Judy Kay-Wolff


Growing up as children, the words of my own parents and those of my friends still echo in my ears: Mind your manners! It’s different strokes for different folks. Strangely, it applies to all walks of life — particularly sports — and I have become increasingly cognizant of similarities in bridge!

Let’s address how it surfaces in sporting events — particularly football (especially college games).

Everyone loves to see their team intercept a pass, or make a dramatic tackle causing their opponents to turn over possession, or sack the opposing quarterback , or run back a kickoff for a touchdown .. or .. or .. or ..!! Get the picture? It is fine for fans to cheer wildly and brandish flags but to witness chest-thumping and conclaves of players patting each other on the back and jumping upon one another on the field in a wild display of ecstasy for ‘besting’ their opponents, I find rather revolting. In professional sports, stringent rules are in place to stop what they call unsportsmanlike conduct and keep the game on a civil plateau.

It is really not very nice to ‘do the other team in’ via a fumble, interception, tackle — whatever –and then rub their noses in it with jubilant celebration. It happened Sunday to my beloved Eagles and, even so, I have to confess I was glad to see the referee drop the yellow flag on them. These are not kindergarten children who know no better — but allegedly respectable, extremely highly paid extra-talented professionals in their field (who in some cases are qualified for little else) and being on nationwide television should be even more of an incentive to ‘mind their manners.’

And now let’s turn to our common favorite pastime — bridge. I have been playing close to fifty-five years and the scene has changed rather dramatically — not only in bidding styles but in technology with the invention of screens (in high level events), of bidding boxes and more recently electronic scoring devices. Screens and bidding boxes, I personally believe, have served their purposes well — as long as people observe and honor the protocol of bidding in tempo, etc. It is no longer a matter of  ‘the devil may care’ or ‘anything goes’ as the majority of directors (I would like to think) pride themselves on running a ‘clean’ game and abiding by the rules of the ACBL. After all, as long as master points are being issued, the club management has a responsibility to the League to honor the game by playing it the way it was intended (knowing your own system, alerting when necessary, explaining when asked, not taking advantage of partner’s huddle, i.e., bidding based on your own thirteen cards, etc.).

Since the introduction of Bridgemate (and similar scoring mechanisms), I have seen many ugly situations envelop over the course of the last several months because unlike the travelers, beside the score itself, an actual percentage glares at you (from 0% to 100%) which in many cases evokes bad blood because of untimely, inappropriate remarks and retorts. You will hear something volunteered, such as  “We got 100% ” (which means their devastated opponents got a zero); also “Would you believe we only got 92% for making the slam” (like that wasn’t good enough?). It goes on and on — tantamount to diarrhea of the mouth — and makes for acrimony which would certainly be avoided if a score (absent of a percentage) was merely printed, a  button pushed and a result approved and already en route to the director’s monitor for immediate scoring at the close of the game.

Cheating is the worst — but to my way of thinking — gloating runs closely behind and is caused in almost all cases by the percentage being posted for everyone’s perusal. Thought should be given to removing visible percentages from the Bridgemates which would eliminate extraneous conversations and undoubtedly serve to expedite the game by electronically routing the results to the director’s monitor for a quick final score to be posted.

Bobby’s main objection, when asked by the League for a critique of Bridgemate, responded to the following effect. He fears a better knowledge of one’s score as the game proceeds will cause clever, attentive pairs to change their strategy, thereby affecting the normal equity of random pairs who are oblivious. Keep in mind always that some twosomes don’t look or care how their game is going; they just like to play for the sake of just playing bridge. Others are more calculating and take advantage of every edge provided.

Another relatively minor objection of Bobby’s is that usually South and one of their opponents (either East or West — because in different partnerships — one partner agrees to do the okaying) are not privy to the score and if a board has been erroneously scored, two of the four are unaware of it. When asked, most reply by calling out the percentage. It is customary for North to be the scorekeeper and often because of favoritism to regulars or perhaps because of either physical or age handicaps, they are blessed with N/S positions although North is not necessarily qualified to enter the score.

