Judy Kay-Wolff


My, My – things have changed since I started playing duplicate 57 years ago.  If my memory serves me correctly, the entry fee was either a buck or a buck and a quarter and over the years gradually creeped higher and higher.



John Howard GibsonAugust 21st, 2012 at 10:56 am

HBJ : I’m with you this one. Over here at a typical congress teams fee is about £80 , and so with a 40 team turnout the total receipts are around £3,200……. out of which TDs get about £100 each for the day , and the hire of the venue could reach £1000 if in a plush hotel. Allowing for other incidental expenses , there’s still a hefty profit to be made.
So I too wonder what happens to all the loot ? Does it subsidise other costs of running bridge at the national level. Does it help build an even bigger empire of administrators ? Does it mean there’s a real high salaried career to be made at the top ? Interesting questions but ones without available answers.

Robb GordonAugust 21st, 2012 at 6:29 pm

The sanction fee for a STAC is (I believe) $1.50 per head. That is INSTEAD of the normal club sanction fee I believe. I don’t know if District 17 or the Western Conference levy an extra surcharge. I also don’t know what your “regular” entry fees are. At our club in Sedona we subsidize these events and do NOT charge extra.

Ellis FeigenbaumAugust 21st, 2012 at 10:42 pm

A decent sized club, running 13/14 table section per day and another half size section in the evening with a directing owner is a veritable cash cow.
the numbers are not that complicated. say 18 tables a day at 8 dollars a head -minus the ACBL sanction of 75 cents a head is equal to a daily income of $552. If you happen to be running this in a community centre with low rents and you also throw in a few teaching gigs by the time you turn round you are talking in the 15 -16k a month range.
Travelling directors who run their own games at private clubs. Another cash cow, if you are prepared to put in the hours and the days.
5 days a week at small venues, probably generate 2-300 a day in cash with no overhead except for gas and wear and tear on tires and car.
Bridge at the club level for the proprieters is good business.
We have a massive club, however as it is a resident member club and we restrict our card fees to 2 bucks we show very little profit at the end of the year, however I never begrudge the profits made by privately held clubs, there is a lot of work that goes into running a good club, the ones that are not good usually fail.

John WAugust 22nd, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Surely you and Bobby know more about the ACBL financial mess than the readers of your website. I’m just a local yokel from the East and I can name a few:

– most ACBL directors fees are $175 per session plus a $70 per diem and travel/hotel costs
– The ACBL pays top corporate dollar for their management, and with the exception of Mr. Hartman, they are in it purely for the money not the bridge. Pity all us poor volunteers who donate our time to fund management bonuses!
– And evidently the cost of re-writing ACBLScore will be 7 figures (and growing!).

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 4:45 am

Dear John W:

I used to be a local yokel from the East as well. Now I have relocated on the West Coast.

I must have misunderstood you or you made a mistake. You said
” – most ACBL directors fees are $175 per session plus a $70 per diem and travel/hotel costs”

Did you mean per day (not per
session)? If you are right, we are being raped with card fees.

Please check it out and let me know. Thank you.


Ellis FeigenbaumAugust 23rd, 2012 at 9:52 am

ACBL Handbook of Rules and Regulations (2011 Revision)

Tournament Director Session Fees
National, Associate National Directors
Paid by Sponsor Per Session $181.10
Tournament Director
Paid by Sponsor Per Session $165.50
Associate Tournament Director
Paid by Sponsor Per Session $135.00
Local Tournament Director
Paid by Sponsor Per Session $108.00
Hope this makes it clear.
There is also a per diem and transportation as well as hotel costs.

John D'ErricoAugust 23rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm

As much as this seems a lot of money, this is all just grumbling about prices in general. It happens to all of us as we get older, certainly true for my parents and now I find myself doing it too more than I like.

