Louisville Bridge Club Members Keep Their Game Sharp
Writer / Carrie Vittitoe
As a child, I remember seeing the daily Bridge section of the Courier-Journal newspaper and wondering what all that North, South, East and West stuff was about. It seemed mysterious to me then and, honestly, remains that way today. Bridge is not necessarily an easy game to pick up, but it is a game that never gets dull. This is why Dotty Losey, president of the Louisville Bridge Club, has been playing the game for 40-plus years. “It’s probably the most complicated game of all of them,” she says. “I’ve heard chess players say that.”
What is Bridge, exactly?
Bridge is a four-person game in which players on opposite sides are partnered up. North and South are partners, as are East and West. Players are dealt 13 cards each from a standard deck of 52 cards, but before any cards are played in what is called a trick, bidding happens. “When you’re bidding, you’re describing what your hand looks like,” Losey says. “You are telling your partner whether you’ve got something worth playing with or not. It’s a conversation.” Bidding goes clockwise around the table until three players pass. A pass is sort of like saying, “I don’t have any good cards,” or “I’ve already shared all the information I can share about my hand.” At this point, actual play begins.
To a novice, the bidding process may seem like players speaking in riddles. Fortunately, a player can ask the partner of a bidder, so if East makes a bid, West can explain what that bid means to a player who asks what that bid means. “When we play in sanctioned games, we are always ethical and disclose when asked,” Losey says. “It is kind of like a secret language, but you’re obliged not to keep it secret.”
When bidding ends and a contract is set, the person who first bid the contract’s suit (for example, Clubs) becomes the declarer. The player to the left of the declarer makes the opening lead (plays one card from their hand), and the player to the left of that person becomes the dummy. The dummy (always the partner of the declarer) puts all their cards on the table face-up so that everyone can see their hand. The declarer physically plays the cards of the dummy as well as their own hand. Every person must play a card in the suit that was led unless or until a player doesn’t have any more cards in that suit.
Once every player has put down a card, the trick is done and the person who played the highest card in that suit wins the trick. The winner then leads a card, and the other players, in clockwise order, play a card to the trick, following suit unless they have no more cards in the suit and can play a trump card or must discard from another suit.
Losey’s parents and grandparents played Bridge, and when she was in high school, her mom began to teach her the game but she didn’t take to it. However, in college, a bunch of her friends played so Losey decided to give it another chance. “We played terribly, but we had a good time,” she says. As with many pursuits, the more she played, the more she learned and the better she played. She even met her husband Bob playing Bridge.
Given her decades-long interest in the game, it seems obvious why Losey would be president of the local association. Archives suggest the club formed in the 1930s (perhaps making it one of the oldest in the country). “In 1936 the Louisville Bridge Club was incorporated,” she says. Through the years the club has had many homes, but it has been in Plainview on Linn Station Road since 2016 – its biggest location to date.
In-person games are played at the club five days a week – Mondays at 10:30 a.m., Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m., Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 12:30 p.m., and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. Interested players can show up about 10 minutes before the game with a partner, if they have one. If not, they can “call the Bridge Club, find out who the director of the game is on the day you want to play, and they will find you a partner,” Losey says. The Louisville Bridge Club is affiliated with the American Contract Bridge League, so when individuals play at the Bridge Club, they earn points that can potentially get them to life-master status. Each game costs $7.50 per person.
Some Bridge Club members play five days a week, but the Loseys typically play once a week in person and once a week online. “Our Bridge Club sponsors online games on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m.,” she says. Of course, COVID-19 impacted the Louisville Bridge Club, and things are only now starting to pick back up. “There used to be days where it wasn’t unusual to have 20 to 25 tables – that’s 80 to 100 people,” Losey says. “Other days would have 10 to 12 tables. It’s about half that now.”
The Louisville Bridge Club offers classes for individuals who are interested in Bridge but know nothing about the game. “The classes are ongoing,” Losey says. “We have Beginners and Beginners II. We have a few members who are expert Bridge players and they have been offering higher-level classes. We certainly encourage people to come and learn to play Bridge.”
The Louisville Bridge Club will host the 2024 North American Bridge Championships national tournament from March 14 to 24 at the Galt House, but there are opportunities for Louisville players to travel elsewhere for sectional and regional tournaments. The biggest regional is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where Losey says there will be 10,000 to 15,000 tables of Bridge. It isn’t uncommon for players to see celebrities who love Bridge, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Omar Sharif, the famous actor, wrote a column about Bridge for the Chicago Tribune and penned two books about the game.
“It’s endlessly interesting,” Losey says of the game. “You’ve got millions of variations of what you’re going to get dealt, so there’s always something new to figure out. That’s what makes the game itself so interesting. It never gets repetitive.”
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Bridge is good for the mind. It can boost memory and concentration abilities. The social aspect of the game is also hugely important. “It’s a lovely community,” Losey says. “You get to know people and they look after each other. For many of us, that’s as big a draw as how much we enjoy playing the game itself.”
Hi, I’m with Holy Trinity Adult Social group and am interested in speaking with someone who may be interested in teaching a group of adults the game of bridge at a location on our church property in the 40207 zip code.
Janice, I Googled “Louisville Bridge Club” and stumbled upon your comment. It isn’t clear when you inquired about bridge lessons for the Holy Trinity Adult Social group, so we may owe you an apology for a late response. I will talk to the club’s bridge teachers to see if we might be able to provide a resource for you. Our classes typically take place at the club. Tx, Dotty Losey
It has been many years since I’ve played bridge regularly, but I’m very interested in getting back to it. How do I find information about the classes!
Hello:, I’m interested in learning how to play Bridge. I love all card games and catch on fast. What days and times can I come and play a beginners game and/or receive lessons?