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Bridge Professional / Sponsor How exactly does this relationship work?

#1 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 14:06

Obviously you need to be a "somebody" to get here.

Does the client “pay” the pros on his team a “monthly salary?” After all they also have bills to pay etc. Is it a contractual agreement for a specified period e.g. a year? What does the client gain from the relationship? People like Pierre Zimmermann are part of the team and actively play in the big tournaments. Is this always the case?

I’m not sure outside of the USA how wide this practice occurs. My guess is that it is probably on the increase in places like China.

How many pro/client names do you know about?
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#2 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 14:14

This website can answer all your questions: www.google.com
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
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#3 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 14:29

Typically you are paid per tournament as a pro since you have many different clients throughout the year. I do know of a couple of situations where people get a monthly salary instead of per tournament by their main client but it is very abnormal.

Typically you have 1 cycle or possibly multi cycle contractual agreements for the major tournaments (nationals, trials, possibly world championships). Every pro wants this so they have guaranteed work for all of the major tournaments, and will not agree to just a single national deal unless they are desperate. It is good for the clients also to lock up their team for the year so they won't defect midcycle if they get a better offer after doing well, but it does have the downside that if you perform badly and the client wants to fire you they are locked in to at least 3 tournaments.

This is very similar to sports, where most of the negotiating is around getting multi year contracts. The team runs the risk of having to pay you even if you get injured/perform badly, so if you are a star and in high demand they will do it but if you are a scrub who is barely on the team you will be happy to just get a single season deal.

For regionals, it is usually on a per tournament basis. Many people have a client they play most of their regionals with, and often they will make the deal with that person that if some other client wants them for a regional, they will give their main client the opportunity to say they want to play that regional (first rights). This courtesy is obviously done because a client you play 10 regionals with a year gives you more business than one that you play 1 a year with, and thus they get preferential treatment.

The client gains being able to be on a team that can compete and win high level events. Presumably this is an enjoyable thing for them. It is almost impossible to be competitive in major events these days on amateur teams, even if you are a strong player, because the best players are all on professional teams. It may seem crazy to spend 500k or 1 million dollars on bridge a year just for the enjoyment, but that amount is all relative. Many people spend more than that on purses, cars, wine, etc because they enjoy those things and they have a lot of money. Personally, if I was worth 100 million dollars I would certainly hire teams. I would love to be on a team with meckwell and levin weinstein playing the bermuda bowl, for me I doubt I could think of anything more enjoyable to do with my money/time.

Almost all clients are players on the team, but there are exceptions (Lavazza often sponsors the italians to play without her). If they aren't on the team, presumably they just like their country and want them to win (This is why Ira Corn started the aces team and eventually didn't play on the team). That is rare though.

It is almost impossible to make a living outside of the USA playing professional bridge. There are some (notably the main Italians and now Monaco), but almost all of them play the US nationals anyways. I get the feeling that if you want to make a living in bridge outside of USA it is in the teaching/owning a club/writing area more than playing tournaments with clients. Many people have moved to USA to be bridge professionals that were top players in their country. Many others don't live here but travel to many regionals and nationals. Notably Balicki/Zmud are top 10 in masterpoints this year probably, I am at a regional where there is Jansma, Verhees, and Rico, the Bulgarians play here a ton but don't live here, the young poles like Buras play several regionals etc etc but still live in their respective countries. There are too many to count who just moved, but I could understand that...flying that far that often must be brutal.

It is worth noting that there are many lower level pros than just those at the top level. You could make a reasonable living just playing in NYC at the club every day and not even playing tournaments, and many people do that.
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#4 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 14:31

View Postmgoetze, on 2012-May-31, 14:14, said:

This website can answer all your questions: www.google.com


I doubt it. There is not really that much written about the mechanics of professional bridge, most people are secretive about it. I think it's because there used to be a huge stigma attached to the word "client" or "sponsor." Some people still feel that way but it's definitely much more mainstream now.
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#5 User is offline   Phil 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 14:37

It is not a hard life but it is confining and irksome. Sitting on his uncomfortable seat, bending constantly over the passing stream of cards, his hands soon become cut and scarred by the sharp pieces of his opponent's fingernails, while his finger nails are soon worn to the quick from contact with his teeth. The air he breathes is saturated with the dust, and as a rule the playing area is fiercely hot in summer and intensely cold in winter. In many of the playing areas, to be sure, steam heating pipes have been introduced into the screen rooms, and fans have been placed to carry away the dust. But however favorable the conditions, the bridge pro's life is a hard one. Yet it is a consistent introduction to what is to follow.

