Change of Rank Stories by Your Friends

Bonita Hays  Dean Phillips  Ge Yao
Sandy Kellerman
  Keith Cayton  Michiyo Snow  Mary Ellen Roy  Dennis Bryant

Joyce Hilliard, Ernie Seger, Carolyn Carter, Richard Breakwell, Kathy Gersh & Sandra Baggett, Ann Bush, Gail Davis, Donna Evans, Betty Schultz

These are in no particular order, just the order in which they were received.

From: Bonita Hays of Shreveport on reaching 2500 masterpoints

When growing up, I came from a non-game playing family.  Although my father was a sportsman, but not a card or game playing man, as I grew up.  He had me in track meets and sports competitions, but not game playing activities.  My mother and brother were not competitive at all.  So, I played a lot of solitaire as a child and board games on rainy days at school.  When I first met my husband, we loved board games, working jigsaw puzzles, and he introduced me to bridge, which I was not interested in learning at all.  But he nagged me and nagged me and gradually introduced me to the game, which I now could not live without!  We soon had 4 boys under the aqe of 4, so my bridge-playing days were over-ridden wtih diapers, feedings, and other mommy duties.  I loved my Mommy career.  As they got older, we had other life duties........attending soccer, baseball, basketball events, as well as scouting, fishing, etc.  I went back to school and got another degree as an RN, but still stayed home with my kids.
When the boys were all teenagers, I went to work, but also we decided to enter the world of duplicate bridge.  Over the years, we had continued to play bridge in a couples club or rubber bridge with friends, but now we could focus and think about duplicate bridge.  The best thing for a woman, about duplicate don't have to clean up the house for guests, nor go out and buy a bunch of snacks, etc.  And nor do you have to find subs for whoever is unable to attend.  All you have to do is show up and pay to play!!!  How neat is that?  So, we took ourselves over to the local bridge club..............and the players were rude, mean and nasty.  The room was smoke-filled (my husband contributed to that).  I was very intimidated and decided I was not going to be counted among the local duplicate players. There was nothing fun about it. People were hollering alert and they would not tell me what it meant if it was not my turn.  They did not care if the new people were comfortable or not.  They did not care if these newbies returned or not.  They simply did not care about us at all.  So, I did not want to care about them.  My husband, on the other hand, wanted to go back and I refused.  About 3 months later, he dragged one of the older boys over to the club with him.  Ironically, there were about 15 tables of bridge and they won.  There were remarks about them and the director was called on them, but they both had broad shoulders and it did not bother them at all.  So, my husband convinced me to return and give it another try.  We enjoyed playing and with 2 world champions (Betty Kennedy and Nell Cahn) living in Shreveport, we had great resources for taking lessons after we got our feet wet.      
Oh, and we did teach all 4 of our boys how to play bridge as well.  They were ACBL members, caddied in tournaments, and played in a few tournaments as well.  Now they are raising their children, but will have these skills for future use, hopefully!  When our 2 oldest boys graduated college and relocated to other cities, the first thing they did was find a local bridge club and play one evening a week.  We became avid bridge players and enjoyed going to tournaments in our region.  We also participated and played in the finals of six North American Pairs games at the nationals in Flights C and then B.  I always encourage newere players to participate in the NAP qualifying and District Finals!
My original plan was to retire and then travel to bridge tournaments with my husband in our golden years.  Just like when you plan how to play a hand in bridge and you sometimes have to change your plan when things come to light, it is the same with your life plan.  My husband's health issues have limited his ability to travel, so we do not go to tournaments out of town any longer.  So, I changed up my plan.  Our local bridge club was on a downward trend and thus the income was down as well.  Things were looking grim with smaller and smaller games and some games closing up entirely.  Our older players were dying off and we did not have new players coming in voluntarily.  I think that people in general were busier than ever, but also new technology was more intriguing than a deck of cards.   At any rate, I decided to become an Easy Bridge Presenter.  I then advertised and the first night, 63 people show up.  That number dwindled down to 40 something by the end of the 4 free lessons, but we still got a nice supply of future players and maybe got exposure to some folks who may come back another time.  That first group of players turned into a permanent novice game.  Then I did another evening class and then a morning class.  Those yielded another nice supply of players.  I also began teaching the Audrey Grant Series and yet more players joined us.  At this point, our club now has a game every single afternoon, one morning game, several evenings per week, and the Saturday game has an intermediate and open game simultaneously.  I am not taking all the credit, mind you, but I do believe I made a spark and many people helped out along the way.  I also started the newsletter back up, locally and have done that several years.  And, I am a board member at our Unit.  Some people like to sit back and tell other people what should happen, but never take any action themselves.  I like to take action when I can.
Although there are many wonderful things about this game, one thing I love about this game is that it is truly a game for anyone and everyone.  The people may be physically fit or they may have various physical handicaps, they may wealthy or they may be poor, they may be old or they may be young, various ethnic backgrounds, and various religions.....but regardless, the common bond of playing and enjoying this game is fun to most all of us and leads to socialization with others.  My husband and I have made lifelong friends through this game.  We go to dinner with our bridge friends several evenings a week and we enjoy other social events like the Symphony or going to a movie, etc.  Bridge friends are a special second family to me.  Gone are the days that the rooms were filled with smoke, thankfully.  I think

