The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

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...]

Where have they gone?

What’s happening to tournaments? Doesn’t anyone want to go anymore? Tired of seeing the same faces from across the state and the country all the time (most of whom are not very sociable anyway)? Apart from a few die-hard pros intent on beating each other’s brains out in knockouts and the souls desperate for ranking points in the gold rush, nobody seems to go anymore. Across the country, attendance at Regionals and Sectionals is down. The only types of tournaments still growing are Regionals at Sea on cruise ships. Why? Well, we are dealing with an aging population less and less able to travel. Card fees have gone up. At most Regionals they’re $15 per person now. At some clubs you can play three times for that money – and not be embarrassed by the pros trolling the A/X/Y pairs games. And … [Read More...]

Mr. Ping’s Thing

Last week my partner Christine and I closely followed the Daily Bulletins from the Florida Southeasterns Regional bridge tournament in Coral Springs. Due to her teaching and my directing commitments, we’d be able to play there only one day, Saturday [4-13-2019] Bracketed Swiss Teams with our South Florida friends, Sandy Weinger and Michael Siegendorf (once again: Sandy is the “he” and Michael is a “she”). About mid-week, we got a notice that for all team games, entries had to be submitted with every team member’s name and American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) membership number, and we wondered what that was about. Team competitions, between knock-outs, bracketed, stratified and single-session Swiss events, are most popular at Regionals and Nationals; it’s where most of the big boys and … [Read More...]


The news that the top bridge player in the world, Geir Helgemo, a Norwegian competing for Monaco, has been banned from the game for six months for doping at last fall’s world championships in Orlando has sent shock waves through the game. Helgemo, a 49-year-old man, admitted taking a synthetic testosterone and a female fertility drug – both can stimulate muscle growth and are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, an arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The World Bridge Federation, which sponsored the Orlando event, is affiliated with the IOC and abides by its rules on doping. The officials who announced Helgemo’s suspension said the stuff he illegally and knowingly took did not fall into the category of “performance-enhancing drugs,” but gave no explanation why he took … [Read More...]

The Bermuda Triangle

The annual world championship of bridge is called the Bermuda Bowl because the event started out there in 1950 – and returned to the island twice more for the 25th and 50th anniversaries in 1975 and 2000. But all other years, it has been staged somewhere else around the world, from China to India to Tunisia and any number of European resorts. Bermuda does have a big annual tournament, the Bermuda Regional, held the last week of January, not to be confused with the Bermuda Bowl. This year I decided to give my partner Christine a trip to the Bermuda Regional as her birthday present, and fortunately for me, she loved her present. The British colony is a charming island with its pastel-colored houses on the hillsides, and the tournament is pretty special among all the Regionals we have … [Read More...]

The Partnership Desk

At last week’s Orlando Winter Regional, as a member of the board of the Central Florida Unit (240) that stages the tournament, I felt it was my duty to volunteer any needed services and I was asked, along with my partner Christine, to staff the Partnership Desk for the last three days, which gave us an interesting perspective on how the bridge “meat market” works. First of all, here’s how it does NOT work. The desk does NOT play matchmaker to line up big pros with sugar mommies and daddies who pay them to play – those deals are made privately behind the scenes. I’ve read that the Partnership Desk is the worst place to find a partner, and there may be some truth to this, although if you go by yourself to a Regional and you don’t know anyone there, what else are you supposed to do? … [Read More...]

The Know-It-Alls

One of the surprises I got when I started directing duplicate games was how little some of the better players actually know about the rules and the laws of bridge – or maybe they do know the rules, but they try to bend them to their favor, intimidating everyone with their reputation as good players, so people will assume they know the rules, too. My partner Christine and I had such an experience on Black Friday (11-23-2018) when I was playing, not directing, and we came up against the Canadian snowbird Rob Colton, a solid A player, partnering with Jan Ward, a former president of the Vero Beach Bridge Club and an A player herself. I landed in a 2 Hearts part-score contract and after I had already lost three tricks, with everyone having four cards left, I claimed, putting down three trumps … [Read More...]

Of Slams and Captains

In all the time we’ve been playing bridge, my partner Christine and I can’t recall ever having had a stretch of games like this. At a club pairs game on Tuesday of this past week, we bid and made no fewer than five Slams on pre-dealt boards, more than anyone else in the field across three sections – the next closest competitors bid and made only four Slams and most pairs had only one. Then on Saturday in an 8-is-enough team game with our friends Gary B. Smith and Nancy Faigen, with hands we shuffled and dealt ourselves, we bid and made another five Slams, while our opponents playing the same hands at the other table found only one of them. Actually, at The Common Game on Tuesday (10-30-2018), there were a total of eight Slams to be had for East-West, but one of them was on a board … [Read More...]