Cheating and sharp practices
Quite a while ago Ray and I played in a number of tournaments in Florida. This seemed to be the home of many “minor” pros. These pros were good players but not really stars and when they played against us we were pretty evenly matched. They also had to contend with their client at the other table. Sometimes to get an edge they would use what I can only call “sharp practices”. This is in a way a kind of cheating.
One of their favorites was to come to the table very late to make us nervous. Our tactics to deal with that was to wait till they arrived and then have one of us say that we had to go to the bathroom. We played quickly and this tactic evened things out.
We also became aware of local players who decided to play pro and then later were caught cheating. Playing pro put enough pressure on them that they went from ethical players to cheaters. In fact in the days where pros were not really allowed, one of the arguments for keeping bridge “amateur” was to prevent sharp practices and cheating. It would ruin the game.
And now as we find that quite a few pro players are likely cheating I wonder if it really hasn’t had a terrible effect on the game.
I love watching great players find incredible plays and somehow make just the right bid on a challenging hand. Now I wonder if they did this as a result of skill or if they are cheaters.
So many things have already been done to prevent cheating. Forbidding electronic equipment, screens, writing notes to opponents to explain bids, having monitors walk you to the bathroom and so on. But in the end no matter what the organizers do if you want to cheat badly enough than you can find a way.
Is the big money pro-client system the problem? There was cheating before and there is cheating in club games and probably even in home games. But maybe the big money provides more of an incentive.
The only answer I can think of is to be ready to have some experts on hand who look for pairs who are getting results that are too good, too precise, too many good guesses. Be alert for cheating and expect it in even the best bridge players.
This just seems too sad to me. For me bridge is “the beautiful game.” It is so sad to see it sullied.