about the people who would not play the game years ago, due to the smoke.  Zero tolerance is always preached, however, not always enforced.  There are still some inconsiderate players, but such is life.  As much as I like to say we cannot afford to lose even one player, I do feel that rude players make everyone else uncomfortable and you may lose some nice folks when one rotten apple is spoiling the barrel.  The next worst offense that we have at to manage, is cell phones/texting during the game.  Gee, I know we are not playing for the world cup in a local game, but it certainly breaks my concentration if I have to listen to someone's phone ringing because they "forgot to turn it off" or they might get an "emergency" phone call.  There has to be a solution because we played this game before cell phones made people feel so important.  A phone was ringing in someone's purse locally the other day and when I called the director to address it, I was told..........if you just wait a minute, it will quit ringing.  And for anyone to feel like it is fine for them to show such disinterest while they are dummy to scroll through facebook or email messages or do a little texting is very distracting to everyone else at the table.
Several years ago, my husband and I got our burial plots.  I know, not fun to think about, but we have to make our "plan", right?  Anyway, we had our headstone made as well.  On his side it says "The King of Hearts" and there is a little heart inscribed as well.  And my side, says The Queen of Hearts.  Although I am hoping not to occupy that spot any time soon, this game has truly been our fun and entertainment and socialization for years and I wish everyone could have as much fun as I have playing this game!!!


From Dennis Bryant of Unit 157 in Alabama on making Diamond Life Master:
My story is probably not very unusual based on what I have heard from a lot of other players whom I have met.    Many have told me they learned the game when young from their parents or grandparents or they played in college and then didn't get to play much after that while family and career took precedence.      Similarly,  I first played contract bridge as a freshman at the University of Tennessee. Seven guys were playing a card game in the snack bar at my dormitory on the first day I moved into my room in August, 1970 and I was "recruited" to fill in.    I quickly learned bridge as it was played then and was completely fascinated with the game.   Being a math major, eventually specializing in actuarial science, it challenged me on several levels. I played a lot of bridge in the two years I was at U.T. but then in September, 1972 I transferred to the University of Michigan to concentrate on my degree program and didn't play bridge again until 1998. I had never heard of duplicate bridge until a co-worker whose father was a duplicate player in the Dayton, Ohio area asked me to try to play in a club game one Sunday afternoon in July of that year.   We had talked about playing bridge over a few lunches but had never sat down at the table together until that game.    He and I played my first duplicate game at the Birmingham Duplicate Bridge Club on that Sunday, and because we didn't know what we were doing (and neither did anyone else!), we managed to win that little game and .42 master points.    I knew I wanted to keep playing but I used every excuse I could think of not to pursue it.....didn't know anyone, was still working, didn't have the time, couldn't find a partner, etc.  If it had not been for the persistence of that game's director, Ann Richmond, who called me every week for nine months, I may never have played again. Anyway, she finally reeled me in and I began playing occasionally in the club's evening games.   At first I couldn't play much but eventually I began playing in nearby weekend sectionals and also began using vacation to play in regionals, until finally retiring in 2008 to devote most of my time to competitive duplicate bridge. I have also become highly involved in my local club as treasurer, ACBL certified teacher and club game director. There have been many good experiences connected with playing duplicate bridge over the past 15 years. I recall the many experienced players, many of them now deceased, who were willing to partner with a raw beginner and help me learn the game. I am thankful for all the good partners who have helped me all along the way, both in my local club and those from the Nashville and Atlanta areas. Actually the best part for me now is that I have a large extended family of bridge partners and friends all across the Southeastern United States. My own blood family is quite small so this is a pretty important thing for me.

