Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Professionalism … bridge friend or foe?

I was reading a later from Rabbi Helman in Bridge World. Leonard Helman died recently. In the letter Rabbi Helman talked about how much he enjoyed playing with a bridge pro. He said it allowed him to play in wonderful events and mix with the elite of bridge. He loved playing against the stars and though it was well worth the money he paid to have this pleasure.

He often played with Mark Horton among others. Mark with Eric Kokish is writing a teaching book about his experience partnering Rabbi Helman. Leonard was a lovely man and he will be missed. Mark told me he asked to be buried with a deck of cards just in case.

I know years ago that I saw bridge primarily as a game of amateurs. It seemed unfair to me that some people PAID top players to play with them. They won events not because of their own skill but because they had enough money to fund a very good team.  So some very wealthy clients who may be quite poor players ended up winning major titles.

It just seemed wrong to me. It seemed to somehow ruin the integrity of the game. I wasn’t against coaching. In fact, I would still like to see more coaching. Yes bridge teachers do their part. Mentors do too. But still there doesn’t seem to be enough coaches for many experts who want to build their skills. At least not many I know.

As time has past I realized that allowing people to make a living as a bridge expert required sponsorship. Some might make money writing or teaching but sponsorship brought a lot of money into the game. I guess the other option would be to have more events with big prizes if we could ever find a way to make that happen.

But it also allowed a lot of players like Rabbi Helman who were not fabulously wealthy to play with good players on good teams and have a good time.  Most probably learn as they go along at least a little.

I find that I am still ambiguous about all the sponsorship of major teams. I see the good points but perhaps it is sad that there are so few top teams that are not “carrying a client”.

In a lot of ways I agree with Leonard – it is worth it to pay experts to play with you. What do you think?


1 Comment

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 12th, 2013 at 12:19 am

Hi Linda:

What a realistic tribute to Rabbi Helman and his profound love of the game.

I know for a fact bridge is not off limits to the rabbinate as my former Rabbi played at my Philly apartment with Norman one evening in a fun rubber bridge gathering and he remarked it was one of the biggest thrills of his life. I only got to know Rabbi Helman in recent years through Bobby and we kept in touch until a year or so ago. He was a terrific advocate of the game and will always be remembered as a caring human being.

As far as professionalism — it has its assets and liabilities. I cannot think of a more captivating way of learning than to experience real life encounters at the table with a good pro. It is a marvelous manner in which to improve — if you can afford it. The higher the levels in which you compete, the more you learn — mostly by the tumbles you incur, but it all goes toward overcoming difficult aspects of bridge. In my own opinion, it is engaging to play in team games (and especially on those where you are hoisted to success by real expert players) — but I feel strongly — a line must be drawn when it comes to representation of one’s country in world bridge championships. That is where the men should be separated from the boys.

To me, it is a travesty of bridge justice to allow sponsored players to compete in Trials and possibly send less than the very top performers a country has to offer. Literally — the buck should stop there.

By the way. overseas competition has become stronger and stronger and the latest trend seems to highlight foreign teams which have prevailed much recently.

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