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Finding a partner My experience at a local club

#1 User is offline   shaky44 

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Posted 2019-January-02, 17:54

Over the holidays I decided that I want to play more bridge in 2019. For the past few years, I've played only occasionally "live" and a fair amount online. My MP total is ~48, but I've had success playing in NLM games (I'm roadkill in open games). I wrote to a few different local clubs saying that I was looking for a steady partner; someone with experience would be great, but it's more important that the person be somewhat competitive and wants to improve; hopefully someone in my age range (I'm in my 50s).

I received a response from one of the local clubs (~30 minute drive from me) that they have a 149 game on Wednesdays and always have people looking for partners. The day before the game, I wrote that I was available if she had an appropriate partner for me. I received a response that there was someone that needed a partner and requested that I commit to attending, which I did.

My experience was less than awe inspiring. My partner certainly had bridge experience and, considering we had never met and had zero time to discuss conventions (she was 10 minutes late for the game), our bidding was OK. Her play was very random, however. Not only was she not able to count the suits, but she lost track of which suit was trump several times on the same hand. I lost count of how many ruff/sluffs she gave our opponents.

At the end, she was pretty excited about our score ("49%! That's good for me!") and was interested in playing again.

I did meet another person who might be interested in playing, but her schedule is pretty full (with tennis, she rarely plays bridge).

So, I understand the problem that local directors face in these games; there are inevitably going to be players that don't have a partner because no one wants to play with them. How should they handle this? I guess you can perpetually pass them off on "the new guy," but that doesn't seem like a winning formula for building new games. I can't imagine I'll ever trust this director to set me up with a partner again.

Or maybe I just need to accept that this is how it is - it's kind of a hazing ritual for new players to have to play with "that guy" until they randomly meet someone else.

Thoughts? I'm genuinely interested to hear how clubs handle situations like this.

P.S. I do have a lead on another partner from an email I sent to another club. This seems to have some potential.
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#2 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-January-03, 09:22

It's pretty much a catch-22. Decent players generally acquire regular partners, and they don't usually play in the novice games. Beggars can't be choosers -- if you don't have a partner of your own, you have to take what's available. I'm sure the director pawned them off on you reluctantly, but what else could she do?

But your real mistake was probably playing in the novice game. If someone isn't even good enough to have a regular partner there, they're practically guaranteed to be hopeless. Ask if they have any singles who play in the open game -- they might not be great, but they'll probably have basic competency.

#3 User is offline   shaky44 

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Posted 2019-January-03, 13:34

View Postbarmar, on 2019-January-03, 09:22, said:

It's pretty much a catch-22. Decent players generally acquire regular partners, and they don't usually play in the novice games. Beggars can't be choosers -- if you don't have a partner of your own, you have to take what's available. I'm sure the director pawned them off on you reluctantly, but what else could she do?

But your real mistake was probably playing in the novice game. If someone isn't even good enough to have a regular partner there, they're practically guaranteed to be hopeless. Ask if they have any singles who play in the open game -- they might not be great, but they'll probably have basic competency.


Wow. Is a 149 game considered novice? They have a 20 game and I can see how the pickings would be slim there, but someone with 60-80 MPs should be pretty good, no? Or maybe players with that many points don't play in a 149 game?
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#4 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-January-04, 09:05

Many of the players in a 149 game are people who have been playing for years, but do poorly so they haven't amassed many points. So they're not actually beginners, they just play like they are -- sometimes called "Life Novices".

#5 User is offline   fromageGB 

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Posted 2019-January-04, 12:06

Maybe it is best not to play in ranked events, but at a club where all play all. When I came to this area partnerless, I attended local clubs by letting the secretary know in advance that I was solo, and going there regardless of prearrangements. With no partner you can sit around and watch (if a table is OK with that), but if you do this on a regular basis people will become aware of your availability. Hopefully for the first couple of weeks the director can announce at the start that "shaky here is partnerless and is looking for a game if anyone can oblige" - and you will be asked to fill in while regular partners are away. My next step was politely declining repeat performances from someone I disliked, and eventually found a group of people who at the club each week checked diaries to see who would play with whom the next week (not everyone is in a committed mono-partnership), tagged along, and had regular games that way. Eventually I found people I could get along with, who had similar desires, and more stable partnerships formed.

