Judy Kay-Wolff

Choices, Choices, Choices!

Just as the theory of learning to crawl before you walk, one must test the bridge waters — usually at the neighborhood club.   Some are beginners; others enjoy simply the socialization of the game; some are die-hards and others are experienced, serious, good players who use the sessions to practice for the big time.   Clubs serve many beneficial purposes.  In bridge, unlike many other games, you have many options in which a situation may be handled.   Let’s try some of the subjects below for size as I would like to hear the varying personal opinions from the bridge gang.

1.  At a club game, do you like duplicated boards?   I would suspect the majority would feel positive about it because hand records could be distributed after the game for analysis and discussion– but I could be wrong for other reasons such as better security.

2.  What is your feeling about a person habitually walking up and down the aisles within eyeshot of boards not yet played?   I remember one old-timer known for his eagle eyes who caused someone to jestingly suggest that when he rose from his seat, he should wear a cowbell.

3.  If you noticed someone looking at an opponent’s hand, would you have the guts to tell the victim to hold his or her hand back?  It’s like those who sit on one leg, elevating their height to get a bird’s eye view.   I always laugh when I think about the first time I heard someone say "Breast your cards!"

4.  What is your feeling about a director filling in to make half a table when someone chances arriving without a partner?   Should the director accommodate the individual by filling in and making a half a table while the other direction suffers the inconvenience of the cascading effect of  sit outs?   Also, when the director (who may be dummy) is called for a ruling, the customer now has to play her or his own dummy.   In fact any time the director is called away, the game is held up in general.    Last, but not least, what if the director is called to a table to rule upon a hand he or she has not yet played?

5.  Should master points be awarded for inferior performance such as 35%-40% games or for that matter — even a little under average?

6. When directors are not qualified to make judgmental calls (other than reading from the bridge bible), should there be a voluntary expert appeals standby committee for a short tete-a-tete after the game or should the customers simply fall prey to an unqualified director’s opinion?

7.  Should the use of cell phone rules be enforced at club games (even at reduced volume)?

Lots of food for thought.   I’m not trying to lead the witness — just pointing out some of the flaws (minuses and plusses) of our present day operation.


ChuckApril 24th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Interesting array of questions posed. 1. I like duplicated hands as long as there is no hanky panky. 2. Lots of people are known to have roving eyes while en route somewhere. 3. I certainly would speak up if I saw someone peeking. 4. 100% against playing directors. 5. Sort of meaningless. 6. Yes, it makes sense to have knowledgeable people make complicated rulings (not merely lead out of turn, etc.) 7. I see nothing wrong with keeping it on vibrator or exceptionally low. Sometimes phones are necessary during every day work. Against it at tournaments where it is disruptive and information can be exchanged. But acceptable if on low key at a duplicate.

That’s my two cents.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 24th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Thanks. Chuck, for your brief but candid answers. I expect a house divided when the responses come in.

EllisApril 24th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

1. I like duplicated boards ( but understand the fears od social players about them) they fail to realise that improperly shuffled cards in the club do not produce random deals.

2. Roving eyes happen everywhere, and everyone should be vigilant

3. Everyone should speak up.

4 Not oppossed to playing direcor in small games , where a sit out might mean a pair is unoccupied at bridge for 3 or 4 board, am oppossed to director getting masterpoints for sitting in.

5. Depending on size of club, I am for comittees in general but understand that not all clubs have enough knowledgeable players who are capable of doing the job.

6. Ohones on vibrate is ok, but ahould not be used in the playing site- Iam also oppossed to use of cell phones in resteraunts and air planes , there is a time and place for everything.

Georgiana GatesApril 24th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

1. I very much prefer duplicated boards. I play at one club where there are not duplicated boards. I asked the director why not, and she said it was too much work.

2. This hasn’t been a problem where I play. And we’re all getting so old that we can’t see the hands from a distance, anyhow.

3. I have cautioned opponents about this on occasion.

4. I don’t like having a playing director. But one of my occasional partners is a club director, and he sometimes calls me to play with him, so I can’t cast the first stone.

5. Yes, they should be, to encourage newbies to come back. I really don’t care how many points the ACBL gives out in Flight C, as long my Flight A game is satisfactorily run.

6. This is a difficult call. We have some directors who are not strong players, but can keep the game running on time and calm down the players who get upset. Having an expert committee might be regarded as a way of showing them up.

