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All comments by Justin Lall
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Fred Gitelman seems pretty obvious.
Sept. 14, 2012
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There have been many great players but your record has stood out over basically everyone elses – why? What do you feel has been your biggest advantage over the years compared to the field?
June 9, 2012
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I am well known for having no pychological conflicts!
June 9, 2012
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Joe boo you really think you can beat a team of kran and me?? Get real broski.

April 17, 2012
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what is it like to be the hero of heroes???
Dec. 9, 2011
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Before the BB started, what odds would you have given on the following:

1) We still spoke after it ended?
2) We got in a physical altercation after it ended
3) We played a speedball within 24 hours of it ending?
Nov. 3, 2011
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Thanks for giving credit to me for ducking the HA, but it really wasn't an important play. Even if I was never capable of ducking the ace from Axx, declarer would run the 9 the next round after I won the trick, since me having AT7x is more likely than me having Axx (restricted choice on JT doubleton with partner).

Ducking the ace is an extremely important play if declarer cannot pick up 4-1 hearts. For instance, say I had A87 of hearts. Now I have to duck the ace, or declarer has no choice but to play for JT doubleton since he cannot pick up AT87 for 1 loser. This is also true if I had A86 and dummy didn't have the 7, etc, or if the short hand needs a ruff.

I still ducked the ace as a matter of habit though, it is a good play to know by heart because when it comes up you want to be ready to do it in tempo.
Sept. 19, 2011
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To act like there is more opportunity to do drugs/alcohol as a teenager at a bridge tournament than elsewhere is completely contrary to my experiences.

For high school kids, news flash, a lot of people are going to drink at parties or smoke pot. There is always a risk that kids that age will get into that, the truth is I do not remember a high school party where there was not drinking going on. If I had the opportunity to let my hypothetical kid go to a high school party on a saturday night, or play bridge online or at a sectional/regional with his friends on a saturday night, it would be a no-brainer. Not only do they have an activity to do other than “bad” things at a bridge tournament, they will more frequently be around some older people. I cannot imagine older kids pressuring a 15 year old to drink at a bridge tournament, and they might flat out refuse to be around it (which will cause most kids NOT to do it). Once they are 17/18, maybe it would be tolerated, but that is about college freshman age where people start doing those things very often anyways.

For middle school kids, maybe most cannot find those things normally (I was a “problem child” and knew where to if I wanted, despite going to very good private schools focused on academics etc during those times), but they sure as hell won't find it at bridge tournaments.

I would say bridge compared to normal life would cause people to delay starting these activities, but a lot of it comes down to the kid and the parenting. These issues are a fact of life that must be dealt with at some point, regardless of the environment.

If I had to say whether I had more opportunity to do these things relative to being at school at those points in my life, I would say I had less opportunity at bridge tournaments, and also much less desire (no social pressure to do it at bridge tournaments).

If you are worried about these things, you can prevent a lot of the travelling involved, bridge is still a good activity for people that can have all the benefits I said without going to NABCs or whatever, but personally I think it would be a shame to prevent someone from going to a tournament out of fear of this. The parents can be proactive in teaching their kids right from wrong and making sure their friends are on the up and up.

Not to go into a ton of detail about my story but I was frequently getting expelled, suspended, in trouble etc at private schools, public schools everything. I was losing touch with reality, not caring about anything, and a lot of people thought I would never come out of that. Bridge is the one thing I cared about, something that kept me focused on a goal and my mind off of my other problems. I don't want to say something dramatic like bridge “saved” me but it certainly was positive with regards to all of these bad things, and it certainly introduced me to good influences in my life that I respected and trusted, who helped keep me away from those things. Like any kid I eventually experimented with alcohol and drugs, but it was much later in my life than would be expected, and without those influences I'm sure I would have started earlier and added another huge problem on top of my already really big problems.

Let's focus on actual causation.

Cliffs:

Bridge does not cause people to start doing drugs or drinking. There might be opportunities, but that always comes with some freedom, and those opportunities exist with or without bridge (in my opinion even moreso without bridge). Bridge gives people stuff to do that isn't that, and it introduces to positive influences and role models who might help keep them away from it.

Aug. 28, 2011
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@Brad:

“nothing i said was meant as a personal indictment of you.” Sure, I didn't take it that way, hopefully I do not seem defensive, I know we have talked a lot irl and never online so just for the record I think your views are very valid and was just trying to debate them, am not at all offended and do not think you were saying anything negative at all about me.

