The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

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...]

Goodbye & Hello

Goodbye, Columbus! That was the title of a popular Philip Roth collection of short stories of the late 1950s, with Goodbye, Columbus! being the lead novelette. The title of the book is derived from a song by the class of graduating seniors from Ohio State University as they leave the Ohio capital forever. Except that this past weekend (10/5/2019), my partner Christine and I found ourselves shaving to sing the song without ever having made it to Columbus. But it was sooooo close … Last Saturday we competed, as we have done for the past several years, in the District 9 Flight B playoffs for the North American Pairs (NAP), in which the top four teams would qualify for next spring’s North American Bridge Championships, which happen to be in Columbus. The top three pairs would get travel … [Read More...]

Bridge According to the Stars

The bridge players’ horoscope for the month of September, 2019: Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) – This is your lucky month! Your astrological sign is star-crossed and you’ll consistently get below-average hands in point count. So when you complain about never getting any cards, at least this time it’ll actually be true! Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) – If your partner is a Cancer, you’ll be able to blame him or her for all your disasters. This is not a good month for teaming up with Cancers. If you do, you’ll be at loggerheads all the time. Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21) – If you make one more lead out of turn, that cute director might start suspecting that you just want to see him once again up close at the table and hear his dulcet voice as he recites the five options. Sagittarius (Nov. … [Read More...]

Bridge with the Billionaires

My partner Christine and I decided to check out the Nebraska Regional bridge tournament this year (August 2019) because we had heard good things about it. Here are three reasons why it’s such a unique tournament. First, the tournament is actually held in Iowa, in Council Bluffs across the Missouri River from Omaha, so it’s kind of curious that the event isn’t held in the state whose name is attached to it. (Apparently years ago it was actually in Omaha, but they found a cheaper venue at the Mid-America Center in Iowa next to the gigantic Horseshoe Casino run by Caesars.) Second, the tournament has very decent hospitality with free lunches every day and ice cream at night — plus a daily drawing for a free shipment of the famous Omaha Steaks. But the real reason the Nebraska … [Read More...]

Crossing Borders

Crossing international borders for bridge events can result in some odd conversations with customs and immigration officials since they rarely play bridge and don’t know much about the game. A case in point was my partner Christine’s and my recent attendance at the Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, Regional tournament, which we reached via rental car from Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. On the way into Canada, the Canadian border guard asked us where we were going in Canada and why. So we told him we were headed for Canada’s biggest bridge tournament of the year in Penticton. His next question seemed like a total non-sequitur. “Are you carrying any guns?” he asked. It’s what they always ask any Americans crossing the border, because gun-loving and -toting Americans are often … [Read More...]