Oct. 22, 2018
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Nicolas, “then league counsel - Peter Rank - who is now hanging out elsewhere” passed away on February 11, 2017. We will never know his take on the matter.

There are two sides to any dispute. We have your side but… question; Can you tell us how much money you personally and your company (perhaps one and the same?) profited from your work with the ACBL?

When a multi-million dollar project fails, it is usually more than one simple issue. While the ACBL lost million(s) with little to show from it, I suspect you personally did fine.

Will the ACBL tell their side of the story? I'm not holding my breath but there may well be legal reasons and risks which require silence. To get into a public fight with the other side would serve no useful purpose.
Oct. 22, 2018
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There are often deals floating around, usually by word-of-mouth, e-mails and even posts here on Bridge Winners. Whether flyers would be allowed at NABC sites or Regionals I have no idea.
Oct. 22, 2018
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Jack, posting on BW is often just venting. Why not call or write Mr. Hudson with your ideas and ask whatever questions you wish. You won't get any answers here.
Oct. 20, 2018
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Dave Waterman: You are absolutely correct that “across the street” or “next door” can be quite a distance in humongous Las Vegas casinos. That said, it works both ways! At the last Vegas NABC at the old, tired Hilton, I stayed at a Springhill Suites (not 100% sure) but whatever it was, it was clean, new, not a casino and directly across the street to the entrance to the bridge playing area! In fact, it was CLOSER (and a lot less smoke) to the playing area than people staying at the host hotel who had to walk through the casino/lobby to reach the playing areas.

Google maps is pretty good (and can zoom in) at showing exact distances but in order to be accurate you would need to know exactly where the playing area was located and what doors and exits were nearby. As always, do your research and homework before booking.

BTW, I should mention that it was the late Jeff Johnston who recommended that Vegas hotel as something I should look into. When the ACBL has alternative housing options available for players who, for whatever reason, prefer to stay off site, it should INCREASE NABC attendance. There are always a large group - again for many reasons - who prefer the host hotel. I maintain that it is poor contracts and/or poor locations that hurt the ACBL's bottom line and cause the kind of financial problems the ACBL has far too often.
Oct. 20, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Oct. 20, 2018
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Playing the blame game serves no useful purpose. What is clear is that the current ACBL Governance model including the 25 members of the ACBL Board and the manner in which they are elected has been and continues to be a dismal failure. Firing 4 key ACBL executives in 2018 may or may not have been a wise decision, but it certainly didn't solve the underlying problems.

Complaints regarding NABC hotels, room rates, ACBL Housing Bureau and travel agent are commonplace. Sometimes the room block sells out (supposedly, until all the last minute cancellations) far too quickly thus limiting NABC attendance. Other times the ACBL fails to meet its room block and has to pay financial penalties to the hotels. Something is very wrong.

While the ACBL Board makes the final decision to approve NABC sites and contracts, in reality, this is a management function and 99% of the time the ACBL Board just rubber stamps what management proposes. Either improve management or recognize that when a significant minority of Board members vote no – apparently 6 voted NO to going to Hawaii – the rest of the Board and management should take note and have second thoughts. But the current system just doesn't work. We have seen evidence of that over and over.
Oct. 19, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Oct. 19, 2018
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I'm with Gary & Michael here. Kevin, your first paragraph claiming that meeting in Memphis would have been 50K more expensive is weird and illogical. I know other ACBL Board members claim the Hawaii meetings will be $50-80 or even 100K more expensive. Yet another Board member called those numbers “Fake News”! The ACBL number crunchers appear to have a lot in common with with governments everywhere. New accounting rules have changed deficit estimates in Ontario & Canada by billions but we are assured nothing has really changed.

