With each new hand dealt on Monday, a silence fell over the room as close to 30 players put their best bridge faces on.
The Carson Valley Bridge Club started Jan. 3, and welcomes all duplicate bridge players.
“It’s open to anybody. There’s no restrictions other than being able to play bridge,” club manager Al Walker said. “We’d love to have people come. Everybody plays for fun. We have players ages 60-97.”
Walker, 70, played card games such as euchre, Pinochle, cribbage and poker most of his life, and took up bridge two years ago after a friend introduced him to it.
“I fell in love with the game. It’s the most sophisticated of all the games. There’s more to it,” he said. “I’m the least experienced player in our unit. If you’ve never played bridge, there would be a significant amount of time you’d have to put into it to learn. A person who’s played other bidding games could pick it up easier.”
Bridge is a trick playing game that involves four players — with two partners forming each team.
Each hand progresses through four phases — dealing the cards, the auction (or bidding), playing the hand, and scoring the results. The concept of bidding involves each player identifying the strength of their hand — hearts, spades, clubs or diamonds — and trying to communicate that strength to their partner. Once partners win the “bid,” they need to take a certain number of “tricks” in order to win the hand.
The highest-finishing players are awarded specified numbers of masterpoints, which are recorded with the American Contract Bridge League, a national governing body for competitive bridge. Most players value the increase in their masterpoint total as a measure of their success at the game. Unlike the Elo rating system developed for chess, the masterpoint system is strictly one of accumulation. A player’s masterpoint total can never decline.
“The goal for people joining the game is to become a life master,” Walker said. “It’s a tradition of the game as a sign that you are a good player.”
The Carson Valley Bridge Club uses the duplicate bridge method of scoring, where the luck of getting a series of good hands doesn’t necessarily mean a better score.
“The bidding and play of the game are basically the same as party or contract bridge,” Walker said.
Silver Life Master Thelma Nelson, 97, credits playing bridge to keeping her mind sharp.
“I started when I was 15, and I directed games for 40 years in San Dimas, Calif.,” Nelson said. “It’s good for old people because you exercise your mind. For young people, it’s good for them because they learn mathematics and reasoning.”
Bob Meyer, 75, has played bridge for 50 years.
“This is a disease you don’t want to catch,” he joked. “You’ll never master the game. It’s a continuous challenge.”
The Carson Valley Bridge Club meets 1 p.m. Mondays and noon Fridays at 1321 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville. Cost is $7 per game.
For more information on playing bridge, visit www.acbl.org, or call Walker at 265-5638.