WHEN NO-TRUMP WAS A BRIDGE BID – Marilyn Armstrong

Back in the day, I played bridge. In those golden olden days, “no Trump” was a bid. It didn’t have extra meanings. Just a contract bid. Three no trump equaled “a game.” Seven no trump was THE bid, to take every trick and the high card of the led suit won. Even a two of clubs could take a trick.

I loved playing bridge. I learned to play when I was a kid and by the time I was a grown-up, I was an addict. I never played tournaments and I never played for money. I played because it was the most intense game in the world (I’m sure chess players might disagree). But the thing about Bridge is that it’s a team sport and the aggressive energy involved is intense, especially between partners.

No one ever argues with their opponents, but everyone fights with his or her partner.

It’s also an equal opportunity game. Man, woman, or any version of in between, it absolutely doesn’t matter. Where you are coming from or going to, all that matters is how well you play.

Bridge is as addictive as drugs. Maybe even more so because there’s nothing illegal about playing Bridge. All you need is a partner and another couple to make a foursome. A table. Four chairs. A bit of light. Pretzels, too.

I used to play bridge a lot. I was one of the crazed players who didn’t think there was anything unusual about watching the dawn rise over a hand of cards.

The entire time I lived in Israel, playing Bridge was our prime form of entertainment. There were people to whom you couldn’t usually talk. If you think today’s USA is divided, Israel was really divided. Between the super religious and the absolutely non-religious, there were more hot topics to avoid that you could shake a stick at. Talking to people you didn’t know well was like walking through a minefield.

But if they played Bridge, somehow, you could ignore all the other disagreements because when you played bridge, what you talked about was Bridge.

And that could be quite enough of a battle without bringing in politics, religion and all that entailed.

Bidding. Contracts. Great games you remembered. Hilarious games. Weird games. Bridge players have their own sense of humor, which has nothing to do with anything except Bridge.

When Garry and I became a serious thing, I was appalled to discover I’d finally met a man who really — no kidding — didn’t know a diamond from a club.

He had never even played poker.

How do you make it through basic training in the Marines without learning to play poker? At first, I hoped I might convince him to give it a try, but it was soon obvious it wouldn’t happen. Garry doesn’t play games unless they involve movies or sports.

He is a vicious Trivial Pursuits player, but that’s it. He doesn’t “do” games.

I tried playing Bridge online. In those early online days, you had to pay to play. I played Bridge during lunch hour at work. I had played Bridge at college instead of going to class. You don’t interrupt a good game for a class!

But playing Bridge requires you have at least one regular partner and having a spare is a good idea, too. Playing with our spouse as your partner is dangerous for many reasons, but a single bridge player is like a car with three wheels.

It doesn’t roll.

So, as time moved on, I yielded, realizing I was never going to play bridge again. I have since met other reformed Bridge players and we talk, yearn, and dream of the old days. The long nights with pretzels and cards. Icy cokes and occasionally, beer nuts.

That was a good life!

Trump was the top suit for which it helped to hold all the aces. I’d probably be embarrassed to bid these days.

28 thoughts on “WHEN NO-TRUMP WAS A BRIDGE BID – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I never learned to play bridge but when I worked at the swimming pool’s we played hearts and spades during our off time and it was a lot of fun. Like you I’ve had to edit my use of the term Trump which I did understand from bridge even though I didn’t play. Strange times indeed!

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    1. My mother had been a bridge player. She confided this information rather late in life and recalled being up all night playing. It really IS that kind of game. When you get into it, it’s hard to get out … and mostly, the problem is that you don’t WANT to get out 😀 It is supposed to be an excellent way to keep older people’s brains focused. There are tons of articles about it online. I bet all of the authors play bridge.