As far as any further goals related to bridge are concerned, I believe any other rankings will primarily depend on how long my health holds up and should I manage to reach any of those, they would all be considered "gravy" to me.    The main thing for me is to just to continue to improve as a player. I might also like to have a high placement in a NABC event, but this is a goal which I really haven't had a chance to pursue up to this point. 


From Dean Phillips from Cabot, Arkansas of achieving Silver Life Master 

No matter how old you are or how much you know about bridge you can continue playing and learning. The night I met my husband on a blind date was the first time I played bridge. We continued playing with friends and learned more about the game. We were married and moved to Mississippi, to Little Rock, and to Memphis where we played party bridge. A friend introduced me to duplicate at the Lightman Bridge Club in Memphis. We played in the novice room until we had 50 points and then had to take our hard knocks in the open room. I got to play with Henry Francis one night when my partner could not play. That’s when I saw how little I knew and how much I had to learn. We moved to Lilburn, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. I played twice a week with a friend in Conyers, Georgia. The last move was for retirement in my husband’s home state of Arkansas. I told him he had to play with me until I found a partner. I have been fortunate to always have good partners. I am now club manager for the Jacksonville, Arkansas Duplicate Bridge Club, trying to give back to the game we love so much. I continue playing the game the way I achieved Silver Life Master, earning a fraction of a point at a time.


From Ge Yao of Baton Rouge on reaching Sectional Life Master:
I started to play bridge when I was in college in China. My teammates and I ranked second in the national bridge championship for college faculty in 1990. After that, bridge was faded in my life. When I came to the States in 2006, I stayed in Los Angles for a half year and becoming an ACBL member. Most of my master points with two blue ribbons was earn in LA.  After I moved to South Dakota in 2007, I had not find an appropriate partner, and then was apart from bridge for years. It was my great pleasure to joined the bridge club in Baton Rouge when I moved here in October this year. A bridge club is always at the top of the list to make friends in a new place around world!
I am grateful to be a member of the ACBL family!
Joan DiBaggio of Brentwood Tennessee on reaching Bronze Life Master:
Thank you so much Russ for your email and kind words.  I think everyone is doing a great job at the district. Keep up the good work.
I can only say that without the help from my friends and co-bridge players I could never have achieved this level and I appreciate that very much. I can only add that perhaps the setting up of partnerships at the tournaments could be made easier in some way that would be a great help.


I had played standard Goren bridge for 50 years (yes, 50!), so learning this new system is interesting and challenging.  I have my partners to thank for their patience, and Alan Trippel for his great reviews of the previous day's play.  Seems like it's taken forever to reach this point, but I'm not really playing for points but for the fun of the game.  Thank you for your e-mail.
                                                Sandy Kellerman


