When Michael Becker graduated from high school in 1961, his father, B. Jay Becker, wrote in Mike’s autograph book: “To my son, who will become a Life Master long before he masters life.” Whether that was an accurate prediction only Mike Becker knows for sure, but one thing is certain — he is at his high point in bridge as an elected member of the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. With his election Becker joined his father, who was inducted into this illustrious group in 1995.
Becker’s bridge career encompasses many stellar achievements, including the 1983 Bermuda Bowl title he won playing with Ron Rubin in Stockholm, Sweden, as a member of the last “Aces” team. The final match against Italy will long be remembered as a thriller, where the lead changed hands 25 times. Becker has won 11 North American championships, almost all of them played at IMPs and most of them in partnership with Ron Rubin. As an administrator, he has served as the International Team Trials Chair for the past 12 years. As Chair of the ACBL Hall of Fame Committee, he led an effort to update the voting rules and committee procedures. He helped to start the United States Bridge Federation, serving as its first president. He was on the Greater New York Bridge Association board for 20 years and served as its President in 1980.
Becker is also the co-author of a book, The Ultimate Club, describing the relay system he and Rubin played throughout their 20-year partnership. He recently joined the staff of The Bridge World as Problem Editor.
Becker learned bridge in 1957 at age 13, studying the game with his older brother, Steve. One of his early triumphs was winning the Teenyear Pairs in 1961 (with Augie Boehm), the first Junior event ever held in the United States. In the same year, Mike and Steve entered the Reisinger Knockout Teams, an event that continues to attract the top teams in the New York area. B. Jay Becker frowned on the idea. According to Steve Becker: “Mike was 17 and I was 23. Our father thought we were wasting our time going to New York and would get clobbered.” The Becker brothers and their teammates, none of whom had more than 100 masterpoints, defeated some top seeded teams before losing in the quarterfinal to Sam Fry, Dick Frey, Lee Hazen and Johnny Rau — all giants in the game. Since then, no one has been surprised by Becker’s continuing success.
Now and then, the family put together an all-Becker team — B. Jay, Steve, Mike and B. Jay’s older brother Simon (Skippy) and his two sons, Murray and Bobby — all Life Masters. B. Jay and Mike Becker are the only father and son to have teamed up to win the Spingold, in 1972, and to have played on the same Bermuda Bowl Team, in 1973.
Success at bridge continues to be a family affair for Becker. His wife, Judy, is also an NABC champion, having won the six-session Fall Open Swiss Teams in the same year that she won the Harter Cup, a New York City event for non-Life Masters.
Until 1979, Becker made his living playing bridge, mostly in money games. Then his bridge partner, Ron Rubin, talked him into trying options trading. Becker was so good at it he soon formed his own company. He trained 50 ACBL members, including 15 NABC champions, to be options traders (and in so doing helped make some bridge experts into wealthy entrepreneurs).
Becker retired from the options business in 1994 and moved a few years later to Boca Raton, Florida, where he now lives. His business card reads: Professional Retiree: Tennis * Golf * Bridge * Dinner.