The ambition of every bridge pro is to enter the tournaments, and at the first opportunity he begins there as a caddie,—never over fourteen years of age and often under. The work of the caddie is not so laborious as that in the card room, but is more monotonous. He must be on hand when the first trip of directors enter in the morning and remain until the last comes out at night. His duty is to open and shut the door as directors pass through the door, which controls and regulates the ventilation of the room. He is alone in the darkness and silence all day, save when other men and boys pass through his door. Not many of these boys care to read, and if they did it would be impossible in the dim light of their small lamp. Whittling and whistling are the caddie's chief recreations. The caddie's wages vary from sixty five to seventy five cents a day, and from this he provides his own beer and recreational drugs.

Just as the caddie wants to be a bridge pro, the bridge pro wants to be a an international pro. When the really rich clients play, as they usually are, the international pro must go down the shaft in time to clean and harness his really rich client, bring him to the foot of the shaft and hitch him before seven o'clock. This team varies from four to seven according to the number of other available bridge pros. These pros are in constant danger, not only of falling roof and exploding gas, but of being crushed by the cars. Their pay varies from $1.10 to $1.25, from which sum they supply their own prostitutes.

It is an endless routine of dull plodding world from nine years until death—a sort of voluntary life imprisonment. Few escape. Once they begin, they continue to live out their commonplace, low leveled existence, ignoring their daily danger, knowing nothing better.

This post has been edited by Phil: 2012-May-31, 18:11

Hi y'all!

Winner - BBO Challenge bracket #6 - February, 2017.
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#6 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2012-May-31, 16:47

Three years ago Stacy Jacobs blogged about the client's view of the client/pro relationship. The first one is http://stacyjacobs.c...t-a-bridge-pro/ and you can find the others using the tags on this post.
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#7 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-August-25, 23:00

Having watched as well as listened to much of the commentary on the recent 2nd WMSG, the impression I got was that whenever the team was under threat of being eliminated, the sponsor would take a back seat allowing (hopefully) for the pros to get the team through to the next round.

Some questions:
1. In a situation like this, how are master points calculated at the end of the tournament when four members of the team carried a heavier load than the sponsor and his partner?
2. Having a sponsor on the team doesn’t necessarily mean that the best players are representing a particular country?
3. In fact neither does it mean that the best team is representing a particular country. Another team may have been performing more consistently in national tournaments leading up to the WMSG. However due to lack of finances they were unable to represent their country. In steps the sponsor who does have the money to cover the cost of his team and so a lower performing team gets to the WMSG?

How does all this work?
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#8 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2012-August-26, 03:52

View Post32519, on 2012-August-25, 23:00, said:

Having watched as well as listened to much of the commentary on the recent 2nd WMSG, the impression I got was that whenever the team was under threat of being eliminated, the sponsor would take a back seat allowing (hopefully) for the pros to get the team through to the next round.

Some questions:
1. In a situation like this, how are master points calculated at the end of the tournament when four members of the team carried a heavier load than the sponsor and his partner?
2. Having a sponsor on the team doesn’t necessarily mean that the best players are representing a particular country?
3. In fact neither does it mean that the best team is representing a particular country. Another team may have been performing more consistently in national tournaments leading up to the WMSG. However due to lack of finances they were unable to represent their country. In steps the sponsor who does have the money to cover the cost of his team and so a lower performing team gets to the WMSG?

How does all this work?

Not 100% certain but in the UK I think:

1. our big domestic stuff, you have to play 1/3 of the boards, if you play 1/3, you get full MPs, less you get nothing.
2. true, but you pick the rest of the team without the sponsor they tend to decline to play so you don't get the best team anyway. Have trials that are teams of 4 only not 6 ?
3. my understanding is that the EBU pay for the open/womens, only the seniors have to pay their way.
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#9 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2012-August-26, 04:54

View Post32519, on 2012-August-25, 23:00, said:

Having watched as well as listened to much of the commentary on the recent 2nd WMSG, the impression I got was that whenever the team was under threat of being eliminated, the sponsor would take a back seat allowing (hopefully) for the pros to get the team through to the next round.

Some questions:
1. In a situation like this, how are master points calculated at the end of the tournament when four members of the team carried a heavier load than the sponsor and his partner?
2. Having a sponsor on the team doesn't necessarily mean that the best players are representing a particular country?
3. In fact neither does it mean that the best team is representing a particular country. Another team may have been performing more consistently in national tournaments leading up to the WMSG. However due to lack of finances they were unable to represent their country. In steps the sponsor who does have the money to cover the cost of his team and so a lower performing team gets to the WMSG?

