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Subject: Is Contract Bridge still alive? rss

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Bill Brasky
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Discussing a traditional card game on BGG seems like a faux pas, but I don't know any better community to ask this question of: Is Contract Bridge still alive, and if so, where?

I've been learning and practicing this game for the last few months in order to improve my cardplay, and I absolutely love it. But it seems like I'm about 40 years too late. In the only bridge meetup in Austin, I'm one of 3 people under the age of 60. At the local bridge club where duplicate tournaments are held, I'm the only one.

I've tried going online to find a community, but the apps and websites tend to be very old and poorly maintained, with high subscription fees, and sometimes nonexistent membership.

Why isn't this game more popular? Or maybe more pertinently, are there pockets communities that I don't know about yet? Is there an annual convention for bridge in the USA, or active forum discussion among people under 50 somewhere? (Even /r/bridge has less than 1000 readers and nearly no interesting activity.)
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Sandy Petersen
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I learned how to play Contract Bridge in my 30s(!) and loved it. Been a fan ever since.

I agree it is appallingly hard to find a group. I actually taught my (now adult) kids how to play.

I am in Dallas, so a fellow Texan, but too far to meet regularly.
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john ford
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I love playing bridge, but my wife has lost interest, so I seldom play any more. Some day, if I ever retire, I'm going to talk her into getting back into it. Still, the American Contract Bridge League (www.acbl.org) is an excellent place to find out who's playing near you and what events they're planning.

Your question about why more people aren't learning and playing bridge touches on a sad phenomenon in today's society. The game is complex and fascinating, but it takes a long time to learn. I don't think people feel much like thinking and concentrating when so many other entertainments and mind-bubble-gum are available.
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Eric Brosius
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Brian Bankler, who's a BGG member, often posts about Contract Bridge in his blog:

https://taogaming.wordpress.com/
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Cyrus the Great
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You are likely familiar with the ACBL if you go to a duplicate club. They sanction over a thousand tournaments every year across the country. Many tournaments attract hundreds of people, and the three annual North American Bridge Championships (the closest thing to a bridge convention in the US) attract several thousand.

For discussion, I highly recommend bridgewinners.com. While there are many older people, it skews much younger than the usual demographic of bridge players.

To play online, bridgebase.com is free (although there are some paid tournaments) and extremely active.

Also, if you want Texas-specific information,
Brian Bankler
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might be able to help you out.
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Poor. Very Poor.

Providence
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My parents taught me and my sister how to play bridge when I was a kid. I have very rarely met someone my age who claimed they knew how to play. In the US, typical kids and young adults did not know play 'contract' type trick taking card games.

I recently spoke with my father who said of the last bridge clubs/leagues that he was part of 20 years ago that other couples were 'too serious'. I think my father and his wife knew how to play well, but they were still too casual.

Oh hell is a casual contract trick taking game. And there is the famous Belote.
 
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Brian Bankler
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Hm. I feel summoned. I would like to point out that there are at least two BGG users who are much (much) stronger players than myself (that I know of) and some who are merely stronger. Anyway...

Is Bridge alive? I suppose.

There are probably a dozen games a week at the bridge center of Austin (http://www.bridgecenteraustin.com/) and I've gone up there for some tournaments. I don't know if it has non-tournaments. And Austin has a relatively young bridge scene, because there's a large university nearby which means you might get a handful of college aged players and recent grads. I assume there's a UT bridge club, if that's convenient.

But tournament bridge does feel like its withering, and I'm not sure if its a damn shame or burn it down and hope something good rises from teh ashes. (Speaking as someone who pays money to play 50+ sessions a year). The average age of tournament players has felt like roughly "My age + 20" for my entire career (25 years). But realistically the group is aging by something like a few months each year. At (non-Austin) tournaments my partner and I will be one of the youngest pairs, often the youngest by a decade or so. Austin will (as mentioned) have a few twenty-something pairs.

Tournaments have problems:
1) They are intimidating (to new players)
2) They cost money.
3) The reward XBox points (basically).

Non-tournaments are hard too. As you noted, you need a critical mass of four, otherwise no game. And if you dont' have a multiple of four you have to have at least 7 or 8 (so people don't have to wait a long time to play). And if you play with random partners that can be frustrating.