It takes a dedicated time commitment, but I found it pays off. It is no more than the commitment you would have if you were in a regular partnership. In these days of web sites, the club might be willing to temporarily put "partners found on the night" on the home page, while you are doing this, and that might encourage others in the same situation.
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#6 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-January-06, 14:52

At most of the clubs around here, if there's no other solo player available, the director fill in. Except for them being occasionally called away from the table, it's usually a good deal.

#7 User is offline   661_Pete 

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Posted 2019-January-08, 07:53

I imagine you're USA-based, so what I say about things here in UK may be of limited use!

The club I now play at does require people to turn up with a partner, but they are very good about pairing you up with someone just so long as you E-mail them beforehand. Indeed when I first joined up I was teamed up with several different partners - some much better than others! - although I now seem to be settled with just two, whom I play with alternately. We don't have a 'host' system there, so if you turn up partnerless you're likely to be disappointed (this is not true of other clubs).

I am very much in favour of the EBU's "NGS" system which adjusts your ranking to compensate for occasionally playing with a less able partner. Its main drawback, as I see it, is that if you only play in the one club (as I do), your grading will only reflect your performance against other members of your own club - not against the country as a whole.

Now the downside. Once, when my regular partner had to cry off at short notice, I was teamed up with a fairly competent player - someone I hadn't partnered before - but for some reason we didn't hit it off. I made quite a few mistakes myself, but I have to say, nothing compared with the blunder my partner committed in one hand - which earned us a clear 'bottom'. I felt tempted to remark - like in the Monty Python "Russian firing squad" sketch - "how could you miss?" but out of politeness I desisted! C'est la vie! Anyway we ended up with a miserable 32% for the session - my worst-ever result - and I have to say I haven't partnered that particular person since.

But should I be avoiding her? On another day, surely she'll do better! Just that all players have 'bad days'.

I can't advise you whether to give that not-so-good partner of yours, another chance. It's your decision.
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#8 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-January-08, 11:58

View Post661_Pete, on 2019-January-08, 07:53, said:

I am very much in favour of the EBU's "NGS" system which adjusts your ranking to compensate for occasionally playing with a less able partner. Its main drawback, as I see it, is that if you only play in the one club (as I do), your grading will only reflect your performance against other members of your own club - not against the country as a whole.

....

I can't advise you whether to give that not-so-good partner of yours, another chance. It's your decision.


It's often best (not only in bridge) to hang onto not-so-good until you spot something better B-)

About NGS - we don't have anything similar here unfortunately, but I can't see why your grading will only reflect your performance against other members of your own club and not against the country as a whole, even if you never play outside the club. Surely all it takes is for enough other people in your club to play elsewhere, you don't have to do it yourself. Maybe if not enough of them do then you will all be slightly over-rated nationally, but no more than that I think.
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#9 User is offline   shaky44 

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Posted 2019-January-10, 04:29

View Post661_Pete, on 2019-January-08, 07:53, said:


But should I be avoiding her? On another day, surely she'll do better! Just that all players have 'bad days'.

I can't advise you whether to give that not-so-good partner of yours, another chance. It's your decision.


Your situation seems to be different from mine. Your partner has a history of good results, my parter was really happy with our 49% score. If anything, I may have caught my partner on a good day.

I don't believe in criticizing my partners; aside from being rude, it's counterproductive in all but the strongest partnerships. I also don't believe in playing with people I know will test my patience.

I haven't played since last week, but today I spent two hours on the phone and at a BBO Practice Bidding table with a potential new partner. We were put in contact by the other club director I emailed at the same time as the one I discussed in my original post. He and I will play in a local game on January 17th and have tentative plans to play in a (local) sectional the next day. I hope it is the start of a fruitful partnership!
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#10 User is offline   shaky44 

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Posted 2019-January-10, 05:03

View Post' timestamp=, on 2019-January-03, 09:22, said:

I'm sure the director pawned them off on you reluctantly, but what else could she do?