By the way, just for the record (though I find it hard to fathom), it has been reported and verified that some clubs using Bridgemate have permitted a procedure to allow a player/s to research their score from earlier rounds and learn their current percentage. Might as well just post an updated burner on the wall to suggest how to handle your last round. Play down the middle or shoot for a top? Amazing how modern science has affected this once sacred game and turned it into a circus?


JohanNovember 11th, 2009 at 10:17 am

The good thing of Bridgemate is that the percentage is optional, and the TD can simply disable it. So you may want to suggest this to your TD?

PaulNovember 11th, 2009 at 10:19 am

The display of the percentage score on a board is optional and determined by the sponsoring organisation for an event. It is trivial for the Bridgemate operator to disable this prior to the competition.

I believe that most clubs (in the UK) enable this option because their (paying) members prefer it. It is not normally enabled at national competitions over here.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 11th, 2009 at 3:37 pm

To Johan and Paul:

Thanks for your lightning fast responses. I am aware of the option of disabling the percentage display and have spoken to one of the owners/directors about doing so. As Paul says, in the UK it is used to satisfy the “paying customers.” The bottom line always seems to be about money, but the primary and only objective should be maintaining the decorum of our game,

PegNovember 11th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I’ve played with the Bridgemates and thought them very slick. But, as mentioned above, there was no evidence of anything other than the scores and pairs being entered.

Obviously, in a competition like a barometer game, percentages would be fine. (After all, that’s the nature of the beast.) I would agree, however, that to have that data available during any sort of game would change the game itself.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 11th, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Hello Stranger:

I agree — they are very slick and hasten and facilitate the director’s job for a quick recap at game end — as long as they are accurately entered, the score announced to all and the final result activated and sent onto the director’s monitor. I am all in favor of progress but I am in total agreement with you that otherwise, with early data available, it would no doubt change our game in its entirety.

PaulNovember 12th, 2009 at 11:01 am

I do not know how club evenings are run in the US but in the UK, prior to Bridgemates, each board would have its own traveller and you could see all the prior scores on the board.

This was also the case at all national competitions, so the Bridgemate functionality (of showing the current percentage on the board) is replicating what we had before. My only matchpoint experience in the US has been at the Nationals where you have no idea what others have done and, to my mind, this is clearly better.

Although I agree that knowing your current score changes the game, just providing the percentage on a single board does very little to change the game (as the first half of your boards are just meaningless with few comparisons).

Peter GillNovember 12th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I agree with Judy. Having screens which are too small so that some players can see and others cannot see the scores, Bridgemates, BridgePads and to a lesser extent Bridgemate Version 2 all increase the chance of gloating and inappropriate comments, whether accidental or deliberate, in a game in which it is better manners to minimize loud post morteming about the score.

I may be stretching the point, but perhaps Bridgemates & BridgePads break this Law of Bridge:

Law 74A2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.

I would prefer for someone to design an Electronic Tablecloth instead of an Electonic Scoring Device, so that all players can see the scores, and on which the Travelling Scoresheet is fully visible so that all previous scores can easily be seen in a list and thus checked. This way, the BridgePad problems which marred the recent New Zealand Championships and the 900+ scoring corrections due to the Bridgemates at Australia’s 2009 Gold Coast Congress would not be so bothersome. The Electronic Tablecloth, combined with identifiable playing cards and identifiable Bidding Box Cards, could also measure the time taken for bids and plays, and record the bidding and play in full. Or perhaps we would be better off without all the technology?

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 12th, 2009 at 4:49 pm


When I came upon the scene we all used manual travelers. No one gave it much thought, but eventually at tournaments (sectionals, regionals, nationals, etc.) pickup slips became a much more sophisticated method of scoring and moving the game along. Somehow a glance at the results of others on a traveler is not as indelibly plastered in your mind as is a percentage glaring you in the face. By the way, a problem with travelers (and I am not being paranoid) — is many times when others have left the table, scores have been changed. I personally (as does Bobby) know of cases where this has occurred.

