Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Dear Caroline … don’t give up yet

I noticed that I got a recently comment on a blog I wrote a little while ago called Why Bridge Is Dying Part 1.   At the time I suggested that complex conventions were not really the problem because you could play and enjoy bridge playing a very simple system.  I just received an interest comment from Caroline:

If you would like to know why bridge is dying, I will give you my experiences in trying to learn it. The first time, the players supposedly “teaching” me would play entire hands at lightning speed, then say, “So you see what we did and why?” and then zoom into the next hand without ever explaining anything. The second time, my husband and I tried learning together. The experienced players treated us as a nuisance at best, and at worst as so much bloody meat in the water for them to butcher. THEY had a fabulous time; we were disgusted at how cut-throat and hypercompetitive they were.

Maybe if experienced players would actually want to take the time to explain every single thing patiently, newbies might stick with it. As for my husband and I, we ditched Bridge and decided to stick with Rummy and Pinochle–less complicated, more friendlyl

I would suggest you take some classes (not online at first) with some of the wonderful gifted teachers that are around.  You might run into somebody coming into class in costume to emphasize a point or they may have lots of ways to make it fun and easy.  If you unsure of where to find a teacher near you the American Contract Bridge League has a  Find A Bridge Teacher feature.  But ask around.  Just like all other classes there are some teachers that are going to give you the best experience.  You could look at the facebook page for the Bridge Teacher of the year for 2010 which has all of the nominated teachers and their location.  These are teachers who have really enthusiastic students.

Now once you have found a good teacher and learned even a bit they are likely to have games and classes with other people of your level.  I have never seen one of these games be anything but friendly and entertaining.  They are a great place to meet people too.  Bridge does not need to be complicated.  My mom has played bridge for almost 50 years and while she has added a convention or two it is much the same still.  It is wonderful to see how excited and enthusiastic she has been when she has done well with a bridge hand.  And losing never bothers her; “I didn’t get the cards,” she says.

If you chose to become a serious competitor things change.  Bridge is a complex game and you can become better and better at it.  There is always something new to learn.  That will be true even if you become a true master of the game.  That is the best thing about the game really.  I like rummy and it can be fun to play.  I know that I became better at it over time as I learned to watch and understand discards and track and remember what had happened.  But it is not a challenge in the same way that bridge is.

Bridge keeps you young.  Bridge keeps you thinking.

So give it another chance.  If you want to play online some time I would be happy to mentor you and I promise to do my best to do better.  Email at even if you just want to chat.

And I know that despite all of our grumbling some of the time all of us who write or read these blogs want to welcome you to be part of our little village.


CellobellaAugust 18th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

In Australia we have supervised sessions at our club so that newbies can practice before they hit the main floor.

I’ve noticed a lot of new players record every bid so they can remember the hands after the session.

That way at the table you can just focus on what you’re doing as opposed to trying to absorb a thousand things!

I can remember my first time in the “main room” of a club – so scary!

I was fortunate to have some great players deign to play with me and when I think back now – it must have been very frustrating for them!

But they were patience and kindness personified – so they are out there.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 18th, 2010 at 8:44 pm


Lots of good advice you gave Caroline.

Allow me to add my two cents:

There are so many levels of bridge, it is mind-boggling. I taught at the Philadelphia Country Clubs many years ago and then, as now, there are countless echelons of bridge players.

If you and your husband are intersted in learning the game together, here is one possibility: Make inquiry into the local gentry if there is a decent married couple who play well as partners, have good dispositions and may be interested in giving you and your husband joint lessons in the evening for a fair price.

My partner, Jane Segal, and her S.O., Sonny Jaspan, had been hired often to teach as a pair. Of course, this goes back many years ago, but I know their clients were ecstatic campers and enjoyed the idea of learning together. You just had the ‘wrong people’ at the helm. Don’t give up. Just find more compatible individuals and those with teaching skills. As Linda pointed out, there are many around.