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    1. Bridge is a pretty aggressive game. Kind of a killer sport, minus guns or other military apparatus. But you need to want to WIN or you can’t play. Also, it is pretty all-absorbing. If you play bridge, you generally don’t play anything else. Your life starts to revolve around Bridge, where the next tournament may be … and who you think is cheating. A lot of people cheat and almost all of them eventually get caught. Not only is Bridge a blood-sport, but you develop eagle-eyes. I learned to play when I was maybe 9 or 10. There were four girls on the block and we were pretty tired of Monopoly. When the weather got really hot — too hot for running around games — my friend Mary’s mother said: “I’m going to teach you kids Bridge.”

      It was “kid” bridge. We showed each other our cards before bidding which was okay for 10-year-olds, but not for adults! Eventually, I learned to bid properly, then I relearned when bidding changed and ultimately I could bid in a variety of ways, depending who my partner was. But to play in groups, you had to bid along a structured path that was understood by all the players — and you all had to agree on what system you were using. Otherwise, you didn’t know what the other team was talking about. It was really FUN in a rather lethal way. You could really get out all of the aggression you’d built up with work and kids and just life and turn it into a game (and it helped to get some decent cards, too!). You couldn’t just have a “private system” and showing your hand to your partner was a definite whack over the head with the nearest chair 😀

      Unlike chess, however, there is more of an element of luck in the game. It is, I think, more aggressive than chess. More like Karate without the physical bashing.

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  2. I cannot play bridge. My dad was a card player, but he could not play bridge. He taught me whist and crib, but never bridge. But I can play Jass and I am quite good at it (Swiss national card game). And now to search on internet to see if there is a site that will teach me to play Bridge.

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    1. There are a LOT of “learn to play bridge” sites (as I learned last night when I was looking for pictures for the post. I wish these had been available when I got back from Israel. There were online bridge games and I had a partner who lived on the other side of the U.S. on an island off the California coast. The hard part of finding a time when we were both AWAKE at the same time. She was in her late 80s then, so I expect she is gone now unless she lived to 140. But I think she literally LIVED to play bridge. Her husband was gone, her kids lived long distances away, but Bridge … if you are a little bit on the aggressive side of gamesmanship, it’s THE game. It’s quite gripping. If you learn to play (I would need to brush up … I haven’t played now in almost 30 years … we can play as a team, even across the ocean. The computer makes it possible. We’ll have to buy our own pretzels, though.

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  3. Trump now has such a negative connotation, I’m surprised avid bridge aficionados haven’t changed the term to something else. Still bridge was there FIRST, so maybe that twerp ought to change HIS name. I feel the same as you, albeit for games like Scrabble. Nobody up here (that I know of and I admit I haven’t searched very hard) plays Scrabble. I used to love board games, and knew my suites early in life from games like War and Concentration that my mother would play with her children. As a young woman I earned a little money now and then from poker, but my face is far too open and I am not a great poker player. I like the game though and think that today, IF that sort of thing were played here (it is NOT. Gambling you know, and some weird thing that I, a born to it Mormon, did not know prior to living here… older LDS rules forbid cards of any sort.) I laughed aloud when I heard that, because even my father (the staunchest LDS I’ve ever known) would play War with us. The person who told me about that old rule was mightily offended and trotted out a volume that laid out the by-laws (if you will) of Mormonism 101. She was a convert, but an avid historian as well. Of course she was right. I said well then I guess I’m not a ‘good’ Mormon, but y’all knew that right? I got the stink eye for my efforts at levity. Some things just ain’t funny. Like Trump.

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    1. I don’t want to brag, but I am a VERY good Scrabble player — and next to Bridge, it’s my favorite game. Last I checked — maybe a year or two ago — there were NO online Scrabble games ANYWHERE. But things change and maybe there is now.

      You can buy the physical game (Hasbro stlll makes it), but I don’t bother to own one since there’s no one to play with. Garry really doesn’t play games which is frustrating because I’m a very enthusiastic game player. About the only thing that could make me give up blogging is Bridge or Scrablle!

      Since no one here plays well enough to challenge me — it’s no fun crushing the opposition. I like playing with people who play WELL and knowing I can lose. You know, we might find a way to play online. Check and see if there are games where you can play Scrabble live online. There used to be live Scrabble online (but you had to pay, back then), but I haven’t checked for a long time.