Providing the percentage (positively the first time played — and perhaps the next round or two) has little impact on the pair’s knowledge of their impending success or failure but toward the end is a great indication of closing scores. If they are not privy to that information with pickup slips at more serious events than duplicates, why should we defer to club games.

To my way of thinking, proper use of Bridgemate (without %) is a way of modernizing the game by saving time at the conclusion (avoiding lengthy hand tallying — even subject to error) and producing the results immediately. Otherwise, it provides unfair advantage and defeats the level playing field which was originally intended.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 12th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Hi Peter:

First, I totally agree that Bridgemates (and it’s cohorts) encourage the breaking of Law 74A2 which you cite. Perhaps the genius who invented the technology never dreamed that it would be tainted by extraneous and gratuitous comments from the players. But, so be it. That is where we are now and there is no going back — except to disable the % information.

I am unfamiliar with the problems at the New Zealand and Australian bridge championships, but as long as Bridgemate continues to be scored correctly (and seen and approved by all four contestants) WITHOUT % and sent directly to the director’s monitor by the pressing of a button, I see no need for more intricate technology. Unfortunately, in today’s world economy, everything seems to cost a fortune and for a country to have to conform to uniformity such as the clever electronic tablecloth, I think you are going to meet much resistance (though a clever idea).

Down with percentages!

AntNovember 13th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

When I raised this exact issue with a top-level EBU director I was told that the only players good enough to vary their game based on the %s displayed were generally good enough to have an accurate estimate of their % on the boards anyway. This logic seemed true to me.

I’ve heard plenty of “that’s a top for us, partner” by north’s filling out travellers, so I don’t think there has been an increase in this bad-winning approach.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 13th, 2009 at 4:38 pm


Perhaps it is not the fault of the percentage “flashing” alone, but the fact that our parent organizations, whichever, they are — just have too many other agendas to deal with (personal or political) to outlaw the ugliness of gloating-type comments. Maybe I have been spoiled because I spent countless hours kibitzing world class players and never heard such self aggrandizement or horn-tooting from any of them — despite tremendously successful results even in the early days of travelers.

Bridgemate’s primary and obvious advantage over travelers is time saving — by sending the pertinent information directly to the scoring table so that the final results are immediately available at game’s end. That was the purpose it was intended to meet — and it succeeded. Players should learn to enjoy their success in silence. Be content they have bested their opponents. I don’t think that is too much to ask because frothing at the mouth only creates ill-will. Blame it on ignorance (not knowing any better) — but it is high time they learned — and availability of percentages only fosters the uncalled-for remarks.

Thus, Bridgemate serves its purpose at tournaments — where its boils down to Name, Rank and Serial Number and on to the next board. Why should duplicates (with percentages) be any different (or better) for that matter?

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 14th, 2009 at 6:45 am

Bobby and I play twice a week at a local club. The long-time owner, Loretta Brown, passed away last year and two or three of the regulars jointly bought, manage and direct the club Tuesday through Saturday. Because the property (owned by the City) runs many other functions on major holidays, the club sometimes is forced to cancel some of their regular games. Since the new people took over, the games are consistently well attended (often two sections) and the new co-owners have been looking for larger quarters where they will be able to offer bridge on a consistent basis — hopefully without interruption. Though the space and facilities are absolutely marvelous, it is disconcerting to many of the players as well as the owners to occasionally cancel regularly scheduled games, per force. We are optimistic they will soon find an equally good location that they can call home. It is of interest to note that although Las Vegas is known as Sin City and offers so many gambling opportunities, most of the players are “regulars” and play just about every day! It is a way of life — and there is nothing the matter with being a bridge junkie. I know that feeling. I’ve been there myself in my youth.

