Saturday, February 22, 2020
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20200212 Bridge IMG 0852The intensity was felt through the deafening silence as 19 teams competed to see who, after probably 5-6 hours of competition, would earn the rights to be named champion.

Nineteen teams of two men or two women from 10 Encore Parks took their seats across from their partners, their opponents taking the opposite chairs as the battle for Bridge dominance began Monday morning at Victoria Palms RV Park and Resort.

Bridge derived from the game “Whist” and dates back to as early at 15th century when a French author mentioned a game “La Triomphe” in one of his publications. These are the earliest known mentions of the game.

20200212 Bridge IMG 0842Yeah, seven centuries later and I still have no clue.

The 76 competitors, however, were pros, trying to gain points for their Winter Texan Park during the Encore Games, a three-week event involving the 10 Encore-owned parks in the Valley and comprised of 18 different competitions, from shuffleboard, pickleball and table tennis to Euchre, Texas Hold 'em and Bridge.

Unlike Euchre, a card-game where cheating is allowed and in the rules (but a steep penalty is paid if caught), Bridge is a game of pureness and etiquette.
It's also super quiet, the intensity and concentration so thick, it's palpable – you can feel it.

“This is a very competitive event,” said Bill Englert, coordinator for the 13th edition of the Encore Games, which when done will have more than 1,000 competitors who were in at least one of the events. “The men are even a little more intense than the ladies. You won't hear a word out of the men.”

Almost on cue, the door to Victoria Palms' small card game room closed on us, our interview clearly breaking some concentration as the games began.

20200212 Bridge IMG 0843As I walked through the large card game room, where the women were competing, barely was a word spoken other than what players were going to bid. I snuck a few pictures during the time, receiving only one or two glares as if I were going to share a teammate's hand via photo to the opponent. Not a bad idea, but I knew I wouldn't make it safely out the door.

Prior to the Bridge competition, Fun N Sun Resort was in first place and Victoria Palms had pulled into second place. Competitions still left to play included Texas Hold 'Em, 500, 10-point pitch, Pinochle and darts.

20200212 Bridge IMG 0845But the only thing on anyone's mind Monday morning was Bridge.

“It's a very quiet game and there's a lot of strategy on how to play the cards,” Englert said. “You have to know the cards and it’s a really good competitive game. It's very intense. They don't turn on a radio or anything or they'll run you right out.

“The women might talk a little but the men, they have nothing to say.”

Thus, another reason I haven't learned to play pitch. I always – many times to my detriment – have something to say.