Thank you for the nice letter.  My bridge prior to duplicate experience, consisted of about 20 years of “Party Bridge.”  I quickly found out that party bridge has very little to do with duplicate.  My wife and I are, apparently, a rare breed in that we like to play as partners.  I have to say that my abilities at this stage can be attributed to three very special people.  Judy Robertson’s bridge lessons were very valuable in learning the RIGHT way to bid and play.  I plan on going back and taking her lessons a second time so that I can reinforce my skills in bidding the right way.  The next person is Toni Latimer.  This man can be one of the most patient teachers that I have ever met.  On our Friday instruction sessions, he MAKES you go through the steps necessary to make the right bid choice.  Usually the only participants on these Friday sessions are newcomers or inexperienced players.  I know that these sessions have made me a better player.  Also, since my wife has had to have several surgeries on her shoulder, right wrist and hand, and her left wrist and hand, she has not been able to play bridge.  My partner on the usual Tuesday night game, Keith Nabours, Is very good, and works hard to bid the correct way.  This has made me work even harder to bid correctly.  We are good friends and will remain so for a long time.  The other players on Tuesday night were very patient with me and allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them.  Toni make a statement on night that I have tried to remember and bid by.  “Why should I bid and go down when my opponents are willing to?”  From that little bit of knowledge, I am learning to put the shovel down and stop digging the hole deeper.  Good advice. 
I swore that I would never be a 5-6 day a week bridge player.  Now that I am retired, I have held to that statement.  I only play FOUR days a week!!  Again, thank you for your nice letter.
  Keith Cayton


I learned to play bridge at senior center about 4years ago 2011. Sylvia Briscoe was my instructor . I fell in love with bridge. She was a great and patient instructor . She encouraged me to join The Bridge Club.
Then I took Rick Logan's Beginner's class in 2012,February . His class was very professional and easy to understand . I'm Japanese and sometimes I had trouble understanding . I was afraid to ask questions,because they might not understand my pronunciation of some words.but I had lot of help from them. I want to say " Thank you " to Rick and Lynne Logan, Sylvia, Janet Singer and Ila Cupp for patience and help. Now ,I 'm so happy to have regular partner. Me and Kay had first prize on
Gulfport 299 Sectional in March,14 ,2014. We are very proud of it.
Michiyo Snow


Thanks.  I get a lot of points online.  Also, I like to travel to tournaments.  I play bridge every weekend unless I'm out of town for other reasons.  The hardest part is getting black points at tournaments at my local club.  Most of their games are M-F during the day, and I work full-time, so those times aren't convenient for me.  The only night games are Monday and Tuesday, which are bad nights for working people.  A Thursday day night game would be better for me.  Also, the club is in a suburb, Metairie, and I live in the city, New Orleans.  Games in New Orleans would be better for me.  It takes me about half a hour each way to get to the club.  Also, the club reminds me of a nursing home.  It smells funny.  A lot of the people there are cranky and openly criticize their partners.  I go anyway, but I prefer tournaments out of town. but I get behind in acquiring black points.  Also, my partner and I have had not been able to find another partnership for team games.  The club hasn't helped us find teammates.  The club rarely sends out e-mail communications.  It does little marketing.
Mary Ellen Roy



Joyce Hilliard, Jr. Master, Little Rock, AR

When I semi-retired and moved from my farm to a place nearer town, I didn't know anyone and thought I needed to do something other than only humane work. I played bridge through graduate school, but when I moved to Arkansas, no one at the college seemed to play nor did any of the animal people I worked with constantly. I saw an ad for lessons in the paper and contacted Dick Heil.  I was shocked to find that in the intervening years everything had changed and developed. I took the series of lessons at the Bridge House, met many really interesting people and started playing. I plan to go on playing as I lose what's left of my mind.  My grandmother was a life master, I won't achieve that but I intend to try.


