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Playing in Novice Bridge Tournaments

After you gain some confidence with your play, you may consider the next big step: playing in a novice tournament. You can find these novice tournaments staged at your local bridge club.

In most of these games, you can ask questions as you are playing. In short, you don't have to sweat bullets playing in novice tournaments — you can ask a more-advanced player if you aren't sure about your next move.

Heck, you may even enjoy the novice tournaments. Most people begin to enjoy these tournaments after they see they are going to survive.

Preparing to play with others

When you begin playing in novice tournaments, you'll find that 99 percent of the people that you meet and play against are pleasant and eager, and you are bound to make many friends who share bridge as a common interest. Of course, you can also expect to find the 1 percent who can't control themselves when something goes awry. These types like to lay the blame for their mistakes on their partner. Don't worry about these jokers. If they get out of line once too often, the club owner will bar them for a month or two — an eternity to a bridge player.

Accruing masterpoints

The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) records the successes of its members in tournament play by awarding masterpoints. If you join the ACBL, the League tracks your masterpoints and sends you a record every few months so that you can see your progress.

You don't have to win (or even come in second) in tournaments in order to win points. You can garner fractional points by placing third, fourth, or even fifth, depending upon the number of players who are competing.

Masterpoints come in colors. You can win black, silver, red, or gold points, depending on the importance of the event. At first, you will probably be winning black points, the color you pick up in club games. When you start playing in larger tournaments, you can eventually win the prettier-colored points.

The ACBL gives you a title according to how many masterpoints you rack up. Table 1 shows how many masterpoints you need to achieve each title.

Table 1: Racking Up the Masterpoints

ACBL Title

Masterpoint Requirement

Rookie

0-4.99

Junior Master

5-19.99

Club Master

20-49.99

Sectional Master

50-99.99

Regional Master

100-199.99

NABC Master

199-299.99

Life Master

300 and higher

To reach the upper plateaus, some of your points must be in particular colors. In other words, you have to win some of your masterpoints in larger tournaments, which means leaving the safety net of your local bridge club to get them.

After you play through enough blood, sweat, and tears to amass 300 of these coveted masterpoints, the ACBL makes you a Life Master and rewards you by sending you a gold card with your name emblazoned upon it. What can you do with that gold card? You can board a bus, show the driver your card, and then pay your fare. After you pay, the driver will let you stay on the bus.

Seriously, you do get the following benefits from being a Life Master:

  • Bragging rights for the rest of your life
  • Eligibility to play in certain restricted events
  • Reduced yearly membership dues in the ACBL

After you start playing in novice tournaments, you will eventually start to win masterpoints. After you get your first masterpoint, you are hooked, baby.

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