18. Bridge: The Retro 50s or learning to play bridge like grandma

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Learning to olay bridge like grandma means learning to play from friends or family, hit and miss, probably badly–getting a launch into the most challenging card game in the world by just winging it. It’s the way millions of people learned to play when bridge was in its heyday decades — 20s through the 60s. A recent ACBL statistic a few years back said 87% still learn to play bridge from friends and family.

In my book Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? I told the story of Amy Faust who learned to play bridge from her Grandma and has Retro 50s bridge nights with neighbors out there in Oregon where she lives. Bridge, said Amy, met her criteria for a sociable game–“You can play it with a drink in your hand.”

I learned about Amy’s bridge experience from her article, “Learn Bridge, I Dare You!” published back in 1999 in the Willamette Week newspaper. The 90s was the decade when boomers began looking back nostalgically at those parents of the 50s and 60s they’d rebelled against in their college days. They began taking up their parents’ bridge game and martinis. Steak houses came back.

Amy decides to go take a few game-improving lessons from the local ACBL. What she finds, however, is that the game she’s been enjoying at home is no preparation for the “adrenaline-packed, competitive nature” of the bridge being taught by the ACBL. Her conclusion? Learning to play Grandma’s kind of bridge needs to become a trend or it may be headed for extinction. Which is why I wrote about her in my book, and why I do this blog–save sociable bridge!

In Bridge Table Chronicles, I’ve blogged about up-beat stories of bridge today. #7 and #8 are about friendly bridge clubs where you can learn to play serious bridge if that’s your goal. # 16 and #18 are about the Beantown Bridge Meet-Up Club and the Prairie Region Bridge Club, two oases where you can play sociable bridge without fear of serious bridge players spoiling the fun.

But note the similar reactions (turned off by lessons)  in the stories of Amy in 1999 and Emily in 2011 (see #9). The ACBL and the way bridge is taught has changed a lot since the 90s, but you still need to be forewarned of possibly running into a few people who will be a turn-off.

If you’re someone with visions of Retro 50s bridge parties in your head when you think about playing bridge–check around for Bridge Meet Ups or bridge clubs that welcome sociable players too. If you opt to take lessons make plain to the instructors the kind of bridge you have in mind, and keep looking for the kind of teacher you want.

You can always do what millions before you have done–get a foursome together at home and learn to play on your own. Ask some old lady to get you started.












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