Ernie Seger, Life Master, Memphis, TN

Hard to say when my addiction began, because 5 years ago I hated bridge. The only bridge I played was when I was a reluctant fill-in on various party-bridge games. I wasn't invited often, probably because a 10-point hand with 4 spades seemed good enough for me to open 1 Spade, and a “Transfer” involved a bus.
The day came when Flo and I both retired. Flo thought that bridge would be a good family activity that we both could share, so we decided to take a class on bridge. We attended a beginner bridge class and we were hooked for good on bridge. To keep things straight in my mind, I put everything I had learned on a series of flow-charts that covered 2 pages. We played our early duplicate bridge games were against many of the same players that were in our beginning bridge class. We seemed to hold our own. Encouraged, and being certain that I now knew everything there was to know about bridge, I felt we were ready for “The Big Leagues” - the M. A. Lightman Bridge Club. That night I learned a big lesson – I knew just enough to know that I didn't know anything. At that time, Lightman had the “The Big Room” (the good players) and “The Little Room” (the newbies). So Flo and I began playing in “The Little Room”. We had good days and bad but we were improving. We continued to take classes. Then we received some good advice: if you really want to improve, you have to play “up”. And so we did. Our results were predictable – any game above 43% looked pretty good to me. At the same time, the better players began to help and give us advice on how to improve. Others generously offered to help us reach our Life Master by playing with us at tournaments. Along with classes and playing “up”, we joined the Mentor Program. Through the Mentor Program we were able to tap the insight and the playing experience of much better players. This month - October - is the last month I am eligible to play as a Mentee. And on this, my last month as a mentee, my mentor taught me something so valuable that our games will be certain to improve. Today, I am not an expert by any means, and consider myself barely competent on the grand scale of things. I am still a student. Remember the two-page flow-chart I began with? It's now up to 55 pages and growing.
By the way, I'm not really a bridge-a-holic. One of the greatest things I have learned is that bridge is a game – a great game that is to be enjoyed. But there really is life beyond the bridge table.


Susan Livingston, Club Master, Alabama

I was born in a bridge playing family having played bridge all of my life. But mainly party bridge until 15 months ago...Both my mother & dad played bridge as well as both grandmothers so it is a natural progression for me.   Thankfully, I have had the privilege to have some good partners. I love bridge but alas I am a social animal...  so the quietness of bridge is sometimes difficult for me. When my dad finished law school, he & mother moved home. They were invited to play bridge "in the bridge club" on Friday night.  They bid & made a slam & hence were never invited back...


Carolyn Carter, NABC Master, Birmingham, AL

When I started playing bridge several years ago, I didn't understand the emphasis that other players placed on "master Points"! I jokingly said, "What can you do with them? Can you pass them down to your heirs "?  LOL

Little did I know the hard work, diligence, and MONEY (spent going to Regional Tournaments) that it would require. So Now I am HOOKED !! My Partner, Nancy Fridlin, and I go to as many regionals as possible! And when we had the Regional here in Birmingham recently, We Played EVERY GAME!I
Some of us need a warning in our easy bridge lessons (WARNING THIS MAY BE ADDICTIVE)!! LOL

My Family just ask me where am I playing today. And My Neighbors think I still work (I leave for the Bridge Club every morning about the same time). I just simply love the game!

And I am very active in my Club. As much as I enjoy the Club, I feel like I Must "give back”!
I am on the board of directors, I am the "Party Planner", the decorator, and also the Historian .
We have a lovely Club which we purchased a couple of years ago. If you are ever in Alabama, you should come by and Play with us!!


Richard Breakwell, Regional Master, Nashville, TN

Thank you!  I love playing bridge and am happy to achieve the Regional Master.

I started playing party bridge when I was stationed in Ndjamena, Chad in 1983.  They needed an "8th" and they chose me to learn how to play.  So that was my entry into the game.  I was given a cheat sheet which listed what made the points add up and that was basically it.  A few of the people who were playing were British Life Masters and they taught me the old way to play.  

By the time I came back to the U.S. the first time, I learned how to play the Diamond series, and played in a duplicate bridge club in Langley, VA.  I was not allowed to join the club because I was under cover with the CIA and as it was run by people working at the CIA, any points I may have gotten were not listed with the ACBL.

I then went back overseas and played in Mauritania with an international bridge club, and was able to play duplicate for two years.  Then moved on to Zambia and only played party bridge for 3 years.

When I came to the U.S. for the last time in 1997, I did not play bridge again until 2007 when I again started playing party bridge.

By the time I moved to Nashville and joined the ACBL, I only really remembered how to play party bridge. I joined the ACBL and the VBC in 2012 and took some lessons when I could.  My first year, I could only play once a week, then when my parents both passed away, I was able to play in the last year and a half, at least 2-3 times per week.  I started out playing with one partner, then played with two more, which made it 3 partners and 3 times a week.  Now I play with 2 partners and I play at least 3-4 times per week. I've played in some of the tournaments, and also play in some Swiss Team games, which has helped.  I also now play in two open games per week, so hopefully, that will help me get more experience and more points.  I really love the game and can't wait until I retire so I can play more!