The games are well run and one of the owner/directors, Dixie Perkinson, a very special and gracious lady, specializes in making her guests feel welcome. Whenever visitors are passing through Las Vegas and drop in to play, Dixie takes time to introduce them by name to a receptive audience. Although people refer to it as “Brush Street” because of its location, its official name is Las Vegas Bridge World.

The staff does everything humanly possible to make everyone comfortable and abides by the ACBL rules — as equitably as they can (and do not play favorites). The snacks are delicious, the parking is convenient and the restroom facilities are plentiful. The directors don’t tolerate any nonsense or inappropriate behavior (which is miniscule)

Because there has been so much attention paid to the “percentages” on Bridgemate, Dixie announced yesterday that on Friday (today) she would be experimenting and took advance measures to bypass the ‘percentage’ factor. With nineteen tables in attendance, the time seemed to whiz by and we were done (with scores posted) in three hours. It was a delight. We played each board, scored it and went on to the next one. No fuss! No post mortems! No discussions!

We left immediately after the game and except for the several positive remarks from our opponents about the trial run with no visible percentage, I had no idea what the overall reaction was. When I got home. I contacted Dixie to learn if there was a lot of ranting or any backlash after we left. Of the 76 people in attendance, I was shocked to learn there were only three dissenters — one a flight ‘A’ player and two from novices.

Nothing is etched in stone. It was merely an experiment. Time will tell — but in any event, I take my hat off to Dixie and her crew for making the non-percentage play (which figures to work well over the long haul)!

JodyNovember 14th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Lots of interesting comments about Bridgemate. Is that the little computer thingy that Noeth uses to punch in scores? Only used it once, was fun. My regular pard plays her game based on what results we are getting, I don’t look at the results, I know pretty much intuitively how I’m doing.BUT, BUT, what Judy has said about gratuitous comments is right on, and does anybody else ever talk about it? It’s disgraceful to have to sit and listen to: “Don’t worry pard, they can make 4 spades; Oh, we got a top board!! I couldn’t have made that hand without the opps giving me this or that! I got a great lead!etc, etc, etc.” The Proprieties say that one should not comment on the opponents bid or play. I blame directors, they know it’s happening and it’s their duty to emphasize the ethics as well as rule.

Gary M. MugfordNovember 14th, 2009 at 9:38 pm


Bridge might be the only sport where you don’t know the score during the game. It’s an interesting conundrum. Why SHOULDN’T you have an idea whether playing it safe at the end is a good idea or a bad one, in terms of increasing your chances of winning? Back in my novice days, I lost the novice pairs at the Canadian Nationals because I ‘guesstimated’ we were having about a 55 per cent game and needed a top for any reasonable chance at placing highly. I gambled on the final board and the big fat zero I earned didn’t add much to our 62 per cent score … which was a half-point out of first.

I have NO problem with barometer scoring and burner TOTALS being posted from the half-point on. I think it ADDS to the strategy of the game.

On the other hand, how many times in the old traveling score slip days did a wasted five minutes of “How’d they get THAT score?” erupt? How many heated accusations flowed when the scoring slip opened up to find that the common contract made (or failed) at every OTHER table save yours? Some pretty harsh words were exchanged in those cases. And there was always those moments when you realized your opponents, sitting North-South, were the ONLY pair to bid that way-against-the-odds game or slam and make it. Better the ill feelings occur away from the table and the heat of the moment. No, I have no love of travelers. Besides, I like my scores quickly at the end of the game.

Will electronics foul up? Sure. Things happen. Will cheating occur? As much as any system will when the disinterested parties (should not exist, but we’ve all seen opponents lost in a fog sign off on any old score after a particularly stressful hand for them) absent-mindedly check off on any numbers thrust in front of them. And will people yap through ignorance, happiness or sheer maliciousness when looking at ‘instant’ scores? Sure. Just like they did in the day of the travelers.

