Rage at the Table

Rage at the Table

Meltdowns and temper tantrums might be something that you would traditionally associate with a poker game – turns out that the same thing takes place at many bridge games. Some players have even found themselves banned from the event (or from bridge entirely) thanks to unethical conduct or just downright bad behavior.

Rudeness and obscenities at the bridge table are nothing new. When the stakes are high and it’s win or lose, stress levels go up and tempers can flare. It goes back as far as the game is old.

In this article, aptly titled Spoiled Brats of Contract Bridge, then-president of the ACBL Syd Levey was quoted as saying,

They’re rude to their partners, they’re rude to the tournament directors, they’re even rude to the young kids who work as caddies. It’s dog eat dog.

Calling Miss Manners

Rudeness in bridge has even attracted the attention of the St. Augustine agony aunt called Miss Manners when a reader wrote in complaining about another player. “My mother and I have played party bridge for many, many years with several different groups. […] My mother and I are substitutes and fill in when asked. Lately, when a regular cancels, we are called, only to be called back the following day and told, ‘Oh, so-and-so decided to play after all, so I won’t need you.”

Miss Manners, herself a bridge player, responded to this request: “Better to rotate the extra person in between rubbers than to rescind an invitation. But if the seriousness of the players absolutely requires consistent teams, then the regulars should be instructed that telling the hostess they are unavailable can no more be taken back than a thoughtless lead.” See the article here: How Rude

The ACBL: Zero Tolerance

The ACBL employs a zero tolerance policy when it comes to anything that’s deemed unacceptable behavior at the bridge table.

This can include dropping f-bombs all over the place, snapping at your partner or opponent or flipping off the tournament director – even though none of these might have crossed your mind before at a bridge game, we can almost guarantee that all of these have, at some point, happened.

“We are attempting to eradicate unacceptable behavior in order to make the game of bridge more enjoyable for all”, notes the official zero tolerance regulations.

Guidelines include:

  • Say hello to everyone
  • Be punctual
  • Respect the directors
  • Be understanding
  • Nobody likes to lose (but practice grace under fire)
  • Save your analysis and lessons for the postmortem
  • Enjoy!

According to their official policies, things that get you banned will include “badgering, rudeness, intimidation, profanity, threats or violence” – this includes to your bridge partner, opponent or the tournament director. Also, though not in so many words, don’t be a smart-ass at the table.

Their entire Zero Tolerance Policy Guidelines can be viewed at the ACBL Website.

If you’re looking to print their poster for your club or next home game, it’s available for download here.

The European Bridge League (EBL) has their own general guide for what not to do at the bridge table, available to read or download here. As an extra, the EBL also has a guide for Dealing with Difficult Players, aimed at any tournament directors with a potential situation to defuse.

By Alex J. Coyne