In any event, Caroline, your ugly experience was inexcusable, and I apologize for the embarrassment you suffered. I can very well understand your repulsion. Try again. It is well worth the effort



HanniAugust 19th, 2010 at 9:50 am

Absolutely, lessons from good teacher so essential. I only had 2 lessons, canned, but good from bad teacher when I and 3 like minded friends approached a very good player and asked her to come to our houses and teach us. She suggested coming to her house which we did for many months. It was wonderful, we played she lectured (“how many spades does your partner have, how many points, etc.) Taught me to think. too many people just “pick up” the game and “learn” something different from each person at the table.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 19th, 2010 at 10:22 am

Hey, guys …

No one said bridge is an easy game. If they did, they are confusing it with something else.

Not everyone has natural card ability, but often it can be overcome with intelligence, persistence and a never say die attitude. It is a lifelong struggle for many — but very rewarding when the light starts to dawn.

Believe me. I’ve been there and suffered many frustrations (especially with my particular background). For some it may take a lifetime — but what a good time you will have in the process. It is a way of life — and especially gratifying in one’s older years.



JHGAugust 19th, 2010 at 11:21 am

HBJ just chipping in here. The game of bridge has clearly moved on in terms of convention complexity, sponsorship, rules that beggar belief, masterpoint obsessiveness, and bad behaviour at bridge. If all these undesirble aspects of the game have now become a permanent feature of the game, then don’t be surprised if people shy away from bridge……or decide against raising their game to compete effectively in the battlefields of big tournament arenas. New comers into the game need to be made aware of the reality of the world they have entered, and be taught on how to survive it ,,,,,,as well as how to bid and play the cards. But one thing I would change if Ihad the power to implement change. I would fine a player gulty of each breach of best behaviour rules with a 1% point penalty on their final score. That would soon put a stop to these result merchants with distinctly unpleasant personalties.

Robert E. HarrisAugust 19th, 2010 at 11:50 am

I was lucky. I started playing with my wife in a social setting. (We had played some trick-taking games.) Our other side was a colleague and his wife:he partnered my wife, and I his. He explained that if he opened the bidding, my wife should bid something if she had 6 or more HC, a higher suit at the one level, or NT, if no suit. He’d take care of the rest. Of course we progressed. I read Goren’s Contract Bridge Complete (1957) from end to end, did all the exercises, and I got a little better. (Not much, though.) I played very little for the next 15 years. I had been playing a little and drinking beer late night at a bar, when one of the kids asked me to play in a new duplicate at the University. This was 1973. We entered the first session, knowing as little about bidding as the little card that used to come in Goren’s little book on bidding. We finished second, half a match point out. That was bad, for it set me on a course of time wasting that has continued to the present day. Now I often can’t remember the cards played, so I have problems, but I keep right on, mostly on bad autopilot.

Alain LacourseAugust 19th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

In my opinion the following factors contribute in preventing the increase of the bridge population:

a. Lack of visibility: bridge is less popular than poker. We don’t hear about it in the news, even newspapers are dropping their bridge column (that’s what’s happening in the Montreal area anyway). If people do not hear about it. They won’t be interested in learning.

b. People don’t know where to start: unless you know someone who can give you good recommendations, finding a good resources (books, teachers, classes) is not obvious to the newcomer.

c. Once people are starting to learn, the emphasis may not be put on the right concepts. The newcomer hears about many conventions and think to play well they need to learn it. However, it is much more important to learn the logic of natural bidding (like forcing bids, limit bids, captaincy) as they are the backbone of understanding how to bid. These concepts may seem less exciting to learn, but they are much more important. Unfortunately, not all introduction books are covering these principles (my own recommendation: The American Bridge Series, by Chris Hasney and Jerry Pottier; volume I teaches very basic bridge and includes those very important concepts).

d. Bridge is seen as more complex than it really is. This one creates fear for the newcomer and once afraid he drops learning it. Bridge, by its rules, is very simple. The rules are more complicated than any other card game, but still they can be learned pretty quickly. Learning the bidding is not obvious, even in its simplest forms, can be challenging. The only idea of having to read through 200 pages to learn how to bid is not for everyone. But there other ways to learn bridge. Simply by playing it and learning bits and pieces at a time. Some classes are great for that, but learning by playing with friends is how we did it. The only downside is if you don’t have a competent player to pinpoint some fundamental errors you make; this slows down your learning speed, but this will be a lot of fun anyhow.