Abuse is a state of mind rather than technology. Outside of that abuse, does the technology offer enough gains to offset the cost and the glitches? That’s the measuring stick.


Robb GordonNovember 14th, 2009 at 10:36 pm

For Gary:

Traveling scores were used for many years. They are still in use at many clubs and overseas. They create an equivalent environment to the BridgeMate percentage. But where the analogy falls apart is that in other games once an Inning or a Down has been played, it is done. Duplicate Bridge is generally played in a non-simultaneous manner, which means that information is imperfect and the type of information is affected by when you play particular boards. This cannot be a positive thing, IMO. Now, if you are playing a true barometer, with the boards being played at all tables simultaneously, like the Cavendish Invitational, that is another matter, and “knowing the score” is a desirable enhancement to competition.

Of course, all this misses the point of this blog, which is that graciousness in never out of style, and gloating is never welcome.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 15th, 2009 at 1:22 am


Very interesting information and commentary on your personal views and experiences over the years. A lot to think about! I disagree that you should have some type of gage to ascertain how you are doing at any point in the game. To my way of thinking, mind games are unlike physical ones and I can live without the distraction. Barometer pairs are one thing — standard events are another.

One of the horrendous aspects of learning your score is that those with substandard results may give up, just wanting to get it over with — thereby their upcoming opponents have a big advantage over the pairs played earlier and in a way the “earlier ones” have become victims because of potentially lethargic efforts toward the end.

When I pay my card fee, it is for the enjoyment of sitting opposite my partner, giving 100% of myself on every board — but I don’t pay extra for the ‘yapping.’ It should not come with the territory. And, as far as the score at the moment, whatever it is — it is! In answer to your question … “does the technology offer enough gains to offset the cost and the glitches…..”? In my mind, nothing can compensate for the verbal abuse.

Yes, electronics are not error-proof. However, one can make a personal effort to avoid a human error by double-checking. After the completion of the board (when I am scoring), I repeat the contract and result to everyone at the table before passing the Bridgemate to whomever is doing the button pushing. It is a form of Bridgedmate safety play!

Gary M. MugfordNovember 15th, 2009 at 6:57 am


Not to be argumentative, but in what other mind sport do you NOT know the score at any given point in time? To the best of my knowledge, Bridge is it. Your score can go UP and DOWN in many different sports, mind or physical, but you do have a current state of the score in everything else. I point this out not to put down Bridge, but to ask if knowing the score is good, bad or indifferent. I believe it would be good. And I don’t even ask for specifics. Even the RANKINGS would lead to less guessing at the table.

As far as losing players giving up completely, been there and seen it … even without them ‘knowing’ they were losing by exactly how much. Poor players play badly the later it gets. And players having an awful night, will look at their opponents and frequently say, in actions, ‘We surrender.’ I think, however, that if they knew they were playing a contender in the final round or two, they might actually perk up and see if they could play spoiler. I just think that’s more likely. Losing players KNOW they are losing and I don’t think the facts will change their thought process at all. I DO think wanting to make one concerted effort to ruin a title chance might get BETTER effort than ignorant bliss. But I’ve been wrong before.

The yapping, which is minimized somewhat by round score slips, seems your most vehement anti-electronic point. First, as has been mentioned, the current score can be withheld from the device. Solves that issue rather neatly. But secondly, yapping is ALWAYS going to be going on.

Even David Bird can’t keep the monks quiet at the Bridge table.

MichaelNovember 15th, 2009 at 8:59 am

As others have commented the hardware and software shouldn’t be blamed here since it is the directors choice what to do. Around me we have Bridgepads more often than Bridgemates, but many club games also use travelers and/or pick up slips. When non-electronic scoring is used the pick up slips are for the directors convenience to enter in the scores more quickly and get the one-to-gos and final results published more quickly. The travelers are for the players convenience as many players like to see what other people did.