Playing online (Bridge base online) is frustrating because I see so many people marked as "Advanced" that can't follow a claim when they see all four hands. I play with against the robots (who are not great, but at least the are fast and polite) and I'll play with my college partner against random players (unless we can arrange good opponents). It's more about challenging yourself to play well and ignoring your opponents. But then people say "Too slow" because you actually stopped and thought. Maybe I should pay money to play OKB against better players, but I can't bring myself to.

Bridge players do notice this and wonder why a bridge tournament is so much worse than other forms of entertainment. See "Bridge vs. Magic" (The gathering) at Bridgewinners. http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bridge-vs-magic/

I think the root cause is that Bridge had to compete against Chess and maybe Radio when it was born. It was exciting in the 30s. Cheap entertainment, you could gamble (a big draw) or not. Inherently social, and (much like golf) you could always find someone to blame other than yourself.

But we are living in an age where you can play insanely complex computer games for free (or maybe $20) and don't need to find an opponent, and you can seem good after a few hours and still have fun.

Also is the problem that bridge -- more than probably any game excepting Go -- rewards playing it a lot. It's not a game that shines in casual play quickly. A year to get comfortable, longer to get good. So most people (depending on their tastes) drop out or go whole hog. Which exacerbates the problem for new players (or even experienced players who don't care for the experience of tournament play).

I thought for a while that somebody would do a World Series of Bridge for ESPN 8 (The Ocho!), but bridge is much harder to follow than poker.

Honestly, if I could find a good non-club private game (for money, or not) I'd probably stop playing tournaments (although I do have a very good partnership I've spent years on). For a decade I basically didn't play bridge, but just read books on technical aspects of play (from time to time). Rewarding, in a way.

Bridge seems to be doing much better outside the USA. As to why, that's another rant.

TL;DR -- Yes, but so is someone in a medically induced coma.
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Joe Huber

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Bridge is alive and well - there are more people playing Bridge today than 99.9% of the games on BGG. It's just that many folks who play Bridge play it exclusively, and therefore have no interest in BGG.
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Virginia Milne
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A would be bridge player has the problem of finding a partner, because bridge plays as a partnership game.soblue

I have some proficiency in Chess, Go and Backgammon.
Rounding out my "literacy" in the common "life style" games by playing bridge attracted me in the past, but the partnership requirement seemed insurmountable to mecry

I have had a little dabble on the computer and not gone any further
 
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Russ Williams
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byrdalumnus wrote:
Your question about why more people aren't learning and playing bridge touches on a sad phenomenon in today's society. The game is complex and fascinating, but it takes a long time to learn. I don't think people feel much like thinking and concentrating when so many other entertainments and mind-bubble-gum are available.

That is probably one factor indeed.

But on the other hand, it can't be the whole story, since there are other popular games with far more complicated rules than Bridge. E.g. if OP were interested in a complicated wargame (like Advanced Squad Leader with its 200-page rulebook...) he could easily find many more than just 3 people under 60 to play with in Austin.

And in terms of time + effort to get good at a game, classic strategy games like Chess and Go continue to have many players. When I was in Austin, I met and played with a dozen or so Go players every week in regular club meetings, and also had various Go-playing friends and coworkers. And of course there are many good modern free online websites to play Go, Chess, Shogi, etc.

So it's clearly not just a matter of "People don't like to think in games any more."


FWIW I'm an example of someone who enjoys playing some complicated games (like wargames) and some "lifetime to master" games (like Go and Shogi) but Bridge never grabbed me, despite trying it a few times and wanting to like it since it's considered a classic game.

Why didn't I like it more? The partnership aspect doesn't appeal to me. (I'm not much into other team games or coops either.) The need for exactly 4 players is obviously inconvenient. The strange bidding conventions with essentially unenforcable "spirit of the rules" restrictions on communication somehow rub me the wrong way. And (for whatever reason) I'm just not much into trick-taking type games (whether Bridge, Tichu, Spades, Hearts, whatever).
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Steve B
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I remember in 2006 I hitchhiked from Scotland to Paris. Somewhere in mid-England I got picked up by a guy called Mike who was driving all the way to Italy! He said he was going to meet a lady named Emanuela who he met on some online bridge site.

He was the worst driver I have ever encountered in my life. He actually started to drive onto a roundabout the wrong way, had to reverse a bit and re-enter. Extremely scary experience the entire trip.

When we eventually got to the ferry in Dover I said cool see you back at the car when we arrive in Calais. I of course never went back to the car and just proceeded on foot.

I wonder if he ever made it to Emanuela in Italy? Are they still playing bridge to this very day?
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Barak Engel
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Huge bridge fan here too.

