At the age of 12, Bobby Wolff watched his parents playing bridge on a four-day train trip to Chicago from their home in San Antonio TX . He was fascinated. Soon the youngster was an avid player himself. At the time, he had no aspirations in bridge beyond the next game.
More tha sixty years later, Wolff can look back on a career in which he has reached the top as a player and as an administrator.
Wolff, who now lives in Las Vegas, has won numerous North American Championships and nine world titles — including six Bermuda Bowls. He is the only player to have won world championships at four different levels — Open Pairs, Bermuda Bowl, Team Olympiad and Mixed Teams.
An original member of the Aces — the first professional team to win a world championship — Wolff is a Grand Life Master with both the ACBL and the World Bridge Federation. He is also the author of a syndicated bridge column carried by hundreds of newspapers.
His record as an administrator has been just as spectacular. Wolff, intimately involved in bridge politics for more than 25 years, has served as an ACBL Board member, as president of the ACBL and as president of the World Bridge Federation.
Wolff is the creator of the ACBL’s Active Ethics program, and he originated the idea of the recorder system in bridge.
His other contributions to bridge include development of the Wolff Signoff convention.
Wolff credits Ira Corn Jr., the founder of the Aces bridge team, with getting him into politics. Corn had served on the ACBL Board of Directors for three terms. He had decided to step down and wanted Wolff, an original member of the Aces, to succeed him.
At first Wolff was reluctant, but he finally gave in to Corn’s urging, viewing the political arena as “a new challenge.” Wolff represented District 16 on the Board until 1992, when he became president of the WBF.
Wolff reflects that his presidency of the WBF came about as a compromise appointment when former WBF President Denis Howard resigned. “Timing,” say Wolff, “is so important.”
Wolff considers his election to the Hall of Fame with Edgar Kaplan and Alvin Roth somewhat ironic. As a 19-year old attending the 1953 Fall NABC in Dallas, young Wolff was in awe of Roth, who was already a star in the bridge world.
After the NABC, Roth visited San Antonio to coach a married couple, and Wolff remembers Roth declaring that one could not become a top player “without the experience of playing in tough rubber bridge games in New York for stakes you can’t afford” — as was the case with Roth and Kaplan.
Wolff never got the rubber bridge experience, but his tournament record — he’s been on the winning team in the Spingold and Reisinger two straight years — speaks for itself.
His Hall of Fame election, Wolff says, “is very very gratifying. My heart goes out to a lot of people who are every bit as talented as I am.”
Wolff and his regular partner at the time of Wolff’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Bob Hamman, formed one of the world’s best and most enduring partnerships. The two anchored the squad which won the Spingold Knockout Team and Reisinger B-A-M Teams in 1993 and 1994.