Hosting Duplicate Bridge Tournaments

Anyone whose met me knows how crazy I am for the game of duplicate bridge. Our local club is honored to have Isadore Sharp of Four Seasons fame as one of our midweek, afternoon regulars. For those unfamiliar with the game, duplicate bridge involves multiple teams of two (or four) taking a crack at the same series of card deals, the winners being those who do the most with what they’re dealt.

Importantly, I’m far from the only avid player. In fact, the game’s popularity is growing at a considerate rate, so much so that many clubs are now looking for new facilities to host their ever-mounting number of regulars.

To give you a sense of scale, there are sanctioned tournaments that take place on the local and regional levels. Three times annually there are national events, with one recently held in my home city. Here, some 15,000 players descended on our convention center to play for red, gold and platinum points. Unlike golf, there are very few cash prizes, with success measured in the number of points you have accumulated over your lifetime. I have a few hundred points while the top players have tens of thousands.

It seems that bridge players just can’t get enough bridge; sanctioned tournaments and local club events are never enough. Thus, club or individually sponsored events are gaining in popularity. Historically, though, bridge players have been thought of by hoteliers as a parsimonious lot, rarely worthy of ogling to host a tournament.

That has started to change. At this most recent tournament, I picked up several flyers promoting tournaments at Forbes five-star resorts and top-shelf cruise lines. There are several hypotheses for this evolution.

First, there’s the rediscovery of bridge as a pastime for retiring baby boomers. They played in university and now, with ample time on their hands, they’re back at the table but with ample bucks to spend on travel. As such, they’re not staying at Motel 6 – no disrespect intended! Second, hotels have recognized that a well-publicized bridge tournament can soak up a lot of offseason and midweek inventory. Third, most bridge players will stay for the entire tournament allowing hoteliers to plan a multiday package price.

So, what do you need to run a tournament? First and foremost, you need a recognized tournament director. Start with a local club director and review the options for them running the event at your location. While local participation is not what you’re typically looking for – you want guestrooms booked, not just conference space and F&B revenue – a good number of local players adds to the level of competition. You will also need their support as this will allow you to have the game recognized for point contribution.

The time you want to hold a tournament should be coordinated with local and regional activities. This means planning up to a year in advance. You do not want to run an event that is in direct conflict with any other major citywide compressions or scheduled tournaments in other regions. If you want an idea of the extent of the tournament calendar, go to the American Contract Bridge League’s website here: www.acbl.org

Lastly, there are several world-recognized bridge authorities who lend their name to tournaments. While I could name a dozen people who are the rock stars of our game, most are known to attach their name to tournaments, thereby adding profile and credibility to an event. I do not know how much they charge for participation, but as I said at the outset unlike golf, no one is getting rich at the bridge table. Just keep in mind that if you decide to take on a tournament, remember to invite me!

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in Hotels Magazine on Friday, September 1, 2017)


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