THE POPULARITY of bridge whist began a quarter of a century ago with the older people and has increased slowly but steadily until it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that those who do not play bridge, which means auction, are seldom asked out. And the epidemic is just as widespread among girls and boys as among older people. Bridge is always taken seriously; a bumble puppy game wont do at all, even among the youngest players, and other qualifications of character and of etiquette must be observed by every one who would be sought after to make up a four.
The ideal partner is one who never criticises or even seems to be aware of your mistakes, but on the contrary recognizes a good maneuver on your part, and gives you credit for it whether you win the hand or lose; whereas the inferior player is apt to judge you merely by what you win, and blame your make if you go down, though your play may have been exceptionally good and the loss even occasioned by wrong information which he himself gave you. Also, to be continually found fault with makes you play your worst; whereas appreciation of good judgment on your part acts as a tonic and you play seemingly better than you know how.
There is nothing which more quickly reveals the veneered gentleman than the card table, and his veneer melts equally with success or failure. Being carried away by the game, he forgets to keep on his company polish, and if he wins, he becomes grasping or overbearing, because of his skill; if he loses he sneers at the luck of others and seeks to justify himself for the same fault that he criticised a moment before in another.
A trick that is annoying to moderately skilled players, is to have an over-confident opponent throw down his hand saying: The rest of the tricks are mine! and often succeed in putting it over, when it is quite possible that they might not be his if the hand were played out. Knowing themselves to be poorer players, the others are apt not to question it, but they feel none the less that their rights have been taken from them.
A rather trying partner is the nervous player, who has no confidence in his own judgment and will invariably pass a good hand in favor of his partners bid. If, for instance, he has six perfectly good diamonds, he doesnt mention them because, his partner having declared a heart, he thinks to himself Her hearts must be better than my diamonds. But a much more serious failingand one that is far more universalis the habit of overbidding.
In poker you play alone and can therefore play as carefully or as foolishly as you please, but in bridge your partner has to suffer with you, and you therefore are in honor bound to play the best you know howand the best you know how is as far as can possibly be from overbidding.
Remember that your partner, if he is a good player, counts on you for certain definite cards that you announce by your bid to be in your hand, and raises you accordingly. If you have not these cards you not only lose that particular hand, but destroy his confidence in you, and the next time when he has a legitimate raise for you, he will fail to give it. He disregards you entirely because he is afraid of you! You must study the rules for makes and never under any circumstances give your partner misinformation; this is the most vital rule there is, and any one who disregards it is detested at the bridge table. No matter how great the temptation to make a gamblers bid, you are in honor bound to refrain.
If luck is against you, it will avail nothing to sulk or complain about the awful cards you are holding. Your partner is suffering just as much in finding you a poison vine as you are in being oneand you can scarcely expect your opponents to be sympathetic. You must learn to look perfectly tranquil and cheerful even though you hold nothing but yarboroughs for days on end, and you must on no account try to defend your own bad playever. When you have made a play of poor judgment, the best thing you can say is, Im very sorry, partner, and let it go at that.
Always pay close attention to the game. When you are dummy you have certain duties to your partner, and so do not wander around the room until the hand is over. If you dont know what your duties are, read the rules until you know them by heart and thenbegin all over again! It is impossible to play any game without a thorough knowledge of the laws that govern it, and you are at fault in making the attempt.
Dont be offended if your partner takes you out of a bid, and dont take him out for the glory of playing the hand. He is quite as anxious to win the rubber as you are. It is unbelievable how many people regard their partner as a third opponent.
Mannerisms must be avoided like the plague. If there is one thing worse than the horrible post-mortem, it is the incessant repetition of some jarring habit by one particular player. The most usual and most offensive is that of snapping down a card as played, or bending a trick one has taken into a letter U, or picking it up and trotting it up and down on the table.
Other pet offenses are drumming on the table with ones fingers, making various clicking, whistling, or humming sounds, massaging ones face, scratching ones chin with the cards, or waving the card one is going to play aloft in the air in Smart Alec fashion as though shouting, I know what you are going to lead! And my card is ready! All mannerisms that attract attention are in the long run equally unpleasanteven unendurable to ones companions.
The good loser makes it an invariable rule never to play for stakes that it will be inconvenient to lose. The neglect of this rule has been responsible for more bad losers than anything else, and needless to say a bad loser is about as welcome at a card table as rain at a picnic.
Of course there are people who can take losses beyond their means with perfect cheerfulness and composure. Some few are so imbued with the gamblers instinct that a heavy turn of luck, in either direction, is the salt of life. But the average person is equally embarrassed in winning or losing a stake that matters and the only answer is to play for one that doesnt.
Golf is a particularly severe strain upon the amiability of the average persons temper, and in no other game, except bridge, is serenity of disposition so essential. No one easily ruffled can keep a clear eye on the ball, and exasperation at lost balls seemingly bewitches successive ones into disappearing with the completeness and finality of puffs of smoke. In a race or other test of endurance a flare of anger might even help, but in golf it is safe to say that he who loses his temper is pretty sure to lose the game.
Golf players of course know the rules and observe them, but it quite often happens that idlers, having nothing better to do, walk out over a course and watch the players. If they know the players well, that is one thing, but they have no right to follow strangers. A player who is nervous is easily put off his game, especially if those watching him are so ill-bred as to make audible remarks. Those playing matches of course expect an audience, and erratic and nervous players ought not to go into tournamentsor at least not in two-ball foursomes where they are likely to handicap a partner.
The rule that you should not appoint yourself mentor holds good in golf as well as in bridge and every other game. Unless your advice is asked for, you should not instruct others how to hold their clubs or which ones to use, or how they ought to make the shot.
A young woman must on no account expect the man she happens to be playing with to make her presents of golf-balls, or to caddy for her, nor must she allow him to provide her with a caddy. If she cant afford to hire one of her own, she must either carry her own clubs or not play golf.
There are fixed rules for the playing of every gameand for proper conduct in every sport. The details of these rules must be studied in the books of the game, learned from instructors, or acquired by experience. A small boy perhaps learns to fish or swim by himself, but he is taught by his father or a guideat all events, some onehow and how not to hold a gun, cast a fly, or ride a horse. But apart from the technique of each sport, or the rules of each game, the etiquette or more correctly, the basic principles of good sportsmanship, are the same.
And to be a good sportsman, one must be a stoic and never show rancor in defeat, or triumph in victory, or irritation, no matter what annoyance is encountered. One who can not help sulking, or explaining, or protesting when the loser, or exulting when the winner, has no right to take part in games and contests.
A true sportsman is always a cheerful loser, a quiet winner, with a very frank appreciation of the admirable traits in others, which he seeks to emulate, and his own shortcomings, which he tries to improve.