I personally enjoy playing in barometer events where everyone plays the same boards in the same order and you get to see your results from the previous round on each board. The main reason I like it, is I find it is easiest to learn from my own mistakes or think about a hand while it is a little fresh in my mind. So having the results and/or travelers can be useful for the non-world class players to help with the learning. One can also review things from the hand records at the end of the round, but the 5 or 10 seconds of thought upon getting some indication of results on a board soon after finishing the board can really help with that, IMO.

But the electronic scoring devices (at least the Bridgepads for sure) allow the director to either show no results, show only the percentages, or show the percentages and the “traveler results”. And all 3 of these settings are used. For the “more serious” events like sectionals, regionals, qualifiers, etc. then no results are generally used. But for club games, usually the travelers are left on.

One argument against score showing on electronic devices and/or travelers is people sometimes see the travelers or scores for the wrong board. Especially if you are playing at the relay table or boards get passed out of order you sometimes see the result early which causes problems for the unplayed board.

Danny KleinmanNovember 15th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Anything that slows down the game needlessly, whether traveling scoresheets that allow players to post-mortem the results at other tables or Bridgemate comparisons (using percentages or not), does a disservice to the players who want to focus on the boards being played at their table this round. It is rude, and neither instructive nor entertaining, to discuss the unseen bidding and play at other tables instead of picking up one’s cards for the next board, with the result that players lose the time they may need to work out delicate slam auctions or prepare for trump coups and squeezes on the last board of the round before the change of rounds is called and boards are taken away from slow players.

Should pairs entering the last round know their standings at the time? I think not. “What the hell!” slam bids and wild attempts to earn tops (with the usual result of bottoms) affect not only one’s own standing, but the chances of last-round opponents as well. Last-round opponents are entitled to the same opportunities as other pairs at other tables have in the same boards in earlier rounds. And the “swinging” of some pairs during the last and penultimate rounds may fall into the category of private understandings. Most swinging takes the form of deliberate overbidding. For example, a player whose notrumps are ordinarily 15-17 HCP may “swing for a top” by opening a 14-HCP notrump. Should not his opponents know that their task after a raise to 3NT is not to stop an overtrick but to beat the contract?

Comparisons to other sports are invalid, as no other sport involves matchpoints and pits your current opponents against rivals at other locations.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 15th, 2009 at 6:44 pm


I just sat down at my computer and was about to respond to Gary and Michael — but you said it all — far better (and more concisely) than I ever could. I know how much you love the game and do everything within your power to protect it — and your treatise above reflects your mind set quite eloquently. Thank you.


JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 16th, 2009 at 2:53 am

To Jody:

My apologies for a late reply. However, I did leave a comment the same day and though it appeared on my site immediately after “submitting,” it disappeared into thin air. I know they are having some temporary problems with some of the transmissions on which they are diligently working and hopefully it will be fully functioning pronto.

Undoubtedly, there are many points of view and I think the last line of Danny Kleinman’s sets us apart from all other sports — especially involving security. I am in total accord with your thinking about the abuse of having to listen to post mortems (especially from people who are often not qualified to offer them) but I don’t think it is the director’s thankless job to police the unsolicited comments of one’s opponents. However, our local director did step up to the plate. She announced and posted on the wall the actual words of the ACBL law concerning treatment of one’s opponents and then adjusted the Bridgemates on Friday not to reflect a percentage.

Playing without the percentage displayed was heavenly (quiet, pleasant and fast). And, as I reported above, there were only three complaints with 76 players present (one surprisingly from a Flight A player and the other two from novices). It is also interesting to note that I checked with friends in different parts of the country. Two of the major Philadelphia Suburban clubs do not use Bridgemate but one on the other side of town does have them. And, I was shocked to hear that two of the popular clubs in the Los Angeles area do not use them. In fact, my California friend who is extremely knowledgeable and on top of the bridge scene — did not know to what I was referring. Live and learn!