As a point of reference, in 1957, the Dow was about 500. Where is it now? Last I checked it was around 13-14K. Up by a factor of 25+, so more than those tourney fees, which have climbed only by a factor of about 8 in that time if I am to believe the claims of JKW. (9.5/1.25 = 7.6)

How about the price of gas? A quick check online (I don’t recall, since I was still in a crib in 1957) shows that to be roughly 24 cents per gallon. At just under $4.00 per gallon around here, that is a 16 to 1 jump over that time. (Sadly, I now find it costs me more in gas to travel to a game than it does to play in the “local” club. I play anyway.)

How about the movies? A web search tells me a movie ticket was about 50 cents. (I’ve not gone to a movie recently either.) Online sources tell me they averaged $8 in 2011, so again up by a factor of 16.

In all cases, bridge is still coming out as a comparatively cheap date.

Is it possible (even probable) that some of that money is not as wisely spent as we would like? Hey, the world is not a perfect place. But the fact is, there are also MANY clubs that go under when they cannot afford to stay open. And there is at least one club in our area where you can play for $5 per session. I very happily support our local clubs with my attendance as often as I can.

John D'ErricoAugust 23rd, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Minor correction – 57 years ago was 1955, not 1957. But that makes my comments even more correct, as I was looking up prices for 1957.

Bob LafleurAugust 23rd, 2012 at 4:54 pm

For clarification purposes, are the director fees, quoted above, paid directly to ACBL? If the directors are paid in cash, then they have to pay their own fica, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, etc.

Also what other sanction or other fees are charged by the ACBL from tournament revenue?

It would be nice to know that the fees charged are reasonable in comparison with the costs. Certainly the benefits are in line with the costs of other entertainment: movies, museums, etc.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 5:11 pm


Thanks for taking the time to research the fees paid to the directors. It is mind-boggling since I recently have seen and read about so many botched rulings in actual tournaments even at high levels (not club games only) and I take it quite seriously. There are some directors who are amazingly super and some who are amazingly inept — but the beat goes on.


bobby wolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Hi Everyone Involved,

The nitpicking which is going on with the analysis of costs years ago compared to present day may be interesting to some, but in reality, is very difficult to do accurately because of usual different historical significance to each and every episode, therefore virtually impossible to practically compare.

However, there is one thing in organized bridge which at least IMHO, not open to contradiction, transparent reporting available for all to compare so that the human beings involved (administrators, players, and tournament directors) will be able to judge for themselves what, at least to them, appears to be fair and reasonable, instead of the other extreme, a significant financial rip-off.

There is no doubt in my mind, what Judy is addressing, the increased costs of attending bridge tournaments, whether a smaller amount at bridge clubs up to much larger sums at Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals should be fully disclosed by way of volunteered complete and accurate information coming directly from our home office, at Horn Lake, probably via the Monthly Bulletin, to the entire membership. Otherwise our organization will truly tend to resemble our government and its despicable politics where incumbents are deathly afraid to disseminate correct information for fear of being voted out of office, kept in line even among “good guys and gals” because of the leverage generated by the not so pure ones
to not be canaries and give their songs away.

While, at least to me, the USA during the difficult war years of the l940’s through the next couple of decades seemed to me to be beyond doubt, the Greatest Generation possibly due to the patriotism and character displayed by our citizens in most matters straight down to where it is becoming, if not already become, a battle for survival with the whole truth never being admitted to, which in turn generates overwhelming distrust, as sure as the night follows day.

Even in bridge which has always been thought of by me as a Gentlemans (and Ladies) Game, has recently been slung through the mud, by others who insist on the rules being “doing whatever it takes to win” including dumping, lack of required bridge ethics, and falling victim to almost every vice which bridge itself can generate.

Isn’t it time, if there are any people left who care, for our game to be a beacon of truth and ethics, which it should represent, and in all things related, truth in advertizing and in organization with full disclosure both at the table and from our home office.

