Meet the bridge crowd
It may have a stodgy reputation but bridge is taking over Irish sittingrooms, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
IN DÚN LAOGHAIRE, Co Dublin, a well-heeled crowd congregates to worship its newfound faith: bridge.
Billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are lifelong fans of the card game, passionate players who compete in tournaments and online under the names “T-Bone” and “Chalengr”, respectively. Sean Connery is also a fan, as were Hollywood royals such as Omar Sharif and the Marx Brothers. And in the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond is joined by one of the greatest stars of the silent era, Buster Keaton, playing a cameo at a game of bridge.
Until Buffet and Gates professed their love of it, the game had fallen off the radar. People continued playing but quietly. The new B crowd, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s, have been drawn to it because it’s cheap to play, says Paul Porteous, general secretary of the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland (CBAI).
“All you need is a deck of cards and three other players. You can even play online with others. It has the suspense of poker, the intellectual qualities of chess and the excitement of athletic sports.”
It can also teach a way of thinking that will be useful in business, Buffet told CBS News in the US. “You have to look at all the facts. You have to draw inferences from what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard. You have to discard improper theories about what the hand had as more evidence comes in sometimes. You have to be open to a possible change of course if you get new information. You have to work with a partner, particularly on defense.”
Clinical psychologist, broadcaster and author David Coleman has become so “hooked”, he’s teaching his children mini-bridge.
The secret to enjoying the game is to start early, says Porteous. Buffet and Gates have invested $1 million in creating a bridge programme for schools in the US. The CBAI launched a pilot scheme in secondary schools and now teaches bridge as one of the life-skills modules in 18 transition-year programmes in secondary schools, including St Conleth’s, Belvedere College and Wesley College and High School, Rathgar. Porteous has been playing since he was 17. Now 61, he learned as a boarder at St Patrick’s College, Armagh. “Bridge is a pension plan,” he says. “Learn how to play today and you can play all through your life and into old age.”