11. Sociable Bridge: Serious vs Sociable Players

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I call it the un-bridge-able chasm in my book–the differences in these two bridge worlds and their players. And I quote from Professor David Scott’on the topic.

For serious players, Scott says, “the essence of playing bridge was a feeling of mastery . . . accumulating Master Points a validation of skill.” Social players, quite the other way, “have divested their egos from participation” in the game.

Scott did his doctoral dissertation on bridge–the differences amongst the kinds of players, the reasons for the rise of bridge as a fad in the 30s, and its fall in the 70s. He spent six months participating in social and serious clubs as a player/researcher.

As a player myself, I found his conclusions entirely valid when it came to the kind of sociable bridge game I play. Maintaining “sociability and enjoyment were tightly fused” for the social player and the most important aspect. Most important for serious and tournament players? “Proper protocol and ethical play.” I might add, anecdotally, that much of what goes on at a sociable bridge game would be ruled unethical at a serious bridge game.

Scott says that the “sidebets” for the two kind of bridge player were different as well. Sidebets are the side benefits players get out of playing bridge. While the two kinds of players could be equally committed/addicted to bridge, even spend the same amount of time each week playing, the sidebets–what they get out of that commitment–are quite different.

The serious player seeks respect and status from equals (or betters) as in athletic competition. For the social player, participation is ritual, lifestyle and bridge the glue that keeps a club going decade after decade. Friendship and the pleasure of a stress-free game are their side bets.

No wonder then that the strict–and endless–rules involved in playing bridge ethically are seen as onerous, pleasure-killing by sociables. Or that the lack of strict standards, the chitchat, the excess “talk” that goes on in social games is totally preposterous for the serious player. “That ain’t bridge” is what they think.

I saw a bridge cartoon somewhere recently, and every time I’ve described it to a bridge foursome I’ve played with over last month or so, reaction is to laugh out loud–they get it even without the cartoon in front of them. One of the players is saying to a sociable foursome, “Would you repeat the bidding–with inflections, please?”

Voice inflections run rampant amongst sociable players–and facial grimaces, body language–you name it! In serious bridge inflections by voice, facial grimace or body language are something they go crazy to eliminate. At this point, at serious tournaments not only will held aloft bid cards avoid saying the bids out loud, but sometimes there are shields between the foursome so that cannot see the other players.

Story is 20 years or so ago the Italian team in an international team shuffled their feet to send signals to their partners! My theory is its the degree of competitiveness that turns bridge players to trying to cheat. In our relaxed sociable games I’ve ever known one player we all knew cheated. And that’s because while we want to win, we don’t mind if we don’t.

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