There is an interesting piece in today’s NY Times about the why poker has been on the ascendancy, and bridge, once one of the most popular card games in America, continues to decline. The author, a former world champion and sometime bridge partner of investor Warren Buffett, argues that television has done the trick, with evening TV-watching replacing foursomes around the bridge table.
Speaking as an infrequent and crummy bridge-player, I think there is some truth to that. But I also think that money makes a difference. I’m not aware of a widely-used poker-style system of payoffs that would attract the fast money crowd to a card game that is otherwise nearly unmatched in its rewards for skill, strategy, and ruse.
And the preceding almost certainly explains the game’s appeal to Mr. Buffett, as his partner points out:
No one would describe Warren [Buffett] as timid. Yet, when we first played bridge, we got trampled by our opponents because Warren deferred to me, and I was afraid to make mistakes. As we got to know each other, and as our partnership solidified, things changed.
The Warren Buffett you know from business is now the same Warren Buffett I know at the bridge table. And as Warren would tell you, playing bridge is like running a business. It’s about hunting, chasing, nuance, deception, reward, danger, cooperation and, on a good day, victory.