The 5 star Cosmopolitan in Vegas is a brave new venture and the ACBL should be worried. There may well be more available hotel rooms on the Vegas strip than most anywhere else in the world. Lots of choices including non casino (no resort fee) smoke free rooms & hotels. Rooms to fit every budget. July is off season (if there is an off season?) and rooms across the street at The Planet Hollywood can be had for as low as $50 a night PLUS resort fees on Sunday to Thursday but skyrocket to the stratosphere on Friday & Saturday. Then you have the high rollers and folks who will get comped rooms and gambler special deals. Very difficult.

Atlanta's experienced Jack Feagin has been arguing that the ACBL needs to totally revamp its procedures in booking NABC sites and hotel room blocks years in advance. He argues the ACBL needs professional outside help. Perhaps it is indeed time (long overdue) for the ACBL to stop doing what has failed multiple times in the past (ACBL member complaints - rooms too expensive, rooms unavailable/sold out too quickly in some places but ACBL having to pay off or negotiate with hotels when room blocks not met in other places; numerous complaints about the ACBL travel agent/housing bureau; why does the ACBL need an official travel agent?).

Lots of things are difficult. The world changes. That is not an excuse for poor practices and repeated failures.
Oct. 19, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Oct. 20, 2018
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Buddy, you raise excellent points. I have been attending NABCs for decades and I strongly support them and wish more players would take advantage of the opportunities. NABCs are the best product the ACBL has. Separate I/N events, usually in its own area with special hospitality & trophies; multiple Regional and NABC events to satisfy all levels of players. You don't have to worry about not enough teams to hold a KO! As has often been stated, in what other sport or game can you play against the best players in the world?

Unfortunately the high costs, both hotel rooms & entry fees limit attendance. And the situation is getting worse, not better.

So yes, they must be held in attractive locations – smaller cities can be attractive with much to offer but there are definite guidelines. Availability of restaurants has to be at the top of the list. About 35 years ago (!) the ACBL NABC was held in Norfolk which was one of the few duds I can recall. Major complaint: nowhere to eat and everything closed early. Similarly, Birmingham failed the food test – not enough restaurants and/or too far away.

Those were the unfortunate exceptions. Most meet the criteria and provide a very enjoyable experience. Hawaii fails for other reasons, too far away and too expensive. Highest price ever for a hotel room – don't forget the taxes which when the room rate starts at $200 quickly adds to the cost!

Toronto, Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, DC come to mind as outstanding locations. But there are many smaller cities that meet the criteria. Others would not.
Oct. 18, 2018
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His name is Mark Hudson (no relation to my friend Alex Hudson). I'm told he has excellent qualifications and was hired early in 2018. Now promoted to Meeting Planner.

I have yet to meet him but if anyone has serious constructive suggestions and/or recommendations regarding the ACBL housing issues, he would be the logical person to communicate with.

Mark.Hudson@acbl.org
Oct. 18, 2018
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Wow! What an amazing admission of incompetence and desperation from the ACBL President!

ACBL hotel rates and its official travel agency have always been subject to criticism and justifiably so.

Even with the ACBL begging people to attend, when I checked Hawaii reservations several months ago some nights at the lowest $195 plus tax rate were unavailable. Were they really unavailable? Not the best contract the ACBL has ever signed.

FWIW, I will be staying at the Hilton Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach at a price similar to the ACBL's cheapest rate. But it is a 550 square foot suite with balcony, full hot breakfast for 2 plus other amenities included.

A prepaid advance booking. But, hey, it is a Hilton. Maybe my room nights should count toward the ACBL room block?
Oct. 17, 2018
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The sad & sordid history of cheating in bridge… I suspect this barely scratches the surface.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_in_bridge

Regarding this post's issue I have asked my ACBL District 2 ACBL Board representative, Paul Janicki, as well as a few other ACBL Board members to show some courage and submit a motion to revisit the issue of removing past titles and masterpoints from convicted expelled cheaters as per the ACBL's own Integrity Task Force.

The deadline for motions to be discussed and voted upon at the Fall meetings in Hawaii is this Friday, October 19,

All I can do is try… it is up to the ACBL Board of Directors to choose to act (or not).
Oct. 16, 2018
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