Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The answers to many common questions may be found by following the links below. If you can't find the answer to your question here, please feel free to contact the Webmaster. If he can't answer your question, he'll endeavor to forward the message to someone who can.
Please note, this isn't the place to ask technical questions about bidding or play at bridge. There are many good sites operated by bridge professionals which serve that need. We're here to answer your questions about the game itself - how and where and why it's played.

What is the American Contract Bridge League?

The American Contract Bridge League, or ACBL, is the governing body for duplicate bridge in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Bermuda. It issues game sanctions, promulgates the Laws of bridge, runs tournaments, and in general runs the show.

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What is a "Unit" of the ACBL?

The ACBL is divided, geographically, into 25 major administrative regions. These 25 Districts, as they are called, are further sub-divided into Units. Each Unit supervises the santioned clubs within its jurisdiction. Roughly speaking, the Los Angeles area comprises District 23. Within District 23, the Pomona-Covina area (including Diamond Bar, Covina, San Dimas, Glendora, LaVerne, Claremont, Chino, Montclair, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamongaa) comprise Unit 551. This description is not exact; there is some overlap with our sister Unit 559, the Pasadena-San Gabriel Unit.

Unit membership is assigned based on where a member lives, and not where he/she plays. For the average member, it's really not a big deal one way or another. However ... the Units depend on their membership for support. If the members don't provide that support ... the Units wither.

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What is Duplicate Bridge? How does it differ from ordinary 'contract' or 'party' bridge?

In its basics, Duplicate Bridge is the same game as Contract Bridge (party bridge, rubber bridge, Chicago, home-style bridge). What differs is the strategy and tactics.

In the original form of Contract, known as rubber bridge, your strategy is to complete two games to complete the "rubber". This might take two deals - or a dozen or more. Part scores are carried forward and may be converted to a game, until one side or the other completes a game. When one side completes two games, the rubber is over and the side with the most total points wins.
In North America, rubber bridge has largely been supplanted by Chicago. In this game, there are only four deals to a "rubber" or "chucker." Part scores are carried forward until converted to game, or until four deals are completed. A part score made on the fourth deal is awarded a 100 point bonus. There are bonuses for making games and slams.
It's pretty important to have good cards at rubber bridge - if the sides are evenly matched, the side with the better cards will usually win.

Duplicate bridge attempts to remove some of the luck of the deal from the game. (Over the short term, of course, the luck factor can never be completely neutralized.) Duplicate does this by scoring each deal not by total points earned, but by points earned relative to other pairs who have (or will have) played the exact same cards. Each deal is treated as an independent entity. You still bid for the contract, then try to make it (or defeat it). Trick scores are as in rubber bridge. To this score is added a premium: 50 points for a part score bid and made; 300 for a non-vulnerable game; 500 for a vulnerable game. Slams bid (and made) are awarded the same bonuses as in rubber bridge. Part scores aren't carried forward; they cannot be converted to a game on a subsequent deal.
In duplicate, you do not throw the cards together at the end of the deal. The deal is maintained intact (each player places his cards in a neat stack in front of himself) and after the deal is scored, the deal moves to another foursome who will then play the exact same deal. This will go on, until many foursomes have played the same deal. (How many foursomes, compared to how many players there are, is a detail which doesn't concern us at the moment.) The scores achieved by each foursome are recorded on a score sheet which travels along with the deal - the "traveler."
When the deal has been played by all the foursomes, the results are ranked. Both pairs are ranked: in rubber bridge, this might be "We" and "They"; in duplicate, the players are assigned compass directions for convenience. So the North-South scores will be ranked, as will the East-West scores. The North-South pair achieving the best score on that particular deal is awarded the top marks; the pair with the next-best score gets the next best score, and so on. In general, each pair gets 1 point for each score (comparing with the other pairs in the same direction) for each pair whose scores they beat, and 1/2 point for each pair whose score they tied. The East-West scores are compared in a similar manner.

This is probably pretty confusing. Let's work an example. We will assume that no one is vulnerable, and that there are 5 foursomes playing this example deal. For reference purposes, we'll number each pair in the two directions, thus:

N-S 1 N-S 2 N-S 3 N-S 4 N-S 5
E-W 1 E-W 2 E-W 3 E-W 4 E-W 5

Let's say that the following results are achieved:

Traveling Score - Board 1
N-S Pair Contract By Made Down N-S Score E-W Score E-W Pair
1 2♠ N 2
2 2♠ S 3
3 3♠ N
50 5
4 2♠ S 2
5 3♥ S
100 4

