BRIDGE. IT'S NOT YOUR MOTHER'S CARD GAME ANY MORE.
Now, computers play a role. And networks of clubs give players an even larger group of people to compete with regionally and even nationally.
In Person County an active bridge community picks up the cards about three or four times a week.
Bridge is a game of hands. Cards are dealt to all four players – who form two two-member teams. The goal is to take as many hands – or contracts – as you can. Like many other card games, good bridge players remember which cards have been played and by whom and they can adjust how they play their own hand accordingly.
Bidding is also a key part of the strategy of the game. Once the cards are dealt, each player assesses the strength of his or her own hand and tries to win the bid while promising to take a certain number of hands.
Between rounds, players move from table to table, competing against different competitors as they play the game.
“It’s social. It’s a really great thing to get together with other people for,” said Susan Korn, one of the leaders of the Roxboro American Contract Bridge League.
Roxboro ACBL is one of two primary leagues that play in Person County. Both clubs use a room in the Person County Senior Center to host their games. Walk into the room during a bridge game and you’re as likely to hear people talking and laughing as you are to hear serious card-playing conversations.
But Korn and Fran Westmoreland, the club’s director, say the opportunities for serious bridge players exist.
Roxboro ACBL is part of a group of clubs that collect game scores and players are assigned points for how well they play. The scores are uploaded onto a handheld devise at each table and stored in a central server where they can be totaled and compared to other players in the league and in other leagues. In Duplicate bridge, all the players in the game are playing the same hands. So if one person takes more tricks with that hand than another player at another table, they will win more points. The computer even sets the hands, so someone who is not playing in the game has to arrange the cards in order before the games begin each day.
You might think that, with each table playing the identical hand each game, the scores would be pretty much the same, but Korn says that’s not always the case. “Absolutely a good bridge player will do better than a bad bridge player,” Korn said.
Westmoreland says good bridge players can take their games on the road. “ACBL is a much bigger thing than just here. It’s around the world. We would like for people to join ACBL to go to the tournaments. You meet a lot of nice people,” she said.
Recently, she noted, five Roxboro couples traveled to Gatlinburg, Tenn. to participate in a bridge tournament. “It’s enjoyable. You make good friends. You get to meet people that you would not have associated with otherwise,” Westmoreland said.
The club is also more than group of card enthusiasts. Locally they hold parties – the year’s biggest party is at Christmas – and they serve a civic purpose, too. Members participate in a program called Feathers and Fins at Roxboro Rehab, in which they assist residents with some of their personal needs.