How does all this work?

  • In the EBL and WBF, you need to play 1/3 of the boards in the round-robin and 1/3 of the boards in the knock-out stages to qualify for medals and masterpoints.
  • Perhaps, but I really feel it is time for people to stop worrying about it. You have trials, teams or pairs as you desire, and then select the team. Sponsors keep a lot of professionals employed and why should they be constrained to only national events. Sponsors are important. Time to move on!
  • NBOs have financial constraints and have to chose what they are able to support. International events are very expensive and, for European countries, the WMSG always runs in the same year as the European Team Championships. Very few can afford to send fully-funded teams to both events. Often non-professional players can also not afford the vacation time to play both events, so countries like Scotland and Wales really struggle to participate.

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#10 User is offline   VMars 

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Posted 2012-August-26, 14:25

View Post32519, on 2012-August-25, 23:00, said:


2. Having a sponsor on the team doesn’t necessarily mean that the best players are representing a particular country?



Without sponsors, the best players may not be as good as they are, because they may not have the luxury of devoting as much time to playing bridge as they are able to now. I know that I would be a much better player if I played every day for 6+ hours a day. But I have to get a job in order to eat and have a roof over my head. Meckwell are naturally better players than most of us, and if they had to work at a non-bridge job they would likely still be very good, but I have doubts that they would be as good a PAIR as they are now, if they hadn't have had years of playing together full-time.

Also, just because someone is the worst player on their team of 6 doesn't mean that they don't belong on that team. What I'm trying to say, is if you pick the top 6 bridge players in any country, one of those pairs has to be worst, or perhaps less experienced or more reactive in the highest pressure segment. That doesn't mean that they don't belong on that team. Should a baseball team cut the #8 hitter?

And yes, I realize that people could claim that certain sponsors are not as good as others left off the national team, but in reality, they are still very good. You have to be a very good player to sponsor a team good enough to win the U.S. nationals for example.
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#11 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2012-August-26, 14:38

View PostVMars, on 2012-August-26, 14:25, said:

Without sponsors, the best players may not be as good as they are, because they may not have the luxury of devoting as much time to playing bridge as they are able to now. I know that I would be a much better player if I played every day for 6+ hours a day. But I have to get a job in order to eat and have a roof over my head. Meckwell are naturally better players than most of us, and if they had to work at a non-bridge job they would likely still be very good, but I have doubts that they would be as good a PAIR as they are now, if they hadn't have had years of playing together full-time.

Also, just because someone is the worst player on their team of 6 doesn't mean that they don't belong on that team. What I'm trying to say, is if you pick the top 6 bridge players in any country, one of those pairs has to be worst, or perhaps less experienced or more reactive in the highest pressure segment. That doesn't mean that they don't belong on that team. Should a baseball team cut the #8 hitter?

And yes, I realize that people could claim that certain sponsors are not as good as others left off the national team, but in reality, they are still very good. You have to be a very good player to sponsor a team good enough to win the U.S. nationals for example.


Great post.
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#12 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2012-August-26, 18:07

View PostVMars, on 2012-August-26, 14:25, said:

And yes, I realize that people could claim that certain sponsors are not as good as others left off the national team, but in reality, they are still very good. You have to be a very good player to sponsor a team good enough to win the U.S. nationals for example.

This is true in the US, it can be less true in countries with a smaller talent pool. How would you feel if you were the previous champions of Monaco for example and the sponsor that did what Zimmerman has done was in fact a really bad player, but can still win the national champs with his 5 hired heavies and get selected.

This is an extreme example, but does occur to a lesser extent in other countries smaller than the US. Imagine a country only has say 10 top class players, if they're in 2 sponsored teams, the sponsors may not need to be very good to win the trials, and will kill any chance of the country doing anything significant at the championships if they play. Also they can somewhat randomise the championship as the teams the sponsor plays against will have played a much weaker team than the others.
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#13 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 00:25

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know the age (and names) of the youngest players to become pros? Someone (anyone) who was considered good enough to become part of a sponsor’s team. My guess is that some of these talented youngsters got to play in some bigger national tournaments before they were really well known by the wider bridge playing community. When they started doing well there against the bigger names, others started taking more notice of who they were.

