Real Men Play Bridge

By Dana, Rebecca | Newsweek, March 5, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Real Men Play Bridge

Dana, Rebecca, Newsweek

Byline: Rebecca Dana

The private passion of America's high rollers.

When a machete-wielding intruder recently accosted Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in his Caribbean vacation home, absconding with $1,000, reports of the incident glossed over one significant detail. In the moments--possibly the hours--leading up to this rude invasion, Breyer and his wife were playing bridge.

To the layperson, this may connote nothing more than the apparent fact of an elderly Jewish gentleman playing a game popular in Boca Raton (and other sunny places where grandparents congregate). But to a knowing few, Breyer's choice of game signals uncommon discernment. Bridge is not just a pastime for retirees, it is a fashionable hobby for the power elite.

"There's something sexy about the game," says Jill Meyers, a 17-time national champion and six-time world champion. "Everybody thinks it's a bunch of old people eating watercress sandwiches, but it's actually a great game for very intelligent, competitive people. I think they lose themselves in it." Meyers, an attorney, has a music business in Los Angeles and runs licensing for NBC's The Voice.

Bridge, for the uninitiated, is a four-person trick game--like hearts, only infinitely more complicated, and played in pairs. Warren Buffett has described it as "such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day." To excel, one needs not just strong math and spatial-relations skills but also creativity, stamina, and a cutthroat streak. Eager members of the 1 percent can also purchase an edge, hiring expensive coaches and world-class players to partner with them.

All of which, players say, makes it tantalizing for creative and competitive individuals who have already reached the peak of their fields. Leave backgammon to Bob Dylan, Scrabble to Sharon Stone, and chess to Ben Affleck. For a certain set, there's only bridge.

Designer Isaac Mizrahi serves homemade mac and cheese and Mrs. Paul's fish sticks at his Sunday-afternoon bridge parties in New York. While on tour, the band Radiohead plays raucous rounds.

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