I've been thinking about this comment all week and trying to come up with an analogous comment about a different business interacting with a new customer. Maybe, "I'm sure the mechanic didn't want to pad her labor hours, but what else could she do?" or "I'm sure the cook didn't want to overcook your steak, but what else could she do?" Neither of those is the best analogy, and maybe someone else has a better attempt. No matter, it doesn't make the auto repair shop or restaurant look good and no other business could expect to keep their doors open by treating new customers in that manner. In fact, we would all be happy to see those businesses close.

I haven't played a lot of ACBL bridge, but I've done it sporadically over a number of years. I'm familiar with the issues we have keeping this game alive. To go through the process of being that "new customer" was pretty eye-opening: one director was able to put me in touch with two potential partners; the other wasted my morning lost me as a customer forever because, hey, what else could she do?

I hope this doesn't offend anyone; that is not my intent. We all feel really strongly about this game and trying to grow its popularity. BBO and other "mass" programs are a big part of that marketing effort, but local clubs are probably the most important factor in whether bridge grows in popularity. If we accept that it's OK to treat new customers like this, I'm not sure I feel good about the future.
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#11 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-January-10, 10:06

View Postshaky44, on 2019-January-10, 05:03, said:

I've been thinking about this comment all week and trying to come up with an analogous comment about a different business interacting with a new customer. Maybe, "I'm sure the mechanic didn't want to pad her labor hours, but what else could she do?" or "I'm sure the cook didn't want to overcook your steak, but what else could she do?" Neither of those is the best analogy, and maybe someone else has a better attempt. No matter, it doesn't make the auto repair shop or restaurant look good and no other business could expect to keep their doors open by treating new customers in that manner. In fact, we would all be happy to see those businesses close.

If you're looking for an analogy, how about dating services? As much as Match.com hypes their success, everyone understands that it's not a science, it's just a best effort service. You'll go on lots of bad dates before you find Mr./Ms. Right, if you ever do.

And hooking up partners isn't even the primary business of bridge clubs, it's just providing a venue for the game and a (hopefully) competent director to run it. Do you really expect them to have a stable of decent bridge players waiting to partner with newbies? They're not a supermarket, and even supermarkets sometimes run out of the product you were craving.

#12 User is offline   shaky44 

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Posted 2019-January-10, 14:30

View Postbarmar, on 2019-January-10, 10:06, said:

If you're looking for an analogy, how about dating services? As much as Match.com hypes their success, everyone understands that it's not a science, it's just a best effort service. You'll go on lots of bad dates before you find Mr./Ms. Right, if you ever do.

And hooking up partners isn't even the primary business of bridge clubs, it's just providing a venue for the game and a (hopefully) competent director to run it. Do you really expect them to have a stable of decent bridge players waiting to partner with newbies? They're not a supermarket, and even supermarkets sometimes run out of the product you were craving.

No, but I do think they should be upfront about what they do have. Doing otherwise is no way to run a business.
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#13 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-January-10, 15:27

View Postshaky44, on 2019-January-10, 14:30, said:

No, but I do think they should be upfront about what they do have. Doing otherwise is no way to run a business.


I agree with you, but it's a difficult business and they are probably doing their best, unpaid.
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#14 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-January-11, 09:12

View Postshaky44, on 2019-January-10, 14:30, said:

No, but I do think they should be upfront about what they do have. Doing otherwise is no way to run a business.

I think most people know what to expect. Does a thrift store need to be "upfront" about the fact that you're not likely to find designer clothes there?

Or you go to the Partnership Desk at a tournament -- you should know to have low expectations, because everyone else is as desperate for a partner as you are.

#15 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2019-January-12, 20:25

View Postbarmar, on 2019-January-10, 10:06, said:

If you're looking for an analogy, how about dating services? As much as Match.com hypes their success, everyone understands that it's not a science, it's just a best effort service. You'll go on lots of bad dates before you find Mr./Ms. Right, if you ever do.

And hooking up partners isn't even the primary business of bridge clubs, it's just providing a venue for the game and a (hopefully) competent director to run it. Do you really expect them to have a stable of decent bridge players waiting to partner with newbies? They're not a supermarket, and even supermarkets sometimes run out of the product you were craving.


It seems as if these clubs do not have hosts. A host system allows people to come without partners, so several first-time parnerships will usually play. It is a decent way to find a compatible partner, or several.