I guess where I most disagree with you is in what Gavin said, I feel that most of my friends who were my age and played seriously in college no longer regularly attend tournaments, because they got degrees and then jobs/families. Still, I keep in touch with some of them, and see them occasionally when they get some time. I truly believe a large majority of those guys ended up as normal people with jobs/families with bridge as a distant second in their life. Of course some of them became professional bridge players, but they are a vast minority to me. Basically, I agree with Gavins last post.

Your point about the dark side of bridge is well taken, I am not a parent and I am not trying to instruct anyone on optimal parenting strategies, but I do feel like in my experience those experiences were a net positive.
Aug. 28, 2011
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@Brad:

I don't think what you said disputes what I said. Namely, I gave the main benefits of playing bridge as a young person. Yes, there are some downsides to the socialization issues. Perhaps where you think I am way off is the reward of the plusses vs minueses (you think it's a net minus, if I understand correctly). I did not give a balanced case for whether or not a parent should let their kid play bridge, or travel to bridge tournaments. Maybe I should have, but that was not my goal, I am not a news reporter.

That said, I think we both have small sample sizes (1 life each!) and are perhaps biased by that. I remember not going to high school parties where drinking would be involved in order to go to a sectional. Of course eventually I engaged in underage drinking, but later than most of my peers, and to that I credit bridge and the slightly older influences that I talked about in my post. I remember being at a party with older people as a kid, where they were drinking legally. You might imagine I felt pressured into doing those things to be cool, but instead I talked to Joel Wooldridge the entire night about suit combinations. I specifically remember him teaching me when dummy has AJ9xx and they lead low to the Q to duck with Kxxx, becuause next they will lead low to the 9 but if you win they'll bang them down and drop the ten. I am not saying that my experiences or your experiences will be the same for everyone, but I believe that those experiences allow the person an ability to better choose their own experiences and destiny. I do believe that the bridge crowd is better than average for that age group (by a lot).

I did not mean to say there were no downsides to these things, more I purposely avoided talking about the downside. I was discussing the upside only, obviously with the implication that I thought they were hugely net plus. I did not mean to be deceitful, but I was a high school debate star as an underclassman and am perhaps used to just making my case and letting others make the other case (as others are doing).

I understand that it would not be your decision as a parent to let your kid be a part of that world. But the benefits I stated I think you will find are true, you just think the downside outweighs it. There, I will disagree. But, as I have no kids, I can't really put my money where my mouth is! I think we just disagree in general about the net gain or loss of all of these things, and as much as I respect your intelligence and views I will agree to disagree on that one.

One other thing, I think that those who end up neglecting studies for bridge often end up becoming bridge professionals. It is debatable whether this is the best path for those people or not, but I would bet that in a lot of cases it is. I don't think there are that many people that drop out of school dreaming of being a bridge pro and end up failing, it is just not so coveted that that is happening so much like it is with poker. The people who drop school to be bridge pros seem to be largely realistic. You can argue that I could have had a better non bridge-pro life without bridge, but I think in my case you could equally argue that I would have ended up dead or in jail. I think that the oppurtunity to play professionally rather than go to school was largely a plus for me.

@ Randy:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I would argue that the cause of most young bridge players having top players as their parents is that people who don't are unlikely to begin playing bridge. I am trying to get more young people to start playing bridge, regardless of if their parents played or not. I think it is purely a chicken or egg thing that most juniors have parents who play…how else would they start playing? If I can influence new people to get into the game, I believe that we would see that trend change.

I agree that top players will be more supportive of their bridge habits. That said if I was a parent who didn't play bridge and my kid took an interest, I'd research it, see it was great, and support it if possible (I know financially this is not possible sometimes). The whole bridge increases math skills, bridge offers scholarships, etc thing is an argument for parents. My post was an argument for the kids.

All that said, I do not think it takes a ton of resources for someone to play bridge and build a social network without going to anything but local tournaments. As I alluded to, online play helps that a lot. It is really easy to find young bridge players now. Even if you just saw them at the occasional sectional, local regional, or maybe summer national for getting good grades, it would be a really beneficial thing to your life imo. And if you got good, the USBF and ACBL might subsidize international trips. For the world junior pairs your skill is irrelevant and they will subsidize a European trip.

What needs to happen is new teenagers coming into the game when their parents DO NOT play bridge, then we can see about the causation issues related to that.

By the way, thanks Gavin for your praise and link. Your site is great for bridge.
Aug. 28, 2011
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