Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Mike McNamara
1 2 3 4
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
The answer for most is never. 90% of beginners never make it to duplicate. About 20% don’t have the aptitude. Another 20% don’t enjoy it. The middle 50% wont put in the time it takes to become a duplicate player because they refuse to practice and do work at home between lessons. The last 10% enjoy bridge, have the aptitude, and will commit the time. You can usually tell who they are on day one. That one will take “on average” a year or more and will start on the bottom when they join the novice game. Two keys from this are first, as Jeff says, set up your club where there is a place like social bridge or supervised play for those who don’t make duplicate to play. Second, do whatever you can to get that middle 50% to practice between lessons so that you retain more of them. Retaining just one extra one out of 10 will double your retention.
Aug. 7
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
We allow players to move early and encourage players to leave their seats if the new players are ready to come to the table. So often the extra time is needed. If some players are ahead at least you have a margin for error. If everyone has only the time allotted each round, then there is no margin for error and pairs will in inevitably fall behind leaving you with one of several unenviable options, adding time to the clock which delays the end of game, rushing the players, or taking a board away from them to catch them up. We use option two then three but try to avoid the problem altogether by allowing them to put time in the bank when they can.
May 17
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I remember it being called “Secret Sauce”.
April 23
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Advertising absolutely does work as it does in all businesses. Alan Powell wrote up his highly successful methods last year on BW. We copied them and used Internet advertising that attracted 15 tables to our beginner class. It seems that almost no one in ACBL management or on the BOD has experience marketing to and teaching new players after 82 years. There is also the structural issue that Units and Districts are independent and can’t be forced to commit to attracting new players. This is where we always end up when we discuss these issues. The ACBL is neither set up for nor does it have the knowledge to right the ship at this very late stage and it doesn’t have the will to make the sweeping changes needed. At that point our discussion turns to how do we independently or as a group of clubs prepare ourselves for a world without the ACBL.
April 23
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I thought it was pretty obvious with my comments about the death of bridge that all stakeholders suffer without new players and that is exactly what is happening now, but let me spell it out here so it is clear to everyone. Without new players there are no club players, no tournament players, and no new members for the ACBL. I think that covers all stakeholders. If each stakeholder wants tournament players, and new members and the revenue that they generate, stakeholders other than just the clubs have to get religion about attracting new players and teaching them the game. The only way I see to do that is to incentivize all stakeholders both positively and negatively to do so.
April 23
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I wrote up something when we big club owners last met. Maybe someone has a copy. If not, I will try to find it but our main goals were these.
1. A Bigger Voice
Ideally we would want guaranteed representation on the BOD but, at a minimum, some real channel where we, as stakeholders, could express our concerns and have them addressed. This doesn’t exist now because, while we can voice our concerns to management, only the BOD can change policy, but we have no representation there. The argument to this is always that we have a conflict of interest as for-profit club owners. However, right now the Units and Districts have the biggest conflict of interest of all because the entire BOD is comprised of District Directors who are elected by Unit officials. Their interest is in preserving their District and Unit tournaments and their balance sheets even if it adversely affects the livelihood of club owners and the viability of clubs. Better that the interests of both sides be represented than simply the conflicted interests of Districts and Units.
2. Marketing/Advertising
The ACBL, including Units and Districts, has to share in the expense of marketing and advertising. It is no longer acceptable to have the clubs bear all the costs of marketing and advertising, have the ACBL benefit from the new players and memberships, have the ACBL charge us a sanction fee for our hard work, and then put us out of business from tournaments just when we are starting to get a return on our investment. The argument to this is always that the ACBL doesn’t have the money. There is plenty of money including the money that goes to charities, to grass roots funds, and to Units for kickbacks for the players that the clubs bring to the ACBL, not to mention the more than $14 million currently sitting on Unit and District balance sheets. The other argument is that the ACBL needs to figure out what advertising works before it can do anything. I am not sure why the ACBL hasn’t figured this out over the last 82 years but, if they still don’t know, they can consult the clubs. We know from trial and error. Our club has done emails, flyers, Groupon, Internet, and newspaper ads. I have done a radio spot, had local TV coverage of our events, and we even have a documentary film that is in theaters. We would be happy to share our results.
3. Alignment of Interests
The only thing that will save bridge and the ACBL is new players. Spending efforts on anything else is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Therefore, every stakeholder’s interest needs to be aligned with attracting new players. Currently, however, only clubs have an interest in attracting new players and teaching them bridge because that is our livelihood. Units don’t do it because they get money from kickbacks from the ACBL and from skimming off of clubs by up-charging STACs. Districts don’t have to because they get money from Grass Roots fund games run by clubs. Everyone is living off the clubs. The ACBL needs to first quit stealing from the clubs to give to the Units and Districts. No more kickbacks to Units based on membership. No more overcharging for STACS to profit from the clubs. No more taking Grass Roots fund money from the clubs for the Districts. Each stakeholder instead would be rewarded for the new players that they bring to the ACBL. This would include clubs. Clubs who bring in certain levels of new players would receive incentives, such as reduction in sanction fees, protection from competition in the form of other clubs not being sanctioned in their area, etc. This would incentivize non-profit clubs to offer teaching programs. Club’s interests should be further aligned with those of Units and Districts by offering a profit sharing option and/or other incentives such as commissions for their players who play at tournaments. The argument against this is always, “How can we track players?” Successful businesses do it. A player card that each player swipes that came with their introductory membership could easily track where the player learned and where the player plays. At this point it will take incentivizing everyone to bring in new players and teach them bridge if we hope to have a chance to keep bridge and the ACBL alive. Anything short of that is just signing bridge’s death certificate.