You will note that everyone played the deal - in one direction or the other - and no one played it twice.
To award the North-South scores, we start by looking for the largest North-South score. That was achieved by N-S 2, +140 for making an overtrick in 2♠. (140 = 30 points x 3 for the tricks + 50 points for the part score.) Their score beat all the other N-S pairs (four of them), so they get four points.
The next-best score was +110 for making 2♠. This was achieved by two pairs, N-S 1 and N-S 4. They each beat two other pairs, so they get 2 points for that; and they tied each other, so they get 1/2 point for that. N-S 1 and N-S 4 get 2-1/2 points each.
You can now see, no doubt, that N-S 5 gets one point (they beat only N-S 3), and N-S 3 didn't beat anyone, so they get zero.
We could calculate the East-West scores the same way, but there's a simpler way. It turns out that the sum of any North-South score and the score of their East-West opponent must add up to the number of times the deal was played, less one. Since there are 5 results, the sum of N-S's and E-W's scores must be 4.
These "point" scores are called, sensibly enough, "matchpoints." The matchpoints for this deal would look like this in the final tabulation (MP = matchpoints):

Traveling Score - Board 1
N-S pair Contract By Made Down N-S Score E-W Score E-W Pair N-S MP E-W MP
1 2♠ N 2
1 2-1/2 1-1/2
2 2♠ S 3
3 4 0
3 3♠ N
50 5 0 4
4 2♠ S 2
2 2-1/2 1-1/2
5 3♥ S
100 4 1 3

At the end of the evening, all the matchpoints are added up for all the pairs, and the pairs with the highest totals - one in each direction - are the winners. Simple!
Of course, you as a player don't really need to worry about the mechanics of all this. That's what the game's director (or, nowadays, the Bridge Mate Electronic scoring machines) is there for. Most people use a computer to do the scoring these days, anyway.

So as you can infer, overtricks are extremely important at duplicate; that one lone overtrick gave N-S 3 the top score in our little example. At rubber bridge, you would never, ever jeopardize your contract trying for an overtrick; at duplicate, it is often correct to do so. The luck of the cards has been neutralized; if you had 20 high card points on this deal, so did everyone else against whom you are comparing; if you held a Yarborough (a truly awful hand which rarely occurs), so did 4 other people. It's not the cards you get; it's what you do with them that matters.

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Where does Unit 551 play its games?

There are three sanctioned clubs in Unit 551:

The La Fetra club is run by Roger Boyar. Please check the complete schedule of Club games for the latest information. The results of recent club games at La Fetra are also posted on Roger's web site.

Bridge41 holds only one game per month, an Individual. (Hence the club's name ...) Games are held on the first Saturday of each month, unless it's a major holiday, or perhaps the annual Bridge Week Regional conflicts. Bridge41 has multiple playing sites so please check the schedule before playing.

Unit 551 holds a monthly Unit game on the third Saturday of each month. However, sometimes we have to change the date, so be sure to check the schedule periodically.

Directions to the game sites:

La Fetra:

From the 210 Freeway Eastbound: Exit at Grand. Go North on Grand to Foothill. Turn right on Foothill and drive past Glendora Ave. Start looking to your left and after a couple of short blocks, you'll see the La Fetra center. Turn (left) and park behind the center or across the street.
From the 210 Freeway Westbound: Exit at Lone Hill. Take Lone Hill North to Foothill. (Alernately, you might wish to turn left at Alosto / Rte. 66 and take a different route North to Foothill.) At Foothill, turn left. Proceed on Foothill past Lorraine, continuing past Cullen. The La Fetra Center is about 1 block further on down Foothill, on your right. Turn right, and park behind the Center or across the street.
From the 57 Freeway: Exit at Auto Center Drive. Turn left on to Auto Center Drive. Turn right at Lone Hill and proceed as above from the 210 Westbound.


Our primary site is:
2477 Salamanca
LaVerne, CA 91750
From the 210 freeway (either direction), exit at Fruit Street. Go North to Baseline (where Fruit dead-ends). Turn left onto Baseline and make an almost immediate right onto Esperanza Dr. Drive up Esperanza - and I do mean UP - winding around until you get to Avenida del Risco. Turn right. (Try to turn left and you'll get a very unfavorable result ...) It's a gated community, so call ahead (909-518-6403 - that's Tom, the game Director) to get the latest code. Salamanca is the fifth street on the left. 2477 is on the right side of Salamanca.

Unit 551 (the Unit game)

For directions to the Unit game site please see Unit Game

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Do I have to join anything to play duplicate?

No. Most of the events the ACBL sponsors or sanctions are open to all bridge players. (Exception: certain very high-level competitions are restricted to members only.) If you want to improve your game, meet other players, buy bridge supplies at a discount, and in general have a grand old time, then you ought to look into the advantages of joining. Otherwise - the ACBL has nothing to offer you.

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Why should I join the ACBL?

The ACBL is the governing body for duplicate bridge in North America. As such, it offers the following products and services:

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How can I join the ACBL?

The easiest way to join is to visit the ACBL's web site. The annual dues for new members are US$39 for one year, $74 for two years or $87 for three years. Student and family rates are available.
You can also pick up a membership application at your local bridge club. Fill it out and send it to the ACBL's headquarters in Memphis; or your club will be happy to process the application for you.

What if I don't have a (regular) partner?