Looking back on how I learned, we were a bunch of 500 and tarot players who wanted to take the next step. We learned on our own; I was reading a french book I found and I would teach the others what I learned. And we would play a lot, not nothing we had hit a crappy book. We were trying to memorize the bidding structure rather than understand its principles. A year later, I found the American Bridge Series, by Chris Hasney and Jerry Pottier, and light turned on. Bidding logic and principles, what’s forcing and what’s not, was all explained, and at a level I could understand. Of course, there are other good books out there and the classes are really great to start. But to get a feel of this game and start learning it, that’s a book I recommend to anyone. Plus, you get a solid foundation if you want to expand your bridge knowledge further eventually.


1. Keep things simple.

2. Play, play, and play. That’s the only way to learn the game and get better at it.

3. Talk about it. The more we are, the more fun. I have a few friends who don’t care about being good, even about playing in a club, but when we are enough to do a 2-table team match at home, they go nuts!

With time, this game is going to be more rewarding to you than any other game you might be playing. (for young players: bridge becomes even more fun than any console game. I know its hard to believe…)

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 19th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

First to HBJ:

Perhaps players have to seek the level where they are happy — be it kitchen bridge, or the more seriously policed areas of duplicates or tournaments. To each his own. The range from novices to experts is astronomical. People should play where they are comfortable. If the rules and regulations are distasteful, they should resign themselves to their own little circle where they can make their own rules. No harm, no foul.

However, if you are going to play in a highly competitive atmosphere governed by an organization that sanctifies stratas and classifications and issues master points, you must live by their rules — like it or not.

In this latter venue, you abide by them or pay the consequences. Unfortunately, the supervisors (either club owners or tournament directors) are reluctant to come down hard on people for poor manners as opposed to violation of standard practice or

private understandings, etc. No one likes to lose customers.

As to Robert:

You are living proof, once it gets in your blood, there is no impeding its sucking you in for a lifetime. Here you are (and we both started around the same time) — over fifty years later still struggling with challenging problems, sometimes losing count of a suit — but nevertheless — we are still at it — autopilot or not! Isn’t it wonderful?



Judy Kay-WolffAugust 19th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Dear Alain:

Your comments were very informative and encouraging. I am not an expert on what books to read or what teachers to engage. However, I can make one positive contribution to your remark about newspapers and the disappearance of some of the bridge columns.

I have witnessed three of them vanish from the daily paper — but not for very long. THE PROTESTS FROM THE BRIDGE PLAYERS WHO WERE QUITE SERIOUS ABOUT CANCELLING THEIR SUBSCRIPTIONS UNLESS THE COLUMNS WERE REINSTATED — WORKED!!! They were back in no time flat. The outpourings were overwhelming and quite effective!!!!

Whether it is ACES ON BRIDGE, ALDER, STEWART — or whomever — if this has happened in your city, SPEAK UP AND BE HEARD. EMAIL, WRITE OR CALL. The newspaper publishers cannot afford to lose one single customer. PERFORM YOUR DUTY TO THE GAME YOU LOVE.


MaggieAugust 21st, 2010 at 7:58 am

Caroline, as you discovered, asking an established player to teach you is not always the best way to learn.

I suggest you consult

where you can look up a professional bridge teacher in your area and enquire about lessons. All the teachers listed on this site are members of the American Bridge Teachers’ Association, a group dedicated to improving their methods and teaching techniques.

Players who start with group lessons with a well-trained experienced teacher usually find learning bridge to be a very positive experience.

I hope you will try again, good luck with your learning.

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