These are three big ones. I am sure that when the big club owners next meet we can continue to clarify and add to the list if need be. I am planning on being in Vegas for the GNTs. I hope the meeting can be during that time.
April 22
Mike McNamara edited this comment April 22
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Jeff

One of the things that people seem to be missing here is the power differential. The clubs have no say and no power. People here are advocating a discussion among stakeholders. They don't seem to realize that we have been trying to have that discussion for decades but no one listens; no one engages in a conversation; and certainly no one does anything meaningful. When no one responds to our attempts, it leads to suggestions like yours that we get some representation on the BOD so that we have a voice, but everyone can see how much resistance just in this thread that idea meets. So, we can't have a dialogue and we can't get representation. That leaves us with our one source of power, which is the fact that we generate most of the revenues and nearly all of the new players. As a result we are being forced into a position where our only choice is to take our ball (our ball being our sanction fees and all of our new players) and go home (home being our individual clubs or our own league). It is being suggested that a club association or union might give us a more unified and powerful voice. I am certainly willing to try that but I hope that everyone can see that if our attempts to start a dialogue continue to be ignored and we are denied any say in our own destiny then we really have no choice but to take our ball and go home.
April 22
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Yes. I think an association is a great start where we can present a unified message to the ACBL. That association may end up being a union or our own league. Nothing should be off the table, but for now an association is a great idea.
April 21
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Jeff,
Is this a forum for club owners or not? I have been a Unit President, a member of my District Board, ,an owner of one of the largest clubs in North America, and a teacher recognized for being a leader in North America in bringing in new players. Anyone who has not seen bridge from those perspectives just cannot make a meaningful contribution to the discussion. We club owners all know that we are having a lot of success teaching 50-year old soccer moms whose kids now drive and don’t need them to play bridge as well as recent retirees who have a lot of disposable income. We know that we are the only ones teaching them as the ACBL, including Districts and Units, spends no money on advertising and not only does not teach but has no teachers on staff. It would seem only logical to anyone who studied business, economics or who stopped to think about the issue that the only solution is to support those who are on the front lines dealing in customer acquisition. Every successful business in the world does this by not only supporting those attracting new customers but rewarding them with incentives. Only in the bizarro world of the ACBL is the answer to put those who are acquiring new customers out of business and to reward Units and Districts instead that are doing nothing to acquire new customers and teach them bridge. They can’t even get your simple Starbucks analogy. Starbuck supports its stores with advertising, protection, and incentives, whereas the ACBL does not advertise for us, does not protect us, rewards the Units instead of us, and actively puts us out of business much of the year. To paraphrase a popular movie, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to an ACBL that survives solely due to the new customers that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide them. I would prefer that they just say “thank you” and support us. Otherwise, I suggest that they invest their own money and time into attracting new players into bridge and teaching them to play the game. Either way I will reserve my comments henceforth for our private meetings and discussions.
April 21
Mike McNamara edited this comment April 21
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
And there is the reason that bridge is dying. Check the numbers. Nearly all of the Bridge players coming to the ACBL are coming through clubs. Without those players and club sanction fees the ACBL would be out of business tomorrow.
April 21
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Without the big clubs you have no ACBL and no bridge. The ACBL isn’t marketing to anyone or teaching them to play. Meanwhile our club is among the leaders every year in new players. So, is your solution to just kill bridge? Unless the ACBL wants to spend the money and time to get new players into bridge, I think it better for the ACBL not to bite the hand that feeds it but to instead support the clubs that feed it new players.
April 21
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Are you a club owner? We own one of the largest clubs in North America. We have no other job. This is how we put food on the table, pay the mortgage, and will send my son to college next yea. We are within a 10 mile radius of three districts. There is a tournament every other week. We pay $2500 in rent per week not even counting workers and other costs. If we close for a week we lose $2,500 because the landlord doesn’t give us the week off, not to mention we lose another $2,500 or so in profits. Do you know anyone willing to give up $5000 to support the local tournament? Unless other individuals are willing to donate $5,000, I don’t know why my family should. The problem is that the ACBL is a flawed system. It leaves the clubs to spend their money marketing to new members and their time teaching them and then allows units and districts to piggyback on that hard work and steal them and put the clubs livelihood in jeopardy. If we were starting fresh we would eliminate Units and Districts and have the ACBL and clubs co-sponsor tournaments and reinvest the money in attracting new players rather than having it sitting on Unit and District balance sheets where it does nothing to bring new players into the game. Since we can’t get rid of Units and Districts in the current system, the ACBL, Districts and Units need to get there heads right about supporting the only people marketing to new players and teaching them to the play the game - the clubs - or we will just continue to watch Bridge death spiral.
April 21
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
We have been considering a new option. We looked at our NLM game the other day and saw that 13 out of 18 pairs were brought to bridge and taught by us in the last 5 years. If we had never sold them an ACBL membership and indoctrinated them into ACBL master points we could have offered them an unaffiliated game. With the thousands that we saved in ACBL sanction fees we could have offered them cash prizes, free entries, free lessons and had our own points system. It makes a lot of sense to offer new players an unaffiliated non-sanctioned game. If they eventually choose to play an ACBL tournament they are much better off cause they have no points and can compete in the bottom brackets. We would keep a sanctioned open game for players who care about points but end the ACBL masterpoint addiction going forward.
April 15
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Yes. Clubs do all the work to teach new players and then the units and districts take them away to play at tournaments and the ACBL collects the money on memberships and sanction fees. If we were doing it over there would be no units and districts for sure and probably no ACBL. Maybe it’s time to start over.
April 15
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
We have had years of many successful LBIAD. First, we charge on $50. We don’t care; we just want new players. Second, we only do 10:00 am to 3 pm and that includes a 45 minute lunch, which we serve. We also serve breakfast and coffee. Third, the first session of 10-noon is just the mechanics of the game, counting points, and scoring. We do not teach a single bid. At the end of two hours they know that there is a declarer, an opening leader, a dummy, that tricks go clockwise, that they are kept duplicate style, that there are trumps and how they work, and how to score tricks in each contract without learning the game or contract bonus. From 1:15 to 3 they learn how to open the bidding and the basics of how to respond. We use predealt hands where there are no problems. We offer a beginner course at the same time the following weak.
April 15
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I ran the School Bridge League for a year. We had a corporate sponsor in Jet Blue and the winners won tickets. Creating school leagues drives the schools to have teams to compete. The problem was exactly what you identified, lack of volunteers. I told the head of the SBL that he needed to pay teachers if it was going to succeed. The money wasn’t there. So, it is now defunct. However, focusing on kids won’t save Bridge or the ACBL. There are no revenues for at least 50 years from teaching kids. The ACBL has to market to players that have the time, the disposable income, and can start playing now because at the current rate of decline bridge and the ACBL won’t be around by the time today’s college kids have the time to play regularly.
March 27
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
The funds to support growth are already within the ACBL but they are squandered and/or unused. First, The ACBL raises millions of dollars every year for charity and then sends the money out the door with no return on that money. Charity begins at home. The ACBL should not be funding other charities when it is dying. The ACBL should have an internal charity for the Preservation and Advancement of Bridge. The ACBL should require that all monies raised from extra point games go to this fund. The money should be used to market the game to new players.