7. Yes.

John Howard GibsonApril 25th, 2011 at 12:06 am

HBJ : Most of what you say reflects just a few of the things that undermine the integrity of the game……or perhaps the players themselves ( especiallly points 2/3 ).

I have only met one person who asked the TD to award the table averages all round, because he had overheard what had been said about the hand on the previous table !

Far too many players discuss hands in such loud voices the tables next door would have no difficulty listening in. Trouble is there are those on the next few tables who are eager to listen in with intent, or if they do listen in untentionally, they still choose to pocket and use the golden nuggests of information they have gleaned.

This problem is the curse of duplicate bridge………….

PaulApril 25th, 2011 at 12:28 am

Whenever someone writes about ACBL club games it just seems a world apart from the club games I play in the UK. Although there are a very small number of clubs here where the proprietor is trying to make a living from the club, the vast majority are run by volunteers and the clubs are essentially non-profit organisations.

1. When computer-dealt boards were first introduced, there was a lot of resistance to them. Now, like bidding boxes, there would be a major outcry if they were removed. The paying public want them.

2. Unacceptable behaviour. Tell him to go and stand with the smokers if he needs to stretch his legs. But never seen it happen at any club.

3. Why would you not tell the person to keep their cards up. This is quite common even when everyone is trying to avoid seeing a player’s cards. Don’t see that it takes any guts.

4. Playing directors are the norm. Most clubs rotate the directing around experienced players and so, if the director for the evening has not played the hand, he will ask someone else to do it. Declarer playing the dummy when the director is called away is fine – no-one has a problem with that.

5. Masterpoints bring in money. I don’t have a problem with awarding them to deserving players. In Scotland we have very inexperienced players competing against international players in the clubs, so no surprise that 50% to a new player is like 75% for anyone else.

6. All the clubs have experienced players to help. It is the norm to consult them on judgement decisions.

7. I don’t know what is your norm for mobile phones, but here it is common that some are left on. Answering a phone at the table, or leaving the table to answer a phone, is regarded as unacceptable without a good excuse. Doctors, for example, are seen as an asset to the clubs, given the average age of the players, and we’d rather have them at the club even if on call!

JeffApril 25th, 2011 at 6:44 am

1. Love duplicated boards and hand records; highly appreciative of directors who perform this service. How else can I learn what I could have done that would have been better than what I did do? No concerns about security.

2. Haven’t noticed anyone walking around looking at hands, but always try to be especially vigilant about hiding my cards when I see walkers. I am more concerned about oral clues than visual clues. At clubs I frequent, Bridgemates are used and the habit of users to repeat everything that they key in to the Bridgemate or read from the Bridgemate is conducive to other tables hearing about results of boards that they have not played. I personally prefer for Bridgemates to be used just for score entry and approval and not for traveler status. Thinking that most would disagree, I guess next best practice is to emphasize keeping the entry/review process as private and expedient as possible.

3. I think it is routine to inform opponents and partners when they are holding their cards so that someone who wanted to peer could do so easily.

4. Don’t care whether director plays or not; director has to make the decision that he/she feels is best for the club.

5. Although I have a general concern that the relative masterpoints for a performance should better conform to the skill needed to earn the masterpoints, I harbor no concern about, say, the leading Flight C pair getting some masterpoints even if their score was below average. A nice reward for them.

6. I think it is preferable, although not essential, for a club to have a mechanism for qualified players to determine matters such as the possible effect of Unauthorized Information or Breaks in Tempo. Bad rulings by directors who might not know better about these matters do tend to ruffle feathers of players who feel disadvantaged, and so some committee process is nice to have available.

7. Speaking on phones at the table is unacceptable, but some tolerance about the need to be available to others while playing club bridge is appropriate.

JaneApril 25th, 2011 at 10:47 am

Hi Judy,

Good questions. I don’t care one way or the other about duplicated boards. I question how “random” they really are, but I don’t dwell on that. We get plenty of wacko hands at clubs where the cards are well shuffled by humans. To have pre-duplicated boards, a machine has to be purchased, or someone would have to be willing to do this by hand. That is a time problem and an expense some smaller clubs may not want to incur.

I am not in favor of playing directors even if they play to fill out a table. I appreciate the effort to avoid a sit out, but I prefer a sit out to a playing director. If someone comes without a partner, and there is no one available to play with that person, I do not think a director should ever play when it would create a half table. If the club owners decide the director should play to fill out a table, that is their decision, of course. I don’t worry about a director having to make a call on a board that he/she has not played. I trust them not to take advantage of the knowledge. Not much choice anyway if they are playing.