To do otherwise, while keeping in line with national politics, will without doubt, eventually if not sooner, wipe our sensational pastime clear off the map.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 6:10 pm

john d’errico:

Of course prices are up since the fifties — but to me that does not justify $9.50 for a STAC game. Look at the salaries of directors. In my era, they really had to work hard for their money — besides selling entries, they had to enter the results, total the scores and post them (and of course be available for rulings). Today, all they have to do is sell entries and put up the scores — thanks to BridgeMates. YOU get the box and, together with everyone at the table, have to supply your ACBL #, wasting playing time. Things, in my eyes, are easier for them — and I guarantee they do less and make more.

I remember a while ago, Bobby (who was very active and extremely well versed on the equity of playing bridge, its appeals process and all things related) was so dissatisfied with the lack of crucial knowledge and judgment of the directing staff that he offered to fly to Memphis on his own dime for a relatively short, but off-the-charts, seminar with the somewhat inexperienced TDs and the reaction of their head honcho (self-styled protector) was: “I wouldn’t dream of subjecting my directors to such a process”.

However, none of the above has to do with the ridiculously outrageous $9.50 STAC fees.

And. by the way, as far as your nit-picking addenda, I actually starting nosing around bridge in 1955 playing non-serious social games and occasional neighnborhood duplicates, but did not get on the serious bridge scene till 1957 (so 57 years is the actual time of my tenor at the table). So much for your nerdish comment.

Judy Kay-Wolff

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 6:18 pm


How lovely of your club to subsidize the STAC tack-on. By the way, one of the most pleasurable experiences that Bobby and I shared was when we drove up to Sedona a few years ago (playing in the tournament with you and Linda) and being in awe of the warmth and extreme friendliness of the bridge players in your realm. It was a weekend we will long remember.



John D'ErricoAugust 23rd, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Judy, don’t insult me for pointing out the obvious affects of inflation. I was perfectly civil to you, so your insults are inappropriate and welcome. Were this at the bridge table, I’d call the director and demand a zero tolerance penalty against you. Please try to be civil as I was with you. Ad hominem attacks are no way to win a debate.

Times have changed, but I was able to show in every case that the cost of a bridge game is consistent if not a better deal than it was in the past. You point out how nice Bridgemates are, but these are expensive pieces of equipment that must be paid for and maintained, not to mention laptops for scoring, printers to print the results, and Duplimates to duplicate hands so that we have hand records. On top of that, most clubs around here provide food for the players to snack on and coffee to drink, all for free. With declining memberships and economic pressures squeezing the directors from both ends, there are many games that have simply disappeared in the last few years. This is fact.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 23rd, 2012 at 11:16 pm


I am not an accountant but the ACBL is not in dire straights. Rumor has it that they have well over 3-1/2 million in their treasury (maybe more?) so we don’t have to worry about holding a charity game for them. Have mercy on the duplicate players for having to pay that kind of money for a club game.

From 20 to 50 years ago the net worth was never over 2-1/2 million and there was no need for it to ever go higher. Bobby was on the Board of Directors for eleven years (1981-1992) and he is quite familiar with their operation.

For any business man, he should realize that having excess money is a dangerous thing to possess — if only for the reason that some unexpected super-bad day, some indivdual or group may run off with it. One can never be too careful — since to not be so — caused the ACBL to find out the hard way.

True the economy is bad, but when someone cites the cost of a movie ticket skyrocketing to $8 or $9, did anyone ever consider the millions of dollars it costs to produce these extravaganzas nowadays? Not true of bridge.

Sorry to insult you, zero tolerance or not, but I just state the facts as I see them and many people at the games share my opinion.

Judy Kay-Wolff

John D'ErricoAugust 24th, 2012 at 10:32 am


Thank you for the apology.

I do agree that there is money wasted. This is true all over. Surely you cannot tell me that the cost of a movie ticket is not inflated because of the vast salaries paid to pampered stars, of the vast sums of money made by movie producers who somehow claim to have “lost” money while the champagne was continuously flowing?

The cost of a movie ticket is arguably more affected by those who manage to skim a bit off for themselves than the cost of a bridge game. This happens. I don’t terribly like it, any more than I like the money paid for my gallon of gas that costs nearly $4.00. Surely there were a few spots where someone made more money than they should on that gallon too.