Second, the units and districts across the ACBL have over $14 million sitting on their balance sheets. The real answer is that the ACBL should eliminate units and districts and this anachronistic system that traps money and stifles growth, but that will never happen with the leadership being the heads of the districts who were elected by the units. However, the ACBL should require that districts and units spend a certain percentage of their budget on marketing and advertising. The ACBL could also require that, in order to run tournaments, units and districts must market to new players and offer a LBIAD or similar program to teach new players at each tournament.

These are just a couple of the many places where the funds to support growth are available but are hopelessly mismanaged in the ACBL. The money could be shifted and used to save our game but it will take people who are willing to quit squabbling over masterpoints and actually focus on attracting new players. In 25 years of raising the issue of marketing and funding it I have never meet anyone on the BOD who even understood the need to market moreless was capable of getting it done.
March 7
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Are you in a retirement part of the country? If not, what is your secret?
Dec. 25, 2018
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
That is not what I said. I said that any teacher who has recruited over 100 players in the last few years has the relevant experience and success to guide the ACBL and other recruiters, yet none of those people are in charge of setting recruitment policies for the ACBL . We can see what happens when the ACBL ignores the advice of those who are actually succeeding at recruitment. The results speak for themselves. In light of the ACBL’s multi-decade track record and this year’s continued failure, you are not really defending the ACBL’s recruitment strategies, if you can even call them strategies?
Dec. 13, 2018
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
What a surprise!! Table counts down, membership down, and more lossses. The big club owners, who are actually on the front line marketing to new members pand teaching them to play bridge, have said that this would happen for 25 years if the ACBL didn’t brand and market the game and surprise, surprise, it is happening. No one should be allowed on the BOD or BOG who doesn’t own a big club or hasn’t brought in more than 100 memberss in the last few years, because, if you haven’t done one of those two things, you are fooling yourself if you think you know anything about the business a bridge. Meanwhile, back in la-la land, the great idea is to give free entries to the top new member generators from each unit. Does anyone really think this is going to increase motivation? These people are already working as hard as they can to keep their club in business or to get new students to keep themselves teaching. Recognition and free entries isn’t going to make a difference. Only the ACBL doing something to bring in new members will make a difference, but it is too late for that because, after three decades of ignoring the advice of teachers and club owners, the ACBL doesn’t have the money to do what they should have done all along, which is market and brand the game like every other successful business, sport and activity does.
Dec. 12, 2018
1 2 3 4
.

Bottom Home Top