Bridge: How “everyday Americans” learn to play

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August 20, 2015

My blog drawing parallels between learning to play bridge and learning to drive at 55 brought some comments. I liked that they offered three quite different viewpoints from what Hillary Clinton calls “everyday Americans”–ordinary people, random.

“I learned because somebody needed a foursome in the late 50’s and yes, I got hold of some Goren books and started reading and learning??  I still have those books somewhere, but today no one I know uses his system.  Back then it was a God send.”–Anonymous 

To Anonymous: My experience exactly! Everyday Americans started to play using Goren–and not all that much of it either. I never knew anyone who actively used his comprehensive “system”–most learned just enough to start playing. Which wouldn’t be a bad philosophy for the ACBL to adopt to trigger a wave–not just a trickle–of newcomers to the game.
Kind of like getting a license to drive AND THEN becoming a good driver!
I love your stories about how we learned to play bridge–my mother was in a bridge club as I was growing up–always alot of cleaning and cooking for those nights when it was her turn–fond memories. I watched but didn’t learn the mechanics of play.
But when I was a sophomore at University, I made friends with a group of Vietnam Vets. It was 1972, these bots played for hours in the Union–they were bootstrappers . . . to me they were just interesting and heroes. I was fascinated by their passion about bridge, so I learned to play. I am surprised I passed any classes, as I spent most of my days at the bridge table.
I played a bit after school. . . but 5 years ago or so I decided to take lessons at the local bridge club here in Omaha. . . I learned that everything I knew or learned was erroneous…rules had changed and I was way behind the 8 ball. I’m getting better but not fast enough!–Kate from Omaha
To Kate in Omaha: Consider tempting a few of your Club companions into playing rubber bridge, socially, now and then. A woman in Texas wrote me to say I’d inspired her to do that with her duplicate club — lunch, relaxed rubber bridge, socializing. Going back to the original bridge game.
When I moved in 1997, I needed a card night and the only game in town was duplicate bridge.  I showed up alone, and they had me watch the game.  Jim Anderson studied me studying him and said matter-of-factly, “In order to be a good duplicate bridge player, you must have the personality of an ax murderer.” 

It was decided by the club that I, at age 30, who could drive, would be a good partner for Mrs. Mercedes Phillips, way over 80, who needed a ride to the weekly game.  She tolerated me quite well and taught me to play a solid game. 

When points-schmoints hand evaluation fails me, I think of her every time I’m responding with 6+, but not bidding again with less than 9 points (except to take a preference). B–reaks my heart every Monday afternoon when the club is playing just a block from my office and I’m stuck at work.–Angela Sipila

To Angela: This is a happy example for bridge club and novice, of moving from newcomer-to-bridge to addicted player. The bridge club wisely paired you with an elderly player–each providing something the other needed, a ride and a bridge teacher.

I’m over my 500 word maximum again!

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