Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bid Whist Battle Has Raged for Decades; New Year's Tournament Offers Bragging Rights

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bid Whist Battle Has Raged for Decades; New Year's Tournament Offers Bragging Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: Rich Tucker, Times-Union staff writer

For more than 30 years they have gathered together on New Year's Day to battle for bragging rights over a game called bid whist.

The annual bid whist tournament attracts prominent Jacksonville residents such as School Board member Jimmie Johnson and former city councilman Rodney Hurst.

But perhaps more importantly, the event draws a tasty buffet spread and spawns a healthy quantity of loud but good-humored trash talking.

"You can say anything you want, as long as it doesn't impede the game," explained Hurst, one of this year's defending champions.

Vernon King, a retired junior high teacher and one of the annual tradition's founding fathers, arrived yesterday hungry for a victory.

But conspicuously absent was his traditional bid whist partner.

Accusations were immediate. Some shouted that King had brought in a scab -- a free agent in an effort to win a competitive edge.

King just smiled as he pulled out to an early lead. He declined to comment on his strategy.

"I'm like a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter," he whispered.

Bid whist is a complicated game with similarities to bridge, though the tone is not nearly as sedate. Pairs attempt to accumulate tricks, called "books," by playing high cards and trumps. And games are punctuated by an occasional roar when a remarkable hand plays out.

The tradition of playing on New Year's Day began in the late 1960s, though no one remembers exactly when. A handful of men, armed with delicious dishes prepared by their wives, gathered at one friend's house to watch football and play cards.

Since those incipient days, the number of players has grown to about 20 most years, though the faces often change. Friends are invited from church and work, and they congregate for eight hours or more of playing and eating. …

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