I tend to walk around a bit between rounds, but not to try and sneak a peek. Just to stretch my legs or go get a snack or some water. I have not really noticed someone trying to look at boards, but I don’t pay attention that much either.

I find ringing cell phones very irritating at bridge games, but would not mind them being on vibrate. If someone must make or take a call, I believe they should step outside to do so.

I see no harm in reminding someone to “breast their cards”. No one I know would be offended by that.

About committees, I think it should be a club owner decision, but if they are allowed, then there does have to be enough people willing to sit on one and have the knowledge needed to make a correct decision.

I assume it is an ACBL rule on how to award MP. I have gotten MP for below average scores, and I feel funny about it, but it is not my choice either. Not sure how this could, or should be changed as many people want their points, and if it is legal to award them for below average scores, then they should get them. Not a big issue with me.

Have a great day.

AlanApril 25th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Of all the questions posed, my only real objection is having the director fill in with one customer to make half a table –holding up all the other paying customers, causing a bye round. If you had 3/4 of a table, it is understandable. Otherwise, it is inconsiderate.

Steven GaynorApril 25th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Hi Judy – Good questions. Here is my take on it as a local board member and direcotr

1. Pre-duplicated boaard with hand records are immensely popular especially with the limited MP crowd. The dealing machine is the best investment we ever made.

2. I have heard and seen players admonish those hovering over tables waiting for a board to be finished. Self-policing is the best and while it happens at our club, it fortunately is not needed that often.

3. We tell people not to show their cards quite often. It protects them and us actually.

4. I direct at one of the larger games and will not play even to make 1/2 table when it is only a 2 or 3 board sit out. The only times I play is when it would be a 4 board sit-out. I am a experienced enough as a player and director to handle just about any ruling at our club.

5. I have no problem with a flight C pair earning some MP’s regardless of the size of their game. They beat out enough other pairs to qualify for it. We cannot be so uppity about this if we want to have a bridge league of any reasonable size in the future. I feel strongly that the ACBL BOD does not remember that the majority of the league are not national players and are content to come to the local club for their major duplicate experience. We need them to keep coming on down. Throw them the occasional bone. We pay our big time players plenty (250 pts for winning the Vanderbilt). I could go on with this topic.

6. The local club game is just that. In big events there should be qualified persons who can competently handle difficult situations. At the lo-cal dupe sometimes you may be right about something but you just have to give it up in the interest of the greater good. When someone does something heinous (BIT, mis-alert, etc.) a third party should be involved in educating them so they understand what happened. Berating and embarrasing them will end up in small games and a dying ACBL.

7. I am in favor of no cell phone use at the table during the game. First offense is: if it rings 1/4 board penalty, 1 full board if you answer it. In three years at my weekly game I have had to enforce that 2 times. However, if you want to enforce it, you MUST announce it at the start of every game. You must!

Thanks for listening!

Bill CubleyApril 25th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I favor hand records. Spill the deck and the hands can be properly recreated.

I played a few club games in England. They all had hand records. And liquor licenses! The Young Chelsea Club has a history of good looking barmaids. But you have to expect the last comment from a guy George Jacobs mad the Grand Kiss Master of the ACBL. 😉

Judy Kay-WolffApril 26th, 2011 at 7:44 am

Thanks to all who took the time to answer Choices, Choices, Choices. This is the consensus:

1. Duplicated Boards. A rousing Yes.

2. Patrolling the aisles. A definite resentment for roving eyes.

3. No compunction for telling the peeker to look at his or her own hand ONLY during the auction.

4. The playing director roused mixed feelings. Most didn’t object that much. I felt strongly that to use a director to make a HALF a table and cause sitouts was definitely inconsiderate. If everyone is so indifferent about it, then give me the last sitout.

5. Most did not care about awarding master points for well-below average scores. I believe in hitching your wagon to a star and working on improving your overall game.

Then, the masterpoints will have true and legitimate meaning.

6. It all depends on where your game is located — concerning the quality of directors. On the East Coast, especially NY and Philly, the quality is tip top. In other parts of the country, I find them much less experienced and I think the ACBL should put their best foot forward to explain the guidelines better. Keeping customers should not be the prime concern. Running a fair and honest game should be their objective as these same people will move into the big leagues and soon find themselves before committees. I am certain many caring decent players would volunteer to serve on short appeals committees — leaving the director to tally the scores.

7. Cell phones seems to be a definite no-no and I can understand why.

Like they say — that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla