The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

It’s a tough time for the pros

Playing against a professional usually gives us mere mortal club players just a bit of an adrenaline rush. We don’t want to be embarrassed and maybe we try a little harder to beat them – and if and when we do, we might tend to gloat just a little. My partner Christine and I once in a while play online on the BBO platform with the All-for-One alliance of New York-area clubs based around Honors, the Cavendish and Hartes in suburban Westchester County because sometimes they offer games at times often more convenient to us – our home club, the Vero Beach (FL) Bridge Center, only offers open games in the early afternoon. Also, usually some pros hang out at the alliance to play with clients and we like to measure ourselves against them. Although two seasoned pros playing with each other … [Read More...]

The Longest Bridge Odyssey

It was an Odyssey that lasted almost two full years. For my partner Christine and myself, our participation in the 2019 North American Pairs (NAP) competition became a real rollercoaster affair with lots of peaks and valleys – fortunately it ended on a high note at this year’s Online Spring Nationals. We started qualifying for the Florida District 9 finals at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, several times in late spring and summer of 2019 to make it to the two-session finals in October in Orlando. At that playoff, we had a horrible end to the first session, but placed first in the evening session to end up in 5th place overall – one spot out of qualifying for the Nationals. I had already written a column under the title “Goodbye, Columbus,” because it appeared we had just … [Read More...]

“Cheating” Spouses

In online bridge, do spouses who log in from the same domicile cheat or not? Distressingly, new research that has triggered a storm of discussion on suggests that some do. Since practically all bridge shifted online, a majority of the 30 top-rated established pairs on BBO are mixed pairs – a married man with his wife who share the same last name and residence. Before the COVID pandemic halted face-to-face bridge, only one of the top 30 pairs was a married couple. The research pointed to a suspicious “significant overperformance” by many married couples, for example, going from an average of 56% to 61%, or improving from 57.5% to 66.7% from in-person to online. The Recorder (official disciplinarian) of the Australian Bridge Union added the disturbing fact that all … [Read More...]

Happy New Year

Top ten New Year’s resolutions for bridge players: I’m going to talk to my granddaughter who’s in college to ask her where she gets her fake ID to sneak into bars when she’s not 21 yet. Now I need a fake ID to add a few years to my age to move up on the priority list for the COVID vaccine. I’ll stop criticizing my partner for his/her bids and plays. I’ll save up all the nasty remarks I wanted to make to my partner for when I’m playing with a robot and then I’ll unload on him – after all, robots have no feelings or egos to be bruised and won’t talk back to me. I have to stop having all these mistresses. First it was Miss Fit who threatened to break the harmony between me and my partner; now the latest “new woman,” Miss Click, has also come between us. I have to stop … [Read More...]

Outrageous Kibitzing

The virtual bridge world – online is practically the only bridge being played these days as most clubs have closed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – has just been rocked by a new cheating scandal. Meyer Kotkin, the president of District 4 (Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania and a big slice of Upstate New York) revealed in the most recent issue of the District’s newsletter, the 4 Spot, that people have found a new way to cheat so brazen it ought to make every ethical bridge player’s blood boil. My partner Christine and I still get that all-electronic newsletter from the days we lived up there seven years ago. Las Vegas-based bridge pro Sylvia Chi has openly admitted on the website that while playing online, she had logged in under an alternate name to kibitz at her … [Read More...]


So how are they supposed to catch cheaters in online bridge? Cheating in online bridge is an obvious problem. People located in the same household could easily tell each other useful things about each other’s hands, thereby passing along unauthorized information. Even partners playing from different locations could be texting each other all the time or keep an open phone line to illegally communicate information. The algorithms installed by BBO, the private company running MasterPoint-awarding games for clubs as well as for the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), haven’t been spelled out in detail for the general public, for perhaps obvious reasons. However, they are supposed to work in two general ways. First, if you and your partner are average players and rarely broke 50% … [Read More...]

Mexican Adventures

Playing in the San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Regional was a bit of a schizophrenic experience. Here we were, my partner Christine and I, in the heart of Mexico, on the Central Highlands plateau, in a beautiful Mexican town with well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, but the convention center where the bridge tournament was held was full of Americans (and some Canadians, plus a smattering of Europeans). The two directors were American, from as far away as Seattle. You could pay your card fees in either U.S. dollars ($13 per person per session) or in Mexican pesos (250). Judging by the stacks of money in the directors’ hands at the start of each session, the currency preference seemed to be about equal. So why does this Mexican town that’s a little … [Read More...]

Life is Beautiful

In the week leading up to the Oscars there was a lot of talk about movies and dramatic performances. Unfortunately, my partner Christine and I were unable to turn in any kind of Titanic performance in two outings at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center. We couldn’t crack 50% either time we played, and we got no points, so we were definitely more like Les Miserables than like Rocky. What makes movies great are often dramatic displays of emotion but those don’t go well with duplicate bridge anyway. I remember getting called out for too many histrionics by one of our opponents when I involuntarily made faces because I didn’t like my partner’s bids. You’re better off biting your tongue and your lips, showing True Grit, and not letting any feelings show. The trouble with showing … [Read More...]

Virus hits Bridge, too

The coronavirus pandemic has altered life as we know it for the foreseeable future and the bridge world is no exception. The biggest blow to the top of the game is the cancelation of the Spring Nationals, the North American Bridge Championships (NABC) later this week in Columbus, OH, that will probably cost the American Contract Bridge League hundreds of thousands of dollars. My partner Christine and I had been scheduled to compete in the North American Pairs event as B qualifiers from Florida (District 9). We got a credit for future airline travel and the hotel refunded our deposit, and at this point no one knows if the NAPs will be rescheduled for a later NABC, like during the summer Nationals in Montreal. We also canceled a trip to the World Village of Golf near St. Augustine for … [Read More...]

We Are The Champions

Nobody wins every time at bridge and nobody loses all the time, either, so what makes you more successful one time over another? My partner Christine and I had our most successful tournament ever this past weekend at the two-day Sectional at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, coming in first overall in the morning pairs session with a 66% game that earned us 8.25 Silver points, and then getting 66% again in the afternoon session, which was good enough for second place overall (first in our direction) that netted us another 5.16 MasterPoints. We didn’t do as well in the Sunday Swiss teams competition with teammates Lorie Heiberger and Glenn McBride, when we had a tough draw, having to face top-ranked teams in the first and the last round, and we finished up with a 3-3 … [Read More...]