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Playing Bridge in the Dark

Dominic Papa is 92 years old and plays bridge several times each week. There’s nothing unusual about that — quite a few bridge players do so. What is unusual is that Papa is blind.

Papa plays with Braille cards. He gets regular cards from ACBL, then has someone convert them to Braille, a pattern of raised dots that represent letters and numerals. He “reads” the cards by feeling the dots. At the table, the bidding is aloud. Then, someone tells him the cards in the dummy, and he memorizes them. Papa keeps a set of Braille cards at both clubs where he plays. Dots on cards eventually wear down and he has to get new ones.

Originally, Papa had high myopia. That means he wore thick glasses and didn’t see well. During surgery for a detached retina, he lost his sight in one eye in 1950. Then, when he was 83 years old, he fell, hit his “good” eye, and lost vision in that one, too. Up to that point, he had good vision in one eye (with a contact) and still drove. After that, he had to learn Braille.

Papa is a Silver Life Master who shares time between Gloversville NY and Marco Island FL. He plays Standard American with some gadgets. The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island BC has named a once-a-year charity game after him.

(Photos submitted by Bob Winje.)