You asked how better the ACBL could serve me.  I have had no problems and cannot think of anything that could be done better.  There are lots of tournaments out there and I hope to be able to participate in them when I can.


Cathy Gersh and Sandra Baggett, Life Master, Hattiesburg, MS

Cathy Gersh and Sandra Baggett of Hattiesburg, Mississippi became Life Masters in July at the Las Vegas North American Bridge Championship Tournament. Both started playing bridge in 2007. Cathy and Sandra started traveling to bridge tournaments when they joined ACBL in 2008.  They have always played together in out of town tournaments and loved the competition as well as meeting new players from all across the United States.

They won their first gold points playing in their first Knock Out Event at the Dallas Regional in 2011.  This year they won almost 10 more gold points at the Biloxi Regional competing in Knock Outs. Needing only 9 more gold points, they reached their goal at the Las Vegas North American Bridge Championships competing in the Gold Rush Swiss Team events.


Ann Bush, Junior Master

 Thank you for the congratulations on Junior Master status.  Since I am about to turn 60 I haven't been a junior anything in a long time.  It would be difficult to have a better bridge experience.  I played a little bit of bridge in college in the 70's and then decided to play again about four months ago.  I walked in on a local game, picked up a wonderful partner who at age 98 plays great and is very kind and patient.  The director also teaches a class one afternoon a week and definitely preaches "love and trust your partner."  Everyone has become a good friend in very short order and I am very grateful for my weekly game.


Gail Davis, Regional Master, Baton Rouge, LA

I’ve been playing rubber bridge and party bridge since about 1959 when a friend taught me the game. I bought a book by Mr. Goren and memorized the point count system and learned the game through playing with my friends.
I continued with the rubber bridge and party bridge until I moved to Baton Rouge in November  2011.  I lived here about a year when I discovered the Baton Rouge Bridge Center and started playing duplicate in the fall of 2012.  As a widow my social life is limited so playing duplicate has become my entertainment and now commitment to try and reach that Life Master status that we all strive to win.  The first thing I had to do is buy the book “25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know” as I had no idea any of this existed.  I have studied real hard and take advanced lessons to try and learn all the conventions that most people take for granted having played this system for so long.  I have always loved the game of bridge and now it’s better than ever. I feel very lucky to be a member of the Baton Rouge Bridge Club as this is a strong club with so many good & friendly players who are always helpful to me and my game.


Betty Schultz, Emerald Life Master, Hot Springs Village, AR

I played my first duplicate bridge game in 1989 at the Chicago Summer National. I didn’t even know what a board was. Despite bidding out of turn, not once but twice, with the director being summoned, we managed to eke out a part of a point. I was hooked! I promptly joined the ACBL so I wouldn’t lose that part point. I found a duplicate game in Rockford, Illinois and began making the 28 mile drive about 3 times a week. I could not imagine how I would ever get to 300 pts. when many of my slips were .04 and .06.
Bridge provided me with so many rewards. I traveled to every summer National while I was teaching. We would never have gone to those cities otherwise and they were all great experiences. I have made lifelong friends in the bridge world. In 2003 we moved from Illinois to Hot Springs Village, Ar. I still marvel that we found this paradise. My husband hiked the Quachita Mountain trails and I played bridge only on days that ended in Y. My husband of 50 yrs. died in 2009 and bridge and my many bridge friends saved my life. I can’t begin to name all of the people who helped me reach 7500 pts. but I must mention two, Gina Doss was my first partner and we traveled to many regionals and had a great time. When I arrived in HSV I met Ned Irving who moved here about the same time. We struck up not only a bridge partnership but he and his wife Cathy became our best friends.
Bridge stretches our minds. it introduces us to many interesting people that we wouldn’t meet anyplace else, and brought to me another wonderful man to share my life with. LIFE IS GOOD!