Making Bridge Competition More Fun for Everyone

The Raleigh Bridge Club's mission is Making Bridge Competition More Fun for Everyone. The goal is to provide a welcoming and friendly environment in which the bridge competition experience becomes more fun for everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Newcomers to duplicate bridge discover that they actually enjoy the learning experience, whether it be in the Play and Review sessions or competing against aspiring life masters in the Non-Life Master (NLM) game, as well as occasionally playing against tougher competition in the Open Game. New life masters and advancing players discover that the Open Game is also a welcoming and nurturing environment, where they can enjoy the experience of being mentored by and learning to compete against the more advanced players.

Below we'll offer guidelines for creating and maintaining an environment in which bridge competition becomes more fun for everyone. But first, let's start with the basic question: why do we play competitive bridge?

Why Do We Play Bridge?

There seem to be three common reasons that are given for playing duplicate bridge:

  • The desire to compete
  • The desire to learn
  • The desire to socialize

The importance given to each of the reasons may vary from person to person, but for most people, all three seem to be important.


The desire to compete seems to be innate, normal, and healthy, and doesn't require much explanation. At its best, competition can be exhilarating and can enhance the learning experience itself. At its worst, it can turn into an unhealthy focus on winning, and that can lead to unpleasant or even unethical behavior, which will be covered in the general guidelines to follow.


The desire to learn the game, to begin to develop some level of mastery of the game, and then over time to further develop your bidding and card playing skills beyond where you would have thought possible when you started. How fulfilling is that! One aspect of learning the game that is perhaps the most challenging is learning to be a good partner, not just with your favorite partner, but with multiple partners. Being a good partner requires being a good listener, as well as being courteous and forgiving. Once you begin developing good collaborative partnerships, where you collaborate well in both bidding and defensive play, it is extremely rewarding. In fact, you can't really play winning bridge without doing that, since it is a partnership game!


The desire to socialize with bridge peers is for many if not most an equally important part of the game, and often results in the development of lasting friendships and relationships that go well beyond the bridge table.

Guidelines For Making Bridge Competition More Fun For Everyone

The general guidelines for making competition more fun could all be thought of as applying the golden rule to behavior at the bridge table. They have to do with practicing those types of behavior that create a pleasant playing environment and avoiding those that interfere in any way with the enjoyment of the game. Behaviors that create a pleasant environment are spelled out in the ACBL's summary of what it means to "play nice", along with its code of active ethics. The ACBL's zero tolerance policy prohibits annoying behavior, embarrassing remarks, or any other conduct which might interfere with the enjoyment of the game. Some of the key ACBL guidelines are summarized below:

  • Courtesy is required at all times.
  • Avoid remarks or actions that might cause embarrassment or annoyance to an opposing player or to your partner.
  • Avoid behavior that in any way interferes with the enjoyment of the game.
  • Avoid mannerisms or actions during bidding or play that could be considered unethical.
  • If a player at the table behaves in an unacceptable manner, the director should be called immediately.


  • Focus on the basics, meaning a basic set of conventions, basic bidding skills, basic defensive skills, and the basics of declarer play, including the development of overtricks in match play and the safety play in team games.
  • Look for and take advantage of opportunities to learn from mentors.
  • Learn to practice active ethics and zero tolerance for unpleasant behavior from the beginning, including your own behavior and partner's behavior, as well as opponents.


  • Work on developing a thicker skin, so that you don't let criticisms bother you, but instead you use them to improve your game.
  • Don't take anyone's behavior personally, because it's not personal. Bad actors don't discriminate. If anyone's behavior is so bad that it affects results, or it interferes with you or your partner's ability to enjoy the game, report it to the director.
  • Develop respect for and show interest in the skillfulness of the top players. Be willing to learn from them, to be mentored by them.


  • Learn to enjoy and thrive on the higher level of competition in the open game.
  • Learn from the experts. Take every opportunity to discover their secrets. Ask questions. You'll be amazed at how willing they are to be a good mentor.
  • Things that you may have gotten away with in the 499er game, you won't get away with in the open game. If you make a long hesitation during bidding, and then pass, expect to be called on it. You have just conveyed information to your partner.
  • Maintain the pace of play. If you fall behind, catch up as quickly as you can, regardless of who was at fault.


  • Always be courteous and welcoming.
  • Always be a good mentor when asked.
  • But don't offer unsolicited comments that could come across as disparaging.
  • Do compliment the opponents on their good play.


  • Go out of your way to welcome and encourage new and advancing players. They are the future of the game.
  • Be a good mentor when asked.
  • Compliment their good play. Congratulate them when they win their bracket, and praise them when they do well in your bracket.
  • Be careful to not take advantage of the fact that many players will be intimidated by you.

With your support, I am confident we can achieve our goal of creating and maintaining an environment in which bridge competition becomes more fun for everyone at the Raleigh Bridge Club. The larger goal is to always make bridge competition more fun for everyone, and thereby continue growing a healthy and vibrant environment for competitive bridge in the greater Research Triangle area and throughout the ACBL. Please join us in our ongoing dedication to making this happen.

Remember to smile! Your partner will play better.