      I was also a really good backgammon player, but not as good as Bridge or Scrabble. And I never lost at Monopoly.

      Poker never did it for me. I don’t like betting, not even pennies or chips. You CAN play Bridge for money and many people actually earn a living at Bridge. Omar Sharif quit making movies and took up full-time bridge. He was a hell of a player!

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  4. Apart from children’s games like “Old Maid”, “Snap”, “Fish” and “Beat Your Neigbours” I don’t really know card games. David taught me to play Crib and Canasta when we were first going out together but for some reason, I have trouble remembering the rules of card games and don’t really enjoy playing. I prefer board games. I love Trivial Pursuit but hardly ever get to play anymore and I like Scrabble and good old Monopoly.

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    1. I played pretty much all of them. But Bridge and Scrabble were my two top. I am a very good Scrabble player and I was (but I’d need some serious brushing up to be good at it again!) Bridge. We played lots of games as kids. On Mary’s covered porch when it rained, and Monopoly when it was too hot for running around games. And later, Bridge … which lasted well into adulthood.

      We played a lot of board games too. Sorry (which is an updated version of India). Lots of Trivial Pursuits until we all knew all the answers because we’d played so often. The newer versions of it never were as interesting as the original.

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      1. We used to have Sorry, probably one of the first board games mum taught us to play. Naomi and I still play Scrabble sometimes. I am a better speller but she is better at the strategy so she usually wins.

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  5. Lovely post, Marilyn, and it brought back memories for me. My mum and dad used to play Bridge. They were mad on it too, and many was the time they would go to someone’s house, or a couple would come to our house and they’d ensconce themselves in the sitting room round the card table for the evening. Sadly, this was just one of the pleasures that Parkinson’s Disease deprived my dad of the capacity to enjoy, so they had to give it up in the end. I’ve never been able to get my head round it, but I know it’s a passion for a lot of people. 🙂

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    1. Bridge tends to be very absorbing — and VERY time-consuming. When I was working full-time, I realized I actually didn’t have time to play, even if I had a partner — which I didn’t. I may yet find a way to play online.

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    1. It’s a very intense game and if your husband isn’t into it, it doesn’t work. You need to spend a lot of time playing bridge. Garry will NEVER play so he would have to sit alone while I went out. Not a great idea.

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    1. I played kitchen bridge too, but that’s because tournaments were too structured for my taste and I won’t bet, so I wasn’t going to play professionally. I just like playing. Besides, you get better food playing kitchen bridge. Tournaments, no one drinks or eats or smokes or does anything but play.

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  6. I know how to play Hearts and Spades, but I never learned to play Bridge. And yes, the word “trump” has been usurped by the orange moron in the Oval Office. I used it in a post earlier today (“comfortable always trumps fashion”) and it pained me to use that word even though I thought it fit the best. Damn!

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  7. You really open up a can of worms here. One of my sisters used to play bridge. I think it was one of her long-term friends who hooked her on the game. I don’t know for what reason she stopped, it could have just been the rupture with said boyfriend.
    In my family we are more or less a group of players, all board games are being loved. BUT I was ‘unlucky’ in getting two non-playing husbands in a row. Although I never learned Jass and chess, I was very much into scrabble and other games. My son played Poker for many years, online and in groups. I think he now feels that he better uses his money for other things that became more important.
    I would LOVE to play these board games again, we also did Mikado, Domino, anything really…. But sadly, modern technology has other stuff on offer and I haven’t played for a very long time. I wouldn’t be your partner though, because, although I play with fervour, intelligence and determination, I just CANNOT get angry or upset if I lose. To me it’s just a game and one of my sisters didn’t want to play with me any more because she couldn’t rile me enough to make it worth her time…. If I were you, I’d look into online Bridge once more – I’m sure you could find someone in your time zone. I ALWAYS wanted to learn Bridge but nowadays don’t even know anybody playing it anymore!

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