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Where can I play?
While some people play in the comfort of their own home socially with a small group of friends, there are Bridge clubs throughout the world that host duplicate Bridge games from two or three tables to hundreds of tables in a single session. Club games usually carry a various fee per player (often $3-$12), and high scoring teams earn “masterpoints” of various colors towards advancing one’s personal ranking, similar to the color belt system in karate. To be eligible to earn points, one must be a paid member of a national organization, such as the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). Tournaments are held at the sectional, regional, national, and international levels. Online games are also an option.
What’s the difference between social bridge and ACBL-sanctioned duplicate bridge?
The biggest difference between social bridge and ACBL duplicate bridge is structure. If you’re playing at the kitchen table, you’re there for socialization and learning. Table talk is often encouraged if you have a question about how to bid. You may keep score, but in reality, there’s little structure to the game. You play with the cards you get, and if you don’t get good cards, it’s not going to be so interesting to play. Sanctioned duplicate bridge is more competitive, as players try to bid and play along a structured set of guidelines and follow the rules of the game. Because it’s duplicate bridge, pairs around the room will all play the same boards and compare their scores to determine a winner. If you get bad cards on a given board, you just have to play them better than the rest of the pairs in the room who will be playing those same boards.
What’s a game like at a club?
You show up to a club game with your partner. You can find a list of game times and locations on the ACBL website. Don’t have a partner? Some clubs will work to find you a partner to play with if you give the club enough advanced notice. Once you’re at a game, though, find the director so that you can register and pay your game fees. The director sits you and your partner across from one another at one of the many square tables. You’ll have time until the game begins to either socialize, grab a snack, or review some bidding questions. Once everybody is sat and greets their opponents, the director will place a handful of boards on your table for the first round. The cards for each board will either be pre-organized, or you’ll be asked by the director to shuffle the cards in each board at the beginning of the game only. Eventually you’ll play a pre-set number of rounds before finding out your final results.
What’s a tournament like?
Want to go to a sectional tournament and try your luck against other locals in the general area that may or may not play at your club? Imagine a club game with 10 tables, but double or triple it. That’s an average sectional. Next we have a regional, which is a slightly bigger tournament. Take that sectional, and then double it again. Finally we have Nationals. You get the idea. What helps beginners at a tournament is that games are often bracketed by approximate experience level. Players with lots of experience and winning over the years get placed into a few different higher brackets, while newcomers get placed in lower brackets (unless they choose to play up).
How do Masterpoints work?
Think of the masterpoints system like karate’s color belt system. The better you do, the more you rank up over time. Masterpoints are awards you get for each game that you do well in. Place first in a regular 7-table club game, and you could earn around 0.7 black masterpoints. Place 4th in a sectional tournament game and you could earn 1.45 silver masterpoints. Place 12th in a regional event, and you could earn 3.6 gold masterpoints. Win a national event and you could earn 100 platinum points. Once you earn a certain amount of each type of color points, you move up the rankings, from “Rookie” all the way up to “Grand Life Master”.
Still have questions?
Reach out to any of our PCBA Unit 141 Board Members or any of our local clubs and they’ll guide you in the right direction!