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Bridge players pack into Louisville for championship tournament

Four people sit at card table. One person is tapping the table as she speaks with her partner.
Breya Jones
Bridge players from all over descended in the Galt House for ten days of cards, camaraderie and competition.

Bridge players from around the nation are trusting in the luck of the draw as the Spring North American Bridge Championships descend upon the Galt House.

Bridge is a card game that’s known for its complexity. Players describe it similarly to games like Spades and Hearts.

It’s a partner game where the goal is to gain points based on successfully making bids and winning “tricks” with trump cards.

During the seasonal bridge tournaments, the American Contract Bridge League partners with local bridge groups and associations to plan the events.

“It's years in planning really to make a tournament happen,” said American Contract Bridge League executive director Bronia Jenkins.

Jenkins said the league sends four trucks of supplies to every tournament, including card tables and boxes of playing cards.

“Our goal is to invite all types of bridge players, anybody who wants to play and wants to come and connect socially and wants to come and compete and wants to come and be with their friends and create these relationships,” Jenkins said.

Joanne Traver is a longtime bridge player and is on the host committee for the championship tournament in Louisville.

“From our point of view, we want to showcase Louisville, so we are promoting a lot of the Louisville attractions, the Bourbon Trail, our museums,” Traver said.

Traver first started playing bridge when her children were young, but didn’t really have the time to get serious about her game until after they left home.

“For me bridge is my mental game to keep me sharp as I get older,” Traver said.

It is widely agreed upon by players that bridge is a complicated game that takes a lot of factors to be good at.

“It's a game of probability. It's a game of logic, it's a game of deductive reasoning. It's a game of risk management and risk-taking. It's a game of skill,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins also talked about the different play styles bridge players have. There are people who bid aggressively while others are more conservative, waiting for a sure thing.

Jade Barrett is one of those aggressive bidders.

“We play with reckless disregard for our health. We bid with abandon, we play with aggressiveness and with concern,” Barrett said.

Barrett, who was coming to the tournament from South Dakota, said in his family, turning eight comes with a membership to a local bridge club. He grew up playing the game.

“In a bridge game, the best player will win about 4% of the time. In a chess tournament, it's 95% of the time,” Barrett said. “I want you to consider the fact that this is a game utterly devoid of talent. It's everything about how hard you work.”

While there are plenty of games going on throughout the 10-day tournament, organizers and attendees alike said that it’s more of a community event than anything.

They want people new to bridge to feel comfortable to come learn, play and make mistakes.

And they want to continue to expand the idea of who bridge can be for.

“It is not just an old person's game,” said Betty Starzec from Sugarland, Texas.

Starzec has been playing bridge for decades and now teaches newcomers how to play.

She talked about programs from bridge associations that work to bring children into the fold.

“We have a person working with gifted and talented kids in various schools and we have over 1000 kids being registered right now,” Starzec said. “It's amazing because [of] the recognition that we should be focusing on the youth and it's just a potential that they can experience the best game in the world.”

The Spring North American Bridge Championships run through March 24 at the Galt House.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Jade Barrett's last name.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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