Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

“Modern Lessons from Classic Games”
Part Two: Bridge

Yes, we all love games. It’s just that we don’t always try to figure out why we love a particular amusement, and more importantly, what made it so interesting. In this series, we take a look at some of our favorites and try to figure out what we can learn from their design.

Bridge – Playing With a Full Deck

BridgeCorey was a chess nut until his second year of College. At that point, he realized he couldn’t keep up with young players who had much more time and willingness to study openings. After a couple of years of computer games, Corey was introduced to bridge and has been playing it ever since.

What’s to Love About Bridge?

Two things epitomize the appeal of bridge – partnerships and duplicate play. Bridge can be played for money and makes a great skill-based cash game with an element of luck. But amateur play for master points is far more popular, which helps keep the cost of play low. This is much different from Poker, a “money management game resolved by cards,” which is almost pointless without having real money at stake. Bridge involves deep thought, partnership communication within the very limited vocabulary of the game, and imagination to cope with the opponents’ unknown hands. It also has a subtle learning curve in that a beginner will sometimes get lucky against an expert, but knowledge and practice pay off in the long run.

Another advantage of bridge is that the playing equipment is readily available, fits in a shirt pocket, and is very inexpensive. In duplicate bridge, each pair plays the same hands as their opponents, removing most of the “luck of the deal” aspect from the game. That brings skill and good judgment to the top.

What’s Not to Love About Bridge?

Rubber bridge requires exactly four players. A team game needs an even multiple of eight players to avoid having players sit out. Duplicate bridge usually requires at least 16 players, and is more fun with 32 or more. That’s a lot of players to get together in one place at one time, and without careful planning, there’s a good chance that 1-3 players won’t get to play at all or will have to sit out at some point.

Online play helps with this – In a large online bridge club, you can usually find a partner and opponents fairly quickly. However, if you end up with an incompatible partner – either a bad player, one who doesn’t know your bidding system, or one with bad manners – bridge can be excruciating and you may be stuck with that partner for four or eight hours. It is also very hard to prevent cheating at bridge because of the hidden cards. Online, a pair could be sitting next to each other or talking on the phone or instant messaging. Even in live play, subtle differences in timing, arrangement of cards, or even of the scorekeeping pencils, can give one pair an unfair advantage over their opponents.

What Can We Learn from Bridge?

A game shared trumps a game played alone. It doesn’t take gambling to make a card game fun. Nor does it take a huge number of different cards. Like chess, bridge thrives on elegance and simplicity. Random starting positions make every hand different, so no two bridge deals are quite alike. Deal duplication reduces the element of luck so that players benefit from practice and skill. Duplication also lets players discuss deals after the game – Often the post mortem is as fun as the tournament. Corey used to say that Bridge and Dungeons & Dragons were the only two games he knew in which players spent more time talking about the games afterwards than they spent actually playing them. The enjoyment doesn’t end when the game is over.

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