Same problem. Only way to play is to join the ACBL and use their resources to find a local club, and hopefully a partner.
 
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Bill Gallagher
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lightnng wrote:
Huge bridge fan here too.

Same problem. Only way to play is to join the ACBL and use their resources to find a local club, and hopefully a partner.

I was a bridge regular in the 1980s (going to a local club at least one evening a week). I followed the hobby into the 1990s.

One of the big problems mentioned back then was the lack of "new blood" coming into the game. I remember reading an article stating that the average age of ACBL members was well over 50 (if not over 60). Indeed, at the local bridge club, most of the players were over 60. That was also true (to a somewhat lesser extent) at sectional (local) and regional (roughly speaking, state level) bridge tournaments.

I'd guess that the average 20-something looking for a leisure activity today would much rather hang out with people their own age rather than elderly folks.

Russ mentioned another aspect that can be a turn-off - the plethora of bidding systems and conventions (and rules to handle how to convey that information to opponents). Even at a local club, you'll generally run into at least three bidding systems - Standard American, Precision, and "Walsh" (2/1 game force). To do well, you need to understand at least the basics of each.
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Edward Kendrick
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bradelli wrote:
... he was going to meet a lady named Emanuela who he met on some online bridge site.

He was the worst driver I have ever encountered in my life. He actually started to drive onto a roundabout the wrong way, had to reverse a bit and re-enter....


He was probably using a different convention.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Yuglooc wrote:
I'd guess that the average 20-something looking for a leisure activity today would much rather hang out with people their own age rather than elderly folks.
We just need to get a few hipsters into contract bridge. Within a year all the kids will be doing it (except the hipsters who will have moved on once it got cool).
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Michael McKibbin
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From what I hear, Bridge is surprisingly popular in China, especially among younger players. They may end up carrying the torch for the game if it ever fades away in the US.
 
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Michael McKibbin
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Thunkd wrote:
Yuglooc wrote:
I'd guess that the average 20-something looking for a leisure activity today would much rather hang out with people their own age rather than elderly folks.
We just need to get a few hipsters into contract bridge. Within a year all the kids will be doing it (except the hipsters who will have moved on once it got cool).


Isn't this what we did with boardgames already whistle
 
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Jonathan Franklin
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Bridge is an amazing game, but there are really two different games here being lumped into one.

First is casual (or for money, I guess) rubber bridge - this can be four people playing for a few hours after dinner and possibly getting better over time or not, but having fun.

Second is duplicate - which is competitive and has a very high barrier to entry if you want to do ok, for all the reasons mentioned above. Playing duplicate well is a lifestyle choice/all-consuming enterprise. Not to mention a grueling mental workout when studying and playing. My sense is that unless you have great discipline, it is hard to become a good duplicate bridge player if you have a job, family responsibilities, and divide your leisure time among multiple activities. If you do get good, it then requires travel to get the Xbox points.

For those here reading about bridge, rubber bridge is worth trying just to experience it and see if it is your thing. In addition, there are stepping-stone variants like minibridge or games like Paimiahh that get you some of the feel.
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Eric Brosius
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Part of it may be that Chess ratings are skill-based, but Bridge ratings are substantially endurance-based (though not entirely.) I'm not sure today's potential players are up for endurance-based goals.
 
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Cyrus the Great
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grandslam wrote:
Bridge is an amazing game, but there are really two different games here being lumped into one.

First is casual (or for money, I guess) rubber bridge - this can be four people playing for a few hours after dinner and possibly getting better over time or not, but having fun.

Second is duplicate - which is competitive and has a very high barrier to entry if you want to do ok, for all the reasons mentioned above. Playing duplicate well is a lifestyle choice/all-consuming enterprise. Not to mention a grueling mental workout when studying and playing. My sense is that unless you have great discipline, it is hard to become a good duplicate bridge player if you have a job, family responsibilities, and divide your leisure time among multiple activities. If you do get good, it then requires travel to get the Xbox points.

For those here reading about bridge, rubber bridge is worth trying just to experience it and see if it is your thing. In addition, there are stepping-stone variants like minibridge or games like Paimiahh that get you some of the feel.

That's PaiMiahhh, for those looking for more info.

I definitely agree that more boardgamers need to try bridge. It's much deeper than many people assume, and even if you aren't willing to commit to it as a lifestyle game, it will still reward a moderate time investment.
 
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