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Sun, Aug 11, 2002


By Dave Konopki  

Ray Depew has a message for the pinochle, poker, and black jack players in the area. “Once you play bridge, you’ll give up those games”, said the 55-year-old, who has been playing bridge for the past 45 years. “Anyone who likes playing cards will love playing bridge.”

The Forty Fort resident isn’t alone in his feelings. Hundreds, if not thousands, of area residents play duplicate – or competitive – bridge and thousands more play party – or noncompetitive bridge.

The American Contract Bridge League has more than 165,000 members in 323 local organizations called units. There are more than 130 players in the Wilkes-Barre area of Unit 120, which also has clubs in Hazleton, Scranton, Stroudsburg, Honesdale, and Pottsville.

Some of the local bridge clubs in Unit 120 include the Dallas Duplicate Bridge, Club, Pioneer Bridge Club and the Jewish Community Center Duplicate Bridge Club. There are also invitational clubs.

The Dallas Duplicate Bridge Club plays games at 10 a.m. Wednesdays at the Castle Inn, Dallas; the Jewish Community Center Duplicate Bridge Club has games on Monday through Friday at the JCC on River Street, Wilkes-Barre; and the Pioneer Bridge Club meets at 1 p.m. Mondays at St. Therese’s Church in Shavertown. The Pioneer Bridge Club is open to beginners with less than 200 master points (duplicate bridge players earn points by competing in local, state and national games). Brief lessons are given before the Dallas Duplicate and Pioneer Bridge Club games.

“There are a lot of opportunities for people to play bridge in this area,” said Beth Rosenthal, who organizes games for Dallas Duplicate and Pioneer bridge clubs. “You can find a place to play duplicate bridge every day of the week.”

Depew and Rosenthal say the game offers much more than a chance to kill a couple of hours each day.

“Bridge keeps your mind active,” said Depew, who recently played with partner Annette Johns at a national tournament in Washington, D.C. “And more and more studies show that games like bridge keep the mind sharp. It’s a game you can play your whole life.”

In duplicate bridge, everyone plays the same hands. Partners move to different pairs and another couple plays the same hand. Taking away the “luck of the cards” can help make the games very competitive.

“You can really see how well you played the hand,” said Rosenthal, a Shavertown resident. “It’s competitive and I enjoy that part of it. But what I really enjoy most is the people.”

While most bridge players are older, there is an effort to attract younger players.

“I’ve been to some national tournaments and I’ve seen some young kids,” said Rosenthal. “The game is also becoming popular on the Internet. You can play live bridge with people from all over the world. I think that will help the game. Players can earn a restricted amount of points playing on the Internet.”

Rosenthal and Depew say bridge can be addicting – but it doesn’t have to be intimidating.

“You can learn basics of bridge in a week or two,” said Depew. “Once you learn the basics, you start learning different things. I’ve been playing for 45 years and I’m always improving my game.”

“It can be addicting,” adds Rosenthal. “There are people who played party bridge for a long time and they say they don’t want to play competitive bridge. But once they start playing, they keep going. It’s really a lot of fun.”

To learn more about the local clubs, visit Rosenthal’s Web site at http://bridgelady.net.