I’m a mathematician, not an accountant myself, but I’m willing to take a quick look at the costs of a club game. A 6 table club game has 24 people each paying $9.50 (in your area for a STAC game, so probably normally $8 for a normal game there.) The leaves the director with $228 gross income for that game.

ACBL sanction fees are not something the director can control, but apparently vary for special games from $4 to $7 per table, PLUS the standard ACBL fees normally charged, which I gather to be $3 per table ($0.75 per head.) So for a STAC game, the sanction fees alone appear to be about $9 per table, or $54 for a 6 table game.

The director must now pay for a place of venue. In our area, from talking to the local directors, that can cost between $40 to $140 per game.

Food, in the form of at least a plateful of cookies and several pots of coffee, will surely be less than cheap these days. The director also pays to print a pile of hand records for us to cry over after every game and then toss away.

Equipment is not free. 57 years ago, a director could run a game for the fixed cost of a box full of cards and table mats, some card tables and chairs. Daily costs then were only pickup slips and pencils. Today a director to stay competitive must also invest in (and maintain) a laptop computer, printer, hand duplicator, Bridgemates, etc. This amounts to quite a few thousand dollars of upfront costs. (In our area, some of that equipment is essentially shared across several clubs.)

So as a net, I’ll be surprised if your director paid themselves much at all for that 6 table game. If they were lucky, they might have a net of $50 – $75 in profit. An afternoon game lasts perhaps 3.5 hours, plus setup time, takedown time, time for shopping for those snacks they must supply. The director also spends time managing their small business, doing everything from their taxes, to interfacing with the ACBL, to marketing their game, to looking for new places to play when the local church has a funeral that day.

The director must make director calls, sometimes with bilious arguments flowing between a nasty pair of opponents. In fact, if you add up all of the time a small club director spends, it looks like they were paid barely more than minimum wage. (By the way, in case that local director must also pay for their own healthcare as a self employed business person, minimum wage won’t cut the mustard.)

I’ll admit that a director makes more money on a big club game, but I also see how hard our director works on the weekly 40 table novice game, even with someone to help out. I don’t begrudge my local director a single cent of the money they made to provide me with an afternoon’s worth of entertainment.

So, yes, feel free to rail at how fast money seems to flow these days, but don’t take it out on the director. Instead direct your bile at the ACBL for taking a larger cut than they should.


Judy Kay-WolffAugust 24th, 2012 at 6:07 pm


Thank you for your response, but we are both wasting a lot of time on what is tantamount to ACBL greed. The more they get, the larger their bank account. Do you know that some of the Board of Directors are trying to get the ACBL to stop paying a pittance of their collected annual dues to the World Bridge Federation (which comes from their membership dues — $1.00 per head, I believe).

I use the word “pittance” facetiously as it comes to about $160,000. The WBF has been striving hard to have bridge accepted as an Olympic Sport. They have already succeeded in being recognized in the Olympic Mind Games and just recently members of the Olympic Committee spent two weeks in Lille observing the event. That should be the ACBL’s priority — not trying to destroy any ties with world bridge competition.

True, very few of the 25 BOD I can think of are world class players so why should they care if we no longer send a team of representatives from our country. That is the wrong way to try to cut corners.

As far as directors, we are still in disagreement. I have seen too many eggregiously terrible rulings (either reading them myself or looking over Bobby’s shoulder when he serves on an internet committee. Some are actually absurd). In my opinion, many of the directors need help and guidance from those who know much more about rulings and equity but that does not seem to be a concern of the ACBL. I think their salaries are out of sight — especially at the local tournament level.

However, my subject issue is the STAC games — which are no different from any other club game (hands still duplicated and printed sheets) at end of session. Our club charges $1.50 more per person for a Stac (and they always serve coffee and a table full of goodies regardless). Why are we paying the extra money?

That is why my blog is entitled Master Points for Sale.