This is not a serious problem. Just call up your local bridge club, and say you'd like to play in thus-and-such a game but need a partner. They will be happy to find someone for you. Of course, you can't call up (or show up) 5 minutes before game time and expect a miracle.
(Well, strictly speaking, we suppose you can EXPECT a miracle. You won't GET one, however.)

This can be a good way to meet new players. Eventually, you're likely to hook up with someone with whom you can form a permanent or semi-permanent partnership.

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Is it expensive to play duplicate bridge?

No ... and yes. The honest answer is, "it depends."

The entry fee for a typical "club game" ranges from about $6 - $10 as of this writing. This is similar to the cost of seeing a movie at a theater (if you don't visit the concession stand!). A typical session lasts from 3 to 3-1/2 hours, twice the length of a typical movie. So that's pretty cheap.

Of course, if you play regularly and start having some success (success at duplicate is rewarded with Master Points), you might want to join the ACBL. While you do not have to join the ACBL (or anything else, either) in order to play and enjoy duplicate, master points are not recorded for non-members. Non-members can request a master point certificate for points won during a session, and that certificate is good for up to 1 year. If you join up before that year elapses, you can get your points recorded; after that the certificate becomes waste paper.
As you accumulate master points, you can begin moving up the ranking ladder. New players are Rookies. Upon earning 5 master points, you become a Junior Master. At 20 points you become a Club Master, and so on. (For more information on master points, visit the ACBL's web site.)

Eventually you might like to start going to tournamnets. There's a tournament somewhere in North America just about every day of the year; here in southern California, there's almost too much of a good thing. Tournaments are a bit more expensive to enter (around $12-$18 per session), but they pay out more master points. There are always multiple sessions that can be entered. If you decide to go to a tournament far from home, there are travel costs to consider.

Then there are a lot of good bridge books available; they're not expensive as books go, but they're not free, either. And so on, and so forth.

The bottom line is, bridge doesn't have to be expensive. Like any other hobby, you can put as much or as little into it as you wish. It's up to you.
As Tom Lehrer so eloquently put it, Life is like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

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Where can I get bridge lessons?

The La Fetra Bridge Club offers an extensive menu of lessons aimed at everyone from the beginnning player to the advanced player. Rookies, here's your chance to learn and play in a relaxed setting without getting pulverized by the "Big Boys/Girls." Intermediate and advanced players will find topics of interest, too. Check out the current schedule on our Club Games page.

There are many professional bridge teachers in the area. Your best bet is the ACBL's web site. You might look in your local Yellow Pages under "bridge teachers," but don't get your hopes up.

Finally, there is quite a bit of good teaching software available. Any good bridge supply house will have numerous programs for you to choose among. Toward the end of each year, the ACBL Bulletin reviews and rates all the bridge programs currently available.

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What is a Mentor?

A Mentor is an experience player who is willing to donate his or her time to help a less experience player improve. Mentors are usually Life Masters - although they need not be. The only requirements for being a Mentor are knowledge and experience about the game, and a desire to give something back to this game that has given so many of us so much pleasure.

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Does Unit 551 have a Mentoring program?

Yes, indeed. If you'd like to find out about obtaining the services of a friendly, experienced player to help improve your game ... drop in at one of our games, or give us a call.

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Are you kidding about this Mentoring business?


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What is a STaC?

A STaC is a "Sectional Tournament at Clubs." The ordinary club duplicate rewards the top finishers with so-called "black" master points. Payout for the top finisher is 0.1 point times the number of pairs competing. (In other words, if you win a 10 table Mitchell pairs event, or a 5-table Howell, you get 1.0 black master point.) The payout continues, at a descending rate, to about 40% of the field.

In a STaC, you can win "silver" points, and at a higher rate. You show up at your favorite club, as usual, and play your usual stellar game. If you are among the top finishers at your club, you will win silver master points. In addition, you will be ranked against all the other players, at all the other clubs participating in the STaC. Our STaCs are normally held across District 23 + District 22, which means you could be competing against hundreds of other pairs. That really boosts the chances for some serious master points.
Normally, you can only win silver points at a Sectional tournament, but in this event, you can play in your local club and win. Hence, STaC.

You need specified numbers of silver points to achieve rankings of Sectional Master and above.

There are two District 23 STaCs and two Western Conference STaCs each year. Check our Special Events page for the exact schedule - it will be posted when the information is available to us.

What are the Mini-McKenney and Ace of Clubs awards?

The Ace of Clubs is a certificate given to the players in each Unit, one per ranking level, who earn the most master points in club games during the calendar year. Only black points are counted; points earned in STaCs and other special games paying "pigmented" points don't count.
The Mini-McKenney medallions are given to the players in each Unit, one per ranking level, who earn the most total master points during the previous year. All "pigmented" points are counted: black, red, silver, gold, platinum (you should be so good), but not points won in on-line games - these are "colorless" or "unpugmented."
The awards are not mutually exclusive; it's possible to win either or both in the same year. The ranking level you compete in is the one within which you started the year.

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