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A spot at the table

Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at 11:50 AM

I have been thinking about taking up bridge.

I'm not sure exactly what brought this on, other than a conversation with my co-worker Mary Reeves a week or two ago. But I have ordered "Bridge For Dummies," and now I just have to figure out with whom a complete novice might be able to play.

Some years back, probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s, Channel 8 aired a series on Saturday afternoons about the basics of the game. It looked like fun, but I didn't have any way to follow up on it and I let it fall by the wayside.

Then, in the 90s, my landlady at the time talked about wanting to start playing bridge, but again, nothing ever came of it.

I'm not sure anything will come of it this time -- except for me sending Amazon.com some money -- but I still think it would be fun to learn the game. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and uber-investor Warren Buffett are both avid players, traveling to compete in tournaments, and movie star Omar Sharif is an actual expert, who had a newspaper column and books to his credit. Strangely enough, he quit the game completely a few years back.

The trouble with bridge for the beginner, as I see it, is that it's a partnership game. If you join a poker game with three more-experienced players, they might not mind so much. (They'd probably be happy to see you, in fact.) But if you join a bridge game with three more-experienced players, and you play badly, well, you're going to feel at least a little bit like you've let your partner down.

My former T-G co-worker Ann Bullard called the other day to find out how we were doing in the middle of the adoption craziness, and later, as we were making conversation, she mentioned something in passing about playing bridge. I asked her about it, and she recommended a good online site. I suppose it's possible that a new player could practice a bit online -- where I imagine it's easier to find other players at your experience level -- before dipping his toe into the water of serious, in-person play.

But I don't know. Has anyone else tried to learn bridge from scratch? How did you find someone to play with?


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My college roommate taught me how to play bridge, but I don't remember anything but all the neat terminology.

-- Posted by cfrich on Wed, Apr 21, 2010, at 12:31 PM

I used to play Bridge in college. When I was young, my family played Pinochle every night after dinner and dishes. I learned to play because my father wasn't always there to be the fourth player.

In college I learned that no one played Pinochle anymore, but everyone played Bridge. My husband (at the time) and I learned together from scratch. Our teachers were some really patient experienced players, who were his colleagues. We ladies eventually even had a bi-monthly bridge club with three tables going at once. I also taught my foster children to play so we always had enough players.

I would love to brush up my the game, but can't find anyone who will play with a "rusty" partner. I do not enjoy "cut=throat" or go for the jugular type players or partners. I enjoy the game and the people. I would be willing to share what I know and re-hone my game at the same time. My other half has expressed a passing interest in learning, maybe if we could find a fourth we could try it some night and see how it goes.

The lament of Bridge players everywhere - "if we only had a fourth."

You have my e-mail and number.

-- Posted by amalphia on Wed, Apr 21, 2010, at 12:39 PM

It really is not as difficult as you imagine.

For the primary version, find one good player. Sit at a card table with him/her as your partner. Deal four hands, face up; then get the experienced player to play all four hands, explaining what is happening as the hand progresses. It will only take about two or three hands for it to begin to make sense.

The best way to learn to play is to find three other players who are willing to sacrifice an evening. In my opinion, you need to start playing before you begin studying. Once you have spent 3 or 4 hours actually playing with experienced players, then you can begin to grasp what is written as you study. It is a very simple game with multiple strategies and techniques. However, the bottom line is that it remains a simple card game.

-- Posted by dmcg on Thu, Apr 22, 2010, at 6:28 PM

Excellent advice. Thanks!

-- Posted by Jicarney on Thu, Apr 22, 2010, at 9:11 PM

The way 'dmcg' describes it is close to the way I learned. They had us play face up hands with a cheat sheet for bidding, explaining the "whys" as we played the bid hands out.

I had read the Bridge book and it confused me until I had some "hands on" experience.

It took me several months before I had the "ah-ha" moment and understood the language of bidding. Then it took several more months before I felt like I understood the concept of finessing. But with patient bridge players who love and want to share the game, it was a pleasant experience.

-- Posted by amalphia on Thu, Apr 22, 2010, at 10:11 PM

Hi John,

Perhaps the very best Bridge player I have ever known is your friend, and mine, Carl McClanahan.

I would further venture to say that, if you gave Carl a ring, he would be more than pleased to proffer you a word or two!

-- Posted by garhawk on Sat, Apr 24, 2010, at 1:30 PM

It sounds as if you have some good leads lined up.

I've had dreams of learning to play the game,myself but thought too well of my bridge-playing friends to subject them to my learning phase.

It may be a technical glitch or a statement about my skills as a player but now my computer won't play beginner's bridge with me.

I trust you have many delightful hours of play in your future.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 4:10 PM


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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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