Judy Kay-Wolff

The Antithesis of Playing Professionally …

The other day here at the Riviera, we had the pleasure of playing against a charming middle-aged woman student who was visiting from Hawaii.   She was sitting opposite what I would call a "dream teacher."   His name is Cameron Doner, a Canadian from Vancouver, whom I hear is the second leading master point holder there.   I understand he not only plays on line professionally but with students at tournaments when he is not already booked.  

I had seen him on occasion but had no idea of his name or profession.  His demeanor is one of a kind.  After the session, while waiting for our teammates to finish the round, he discussed the hands in which his student had made errors.   His tone of voice was soft and sweet, not serving as a putdown — but in simple, easily understood terms, he explained what his bids meant, how many points he showed and what she needed to bid again and suggested what, if anything. His impressive presentation was charming, non-offensive and it was obvious the woman was observing his extremely tactful and factual explanation and happy to learn her mistakes.  

It was not even an embarrassment as Bobby and I sat and listened — but more of a treat to see Cameron Doner in action with his student.   A lot of playing pros should be inspired by his example — the consummate individual to handle a truly interested student who does not have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at a public bridge lesson.

Bobby and I were indeed impressed.  If there were more Cameron Doners around, perhaps we would draw more new people to the game.

A genuine pleasure.


PaulOctober 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 am

I must admit that I am a little perplexed. I naively presumed that this is how the vast majority of professionals behaved, otherwise who would hire them?

John Howard GibsonOctober 22nd, 2010 at 3:11 am

Sadly Paul, there are players who would sell their soul to get on board a professional as a partner, no matter what flak might come their way. If the price for success is a few scathing comments, and contemptuous remarks then that is a price some of these sponsors are also prepared to pay in addition to the money. I once played with the club’s top player, who of course was an extremely critical hard-task master. I did this because not only would my game dramatically improve, but my chances of winning club events rocketed to extremely high. However, in the end my damaged ego and self-confidence could take no more.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 22nd, 2010 at 5:03 am


You’d be surprised. To some people master point achievement is the pie in the sky. They will tolerate berating and criticism publicly in order to pay a top player to carry them in. I am referring mostly to the average duplicate playing sponsor in lesser tournament events. Cam was trying to teach — not kiss butt to play up to his client. I believe taking lessons is marvelous, especially if the pro is on the level and not trying to butter you up and pass the time of day to collect his check.

At the higher levels, it is all about money (and big money at that). Pros (because some of the clients insist on top results to retain their guru) try to appease their erring clients to not have someone usurp their position. With this economy and clients cutting back, replacements are knee deep waiting in line.

In addition, it is all hugs, kisses and social activities you must attend to make the star the center of attention and constantly make nice-nice even if the sponsor made an egregious faux paux. Professionalism certainly serves its purpose at the lower levels as a marvelous teaching venue, but when you hire foreign exeprts to help you reach the trials to represent the country and then must bow off (though the client gets seeding points) and hire American pros to fill in for the rest if the way) — it deflates the majesty of the game of international competition. But as I have said earlier, money is in first place and bridge a far second at the highest levels.

It was just refreshing to see a pro at a sectional be such a perfect gentleman, talking to the client in a civil, direct and respectful manner, showing no venom for her mistakes and not being condescending. It is a great method of teaching but not at the realm of international competition.

Cam Doner was such a refeshing departure from what I have witnessed for years, I felt compelled to blog on it.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 22nd, 2010 at 5:23 am

Dear John (and no — this is not a goodbye letter as those two words are commonly used):

Your words portrayed the real life situation. Good bridge is not a natural flair with which most of us are born, Many need help to improve and playing lessons are a wonderful device to train your mind to think about the right things. I was just so impressed with the aplomb of Cam and his obvious intent to both reach and teach his client in first class fashion. It was his unique presentation that so impressed me.


John Howard GibsonOctober 22nd, 2010 at 6:52 am

Dear Judy, I would like to add that from of the ashes of my being burned alive ……I, John Howard Gibson, was reborn as the phoenix known to all as HOWARD BIGOT-JOHNSON…….a warrior and demon……a man not to not mess with or cross. Yours Howard

PegOctober 22nd, 2010 at 8:41 am

Good post about Cam. It’s been my pleasure to play as Cam’s partner, teammate – and occasionally as opponents, too. He assuredly is One Nice Guy.

MichaelOctober 22nd, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Cam also displayed great ethics IMO at the NABC in NO when my partner got confused in a claim by some badgering from Cam’s partner. Cam didn’t approve of the badgering and didn’t let his partner know the claim had problems and let the normal result occur moving things along without creating additional contention.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 23rd, 2010 at 7:34 am

Peg and Michael:

Isn’t it inspiring to have an individual’s fine reputation known far and wide. I have to confess, I am not sure if I even knew his name but I am good at spotting an angel when I see one. We can all take lessons (personality-wise) — including moi at the bridge table.

Thanks for sharing and backing up my instincts.


Judy Kay-WolffOctober 23rd, 2010 at 7:45 am


Who would ever tangle with you and your resurrection? Your command of the combined English/Bigot language is a first for me and it is a mixture of humor, sarcasm, plays on words and underneath — great wisdom.

You are a tremendous asset to the site and our game.

Your fan,


Andre AsburyOctober 25th, 2010 at 7:00 am

I have developed a disdain for many bridge pros for their attitudes toward the game and their partners, as many of the ones I see frequently are arrogant and rude toward their clients, but many of them are in their 20’s and not quite mature enough to be doing that a lot. It is refreshing to hear about pros who are ethical and courteous and not arrogant when on the job.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 28th, 2010 at 9:50 am

My sentiments exactly. It is nice that these talented young experts don’t have to hold down 9-5 jobs like the rest of the world, but lessons in humility and protocol would enhance their possibility of desirability and hiring.

This Cam Doner was an absolute delight and his student was respectfully hanging on every word.

Thanks for speaking up!