Something I’ve seen a few times in my own country is this –
A reasonably talented player wants to participate in a national red point event. Obviously everyone wants to do well. So they ask another very good player (not necessarily their regular partners) to partner them in the tournament. The other player agrees to play on condition that his/her tournament entry fees and accommodation is paid for. So is this the first step to becoming a pro?
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#14 User is offline   gnasher 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 01:33

View PostVMars, on 2012-August-26, 14:25, said:

And yes, I realize that people could claim that certain sponsors are not as good as others left off the national team, but in reality, they are still very good. You have to be a very good player to sponsor a team good enough to win the U.S. nationals for example.

I don't think this is true at all. For example, two of the last four Vanderbilt winners have included sponsors who are far from being "very good".
... that would still not be conclusive proof, before someone wants to explain that to me as well as if I was a 5 year-old. - gwnn
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#15 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 14:38

The issue with sponsored teams is that really, you are creating the best team the country can field. Yes, it could be stronger if the sponsor pair didn't play, but unless the money is coming from somewhere, the team just won't show up. It's not like the U.S. Olympic Basketball team or the Canadian international hockey teams, where they have enough money from their "real" jobs (and results at World Championship level will assist the negotiation for their real job pay) that they can afford/are willing to do it for pride.

Yes, there are C.C. Weis and Ira Corns and Maria Theresa Lavazzas, but they're pretty thin on the ground (and in at least one case, was going to play until the pros made it clear that his goal wasn't accomplishable with him on the team). If there was a way to build a professional bridge league like the NHL or the NBA, where sponsors can own a team with a dream of making a profit, and can hire the best to play for him, not with him; maybe that would change the world. If there was a poker tour-like professsional bridge circuit, ditto (but that's a really hard life, and I can see the pros continuing what they're doing. Witness the Cavendish Pairs, and the number of pros who play that with a sponsor rather than their pro partner; they probably won't make the huge payout, and will likely make a much lower payout than they might, but their payout is guaranteed - the sponsor pays the fees (including the pro's), the auction money, and takes all the risks).
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#16 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 15:35

It is too easy to cheat in bridge, so there will never be a tour-like pro bridge circuit with big prize payouts. When this was tried recently, it was an individual format, so presumably the organizers realized this, but lol individuals and all that.

Obv you see cheating at the top of all major games/sports if they have huge payouts (steroids), even with vast resources to try and make sure this doesn't happen. In bridge it would be far worse since there are so many different ways to cheat/it's a partnership game/etc. Maybe if it were all done on computers with tight monitors and technology controlling the tempo, hrothgar style, but I doubt that will happen.
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#17 User is offline   Bbradley62 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 16:22

View Postmycroft, on 2012-August-27, 14:38, said:

The issue with sponsored teams is that really, you are creating the best team the country can field.

Not true. It's entirely possible that the best three pairs are on three different teams, competing against each other for their country's berth rather than joining forces to make the best team possible. "The best team the country can field" would be more like an All-Star team than a Conference Champion team.

This post has been edited by Bbradley62: 2012-August-27, 16:25

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#18 User is offline   gnasher 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 16:44

View PostBbradley62, on 2012-August-27, 16:22, said:

Not true. It's entirely possible that the best three pairs are on three different teams, competing against each other for their country's berth rather than joining forces to make the best team possible. "The best team the country can field" would be more like an All-Star team than a Conference Champion team.

But in the USA that's not a team that the country can field, because (in general) the players want to be paid to participate, and the USBF can't or won't pay the players.
... that would still not be conclusive proof, before someone wants to explain that to me as well as if I was a 5 year-old. - gwnn
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#19 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 17:21

FWIW the USBF is very generous in what they give teams for expenses imo (but obv gnasher is correct, they won't pay us more than expected expenses, just didn't want people to think they contributed nothing). I believe we got something like 6k each during the bermuda bowl (largely because we made it to the end so thus had the max amount of expenses). For the juniors I remember them just booking everything for us and paying rather than giving us a specific # and letting us make our own plans, but they always put us in the host playing area, paid for us to go 2 days early to get over jetlag, etc rather than being in hostiles or something, so I found that to be quite good also as a participant.

This post has been edited by JLOGIC: 2012-August-27, 17:24

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#20 User is offline   TimG 

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Posted 2012-August-27, 18:02

View PostBbradley62, on 2012-August-27, 16:22, said:

Not true. It's entirely possible that the best three pairs are on three different teams, competing against each other for their country's berth rather than joining forces to make the best team possible.

The best team possible; not the best possible team.
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