The director filling in is an option, yes, but a non-playing director is usually paid and might be drawn from a small pool. Perhaps in fact the club has hired only one director. A non-playing director is not someone you can really form a partnership with, except at another club.
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#16 User is offline   timjand 

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Posted 2019-January-15, 04:18

View Postshaky44, on 2019-January-02, 17:54, said:

Over the holidays I decided that I want to play more bridge in 2019. For the past few years, I've played only occasionally "live" and a fair amount online. My MP total is ~48, but I've had success playing in NLM games (I'm roadkill in open games). I wrote to a few different local clubs saying that I was looking for a steady partner; someone with experience would be great, but it's more important that the person be somewhat competitive and wants to improve; hopefully someone in my age range (I'm in my 50s).

I received a response from one of the local clubs (~30 minute drive from me) that they have a 149 game on Wednesdays and always have people looking for partners. The day before the game, I wrote that I was available if she had an appropriate partner for me. I received a response that there was someone that needed a partner and requested that I commit to attending, which I did.

My experience was less than awe inspiring. My partner certainly had bridge experience and, considering we had never met and had zero time to discuss conventions (she was 10 minutes late for the game), our bidding was OK. Her play was very random, however. Not only was she not able to count the suits, but she lost track of which suit was trump several times on the same hand. I lost count of how many ruff/sluffs she gave our opponents.


I moved to a new area just over a year ago and was looking for partners. I had the philosophy that I was happy to play with anyone at least once. Of course I had some rather random sessions but got to know the club and had the opportunity to meet other people and keep an ear open for who might be looking for a partner from time to time.

Most people play the best they can and I also make mistakes so I don't feel hard done by if someone finds me a partner who is less able than myself. Just as I hope that those better than me have some tolerance of my mistakes if I partner them.

The key I believe is not to get stuck with someone you don't want to play with long-term though inertia or politeness. I've learned to say, "happy to play with you from time to time, but I don't want to commit to every week."

Tim
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#17 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-January-15, 16:30

There was a time not too long ago when both I and one of the better players in the area showed up without a partner. The director suggested to him that he play with me. He looked at me for a moment, said "I don't think so," and turned around and walked out. I had another player, not quite as good, a couple of years ago in the same situation, say to me when the director suggested we play together "you should not want to play with me". We'd had a small disagreement at the table sometime before that. So I said "fine with me" and went home. You can't win. B-)
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#18 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-January-15, 16:43

View PostVampyr, on 2019-January-12, 20:25, said:

It seems as if these clubs do not have hosts. A host system allows people to come without partners, so several first-time parnerships will usually play. It is a decent way to find a compatible partner, or several.


Please could you explain in more detail what you mean by a host system?
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#19 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2019-January-16, 05:15

View Postpescetom, on 2019-January-15, 16:43, said:

Please could you explain in more detail what you mean by a host system?


The host shows up without a partner, with the understanding that he may not get a game. If the host plays the session is free, and usually one or even 2 further free plays are given to him (depending on the difficulty of finding hosts!) There is a person in charge of the hosting rota, and although not everyone volunteers, those who do have to host once a year at most.

So people can show up without a partner, and any singles are paired up before the host gets a game. I enjoy it when it is my turn to be the host, as I will normally get a game with someone l’ve never played with before.
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#20 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-January-16, 06:51

View PostVampyr, on 2019-January-16, 05:15, said:

The host shows up without a partner, with the understanding that he may not get a game. If the host plays the session is free, and usually one or even 2 further free plays are given to him (depending on the difficulty of finding hosts!) There is a person in charge of the hosting rota, and although not everyone volunteers, those who do have to host once a year at most.

So people can show up without a partner, and any singles are paired up before the host gets a game. I enjoy it when it is my turn to be the host, as I will normally get a game with someone l’ve never played with before.


So the host gets to play if an odd number of singles turn up. Thanks, makes sense.

It would probably be difficult for us to find hosts because we don't have that many members and people are used to pairing up in advance rather than just showing up single. OTOH we do have some people who would like to play and don't, because they couldn't find a partner in advance. We have a chat for pairing up, so when people do not find a partner it's usually because they did not want to play with the other people who are free, or vice versa. Whether they would be more open minded if there was a host available is hard to say, but I guess we could try.
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