SpadeHeart  DiamondClub
Release 2.19n

Sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League
  We are a ZERO tolerance club

News Page
This page has information and news of interest to the members. For a full list of forthcoming events, see "Calendar" on the menu and for a list of results see "Results".
  Larry Cohen Article on "Learning to Learn"

Learning to Learn

by Larry Cohen

In this one article, I wish to provide “universal” information on learning how to learn bridge. Sure, you can take many lessons and read many books. A good memory is useful, but it is not the key ingredient to improving your bridge game.

Here, in a nutshell are my observations:

1) Concentration at the table is the number-one ingredient to playing well. Some days are just bad-hair days. Your brain won’t be in high gear (personal issues, medication, aging, etc.). On those days, you will make errors. Just accept it. Some days are worse than others. When you are having such a day, stop lower in the bidding and hope the other players are going down in game/slam.

2) Logic is much more important than memory. Don’t try to solve bridge problems by rote. Face each decision (in bidding, play, or defense), by using a logical checklist. It goes to the tune of, “If A, then B.” “If not C, then D.” Translated to bridge terminology, your thinking needs to go: “Since he bid hearts twice, he has six of them, so I should not insist on notrump.” Or, “Since partner didn’t lead diamonds, I doubt he has the ace-king, so declarer must have one of the high diamonds.”

3) Memorizing and learning new conventions is not the way to improve your game. Sure, if you have a good memory and lots of time to thoroughly study and learn high-tech methods (and a partner who does the same), it will be of some help. But, I see this to be a poor use of time and effort. It is much better to understand completely the most important conventions. Yes, you all know Stayman and Blackwood, but even those methods are often misunderstood and abused. Negative Doubles and even something as basic as Takeout Doubles and Responses are an important area to master. These come up lots of times every session. Thorough understanding of all doubles and basic bids on the one- and two-levels would be infinitely more useful than learning “transfer lebensohl” just to keep up with the Joneses.

4) At-the-table attitude and demeanor is crucial to playing well. Keep partnership harmony. No faces. No negative comments to partner. Be nice to the opponents. Try to actually enjoy this great game. It will clear up your mind to think more clearly and logically.

5) When you do take bridge lessons (or read bridge), please be realistic. Be easy on yourself. Even a college student can’t memorize tons of information and accurately recall it weeks and months later. When learning bridge, try to just grasp a few key issues clearly—don’t bite off too much at once. When I teach a two-hour session, and give, say 15 “pointers,” I’m happy if my students walk away and have learned 3-4 of them well. Until you’ve heard the same lesson over and over, it is not reasonable to expect to get it all.

There isn’t much technical bridge advice in this article (there is tons of it at if you wish to indulge). However, I feel that if you read #1-5 before each session, work hard at these concepts, and don’t fall back into your old habits, you will get instant gratification. Your game will improve as will your experience. Good luck!

Last updated : Aug 8, 2010 20:44 CDT
  A TRIBUTE TO DAN - by ACBL Cartoonist, Bill Buttle
A TRIBUTE TO DAN - by ACBL Cartoonist, Bill Buttle
Last updated : Jun 27, 2010 19:56 CDT
  Top Ten Worst Bridge Table Habits

Marilyn Hemenway, an ACBL Bulletin contributor, wrote an article in 2006 and I think it is worth repeating.  She began her article by saying:  "These could probably be called my 10 greatest pet peeves at the bridge table, but David Letterman has a whole lot more style.  The Top Ten Worst Habits at the Bridge Table are (drumroll please): "

10.  Card Snapping.  I'm not exactly sure why some bridge players develop the habit of snapping their cards, each and every card they play.  It could be just to show that they can do it, so call me envious because I can't.  It could also be to keep themselves awake.  Unfortunately, it keeps me awake also.

9.  Spending too much time looking at the traveler.  If at all possible, I vote for pickup slips!  At our club we use travelers, and they must be perused after each and every board.  I maintain that if these players would spend even that little amount of time thinking about the contract they just played and how they could have done better, they all would be better players.

8.  Discussing results.  Now this wouldn't be so bad if we were in a room all by ourselves.  Unfortunately there are several more tables in the room, and all too often they can hear pertinent bits of information without even trying to do so.  Some of us have voices that seem to carry forever, which doesn't help this situation at all.  So it's best to table the discussion until later.  (Hopefully, we'll be able to remember the hands later!)

7.  Eating while playing.  All too often there are snacks around during games, and it's pretty obvious that when people eat while playing, the cards get dirty.  It's not very pleasant to take your cards out of the board and then have to clean up the crumbs that came with them.  Sometimes the cards even get stuff smeared on them.  Yuck!

6.  Agonizing over a bad board.  If you have a bad board, get over it and move on.  Prolonging the agony doesn't help.  Continuing to lament doesn't change the result, but it does slow down the game!

5.  Taking advantage of partner's hesitation.  This is a hard one.  Hesitations themselves are certainly not a violation of the bridge laws, nor are they unethical behavior at the table.  Sometimes there's a lot to think about - that's part of the game.  It is in violation of the bridge laws, however, for your partner to then act on that information.  That is often what happens when an unnecessary hesitation occurs.  The director is there to rule when bridge laws have been broken, so be sure to say,"Director, please."

4.  Playing cards from dummy before they are called.  Only dummies do this.  Don't be guilty of suggesting a line of play for declarer by reaching for one of dummy's cards before declarer tells you what to play.  Take a nap and wake up whenever you're told to do something.

3.  Fiddling with the bidding box.  According to an appendix to the Laws, a bid is made when the bid card is removed from the box with intent.  Thus, when a player runs his hand over the bid cards and starts to remove one, but does not actually do so, he is not considered to have made any "call."  Unauthorized information, however, may have been transmitted to partner.  There are no specific penalties, but the director will adjust the score if he determines that partner's actions might have been determined by the unauthorized information.  The bottom line is to decide on your call before you reach and touch a bidding card.

2.  Criticizing partner or opponents.  In bridge, as in other competitive endeavors, it is extremely important to learn how to win and to learn how to lose.  While it is acceptable in tennis or football to do "high fives" when completing a successful maneuver, it is not proper behavior at the bridge table.  It is in extremely poor taste to berate partner when he plays less than perfectly.  It is not proper to chastise the opponents when a poor play turns out to be lucky or a good play causes you to get a bad board.  It's not in your best interest to offer this type of criticism at the bridge table.  Bridge is a difficult game under the best of conditions.  Making someone uncomfortable isn't going to help your results.

1.  Pulling cards out of your hand before it's your turn to play.  This is not only somewhat unethical, but it usually doesn't help your game.
     What is declarer supposed to do when he is debating whether to take a finesse and LHO already has pulled a card out and has it ready to play?  Keep those cards in your hand and don't reach for one until it's time to place it on the table.  Also, defenders should be extremely careful about rearranging their cards during the play of the hand.

Last updated : May 17, 2010 20:40 CDT