It was good to get back to Memphis for a little while, although I spent most of my time at the regional tournament in Tunica, Mississippi.
In case you don’t know, Tunica is in North Mississippi, not that far away from ACBL Headquarters, and from what I’ve been told, it will be even closer next year when the HQ moves to Horn Lake, Mississippi.
Anyway, we took off from the office the first day of the tournament, and as we drove – it’s about a 30-minute car ride – I kept seeing all these billboards for gambling casinos. Who would have thought that Mississippi would be home to such places! I find it interesting, by the way, that the state law says all such establishments must technically be riverboats (!??!). They get around that by having part of the structure of each casino sitting over some water. You sure can’t tell you’re over water when you’re in one of those places. It’s pretty silly, if you ask me.
The reason I know about this is the other surprise I got – that the tournament was in one of these casinos. Of course, before I dropped out of bridge for a while, there weren’t so many places to gamble – Atlantic City NJ was most familiar to me – and we would never have thought of having a tournament at a casino. Then again, how could I expect today to be the same as the old days?
I had a lot of fun in Tunica, I must admit, mostly from meeting different people.
The Tunica tournament is well attended, so there are lots of TDs around. If there’s one constant in bridge, it’s the TDs. They are still as interesting and people-oriented as the ones I knew “back when.” They dress differently, of course – no suits and ties – but that’s true of the players as well.
I was wandering around the playing room where a pairs game was about to start, and I encountered Rick Beye, another TD, setting up the Bridge Pad scoring devices. I must say that I found them fascinating. My fellow players and TDs from the past would never have believed that so many aspects of a bridge tournament could be categorized as “automatic.” I already knew about ACBLscore from some of the other tournaments I attended, but I didn’t know about the Bridge Pads. The little device sits on the table, and when an auction is completed you just enter the contract. When play is over, you enter the result, and the East-West pair pushes a button to okay it. The result goes straight to a computer the TDs are running, and scores are available after the session nearly immediately. Very smart!
After I got a Bridge Pad lesson, I ran into a TD who used to work in the eastern part of the U.S., where I did most of my “damage,” you might say. That would be Jack Hudgins, who worked a lot in the Boston area before moving to Memphis many years ago. Jack told me he still misses the tournaments, but not so much that he would give up his regular golf game to start back up again.
As you can imagine, many of the people who work at ACBL Headquarters are also bridge players. I like being photographed with attractive women, and the ACBL has its share, as you can see from the photo above. Judy laughs a lot, which I enjoyed immensely. I do think players in this new era have more fun overall than many I knew way back when.
I had a chance to talk to Nancy Watkins, who I met on my trip to Atlanta. She was telling me about all the fun she had running the second Youth NABC that took place during the Summer NABC in Washington DC. Nancy told me about how she got started with bridge and how she and some friends played a lot of “giggle bridge” at her home. I hope I run into her again soon. She is a lot of fun.
I had a reunion of sorts with Dan Plato, one of the most fun people I have run into on my travels. Dan is a TD and he hosted me for much of my stay in Atlanta. He is such a fun person that you can’t help laughing whenever you’re around him. He wouldn’t pose for a photo with me while I was in Georgia, but I made him get into the photo above during the Tunica tournament. He complained, but I think he enjoyed it, maybe just a little bit.
As always, the people I met at the Tunica tournament were warm and welcoming. They made me feel really good about getting back into the bridge scene. I can’t wait for the next trip!