Hundreds of all ages in the local area are picking up the game of bridge for the challenge and its social aspects.

Bridge isn’t any ordinary card game.

Many local enthusiasts, including Chris Leavitt of Henrietta, say the game is the perfect blend of social interaction and intellectual stimulation.

“I really like the people a lot,” said Leavitt, who took up one form of the game, duplicate bridge, a couple months ago. “I like the challenge. I play with people who know what they’re doing. We’re constantly learning.”

And duplicate bridge is big in the Rochester area, said Betty Ann Schmitz, of Webster, who has been playing bridge for 25 years.

There are games every day of the week and tournaments on weekends through the Rochester Area Bridge Association, she said. The biggest duplicate bridge game in Rochester is held on Tuesdays at Temple Sinai. The event can draw upwards of 40 tables, with four players per table.

“Bridge in Rochester is a fairly hidden pool,” said Cindy Reid, of Rochester, who has been playing for about five years. “About 800 people are involved in the Rochester duplicate scene. Bridge is a big deal.”

Getting involved
Schmitz suggests that anyone who is interested in learning more about duplicate bridge come to a game and sit with someone who knows how to play. Often, there is a lecture on how to play before games. Lessons, she said, are also a good way to introduce yourself to the game.

“They say it’s something you never, ever really learn,” said Schmitz. “You’re learning constantly. There is never one hand that is ever the same as the next.”

A duplicate game generally takes about three hours, she said. Each table is made up of two pairs. Players rotate from table to table through the game, so that by the end, everyone has played the same hands. In the end, the winners are determined among all the players.

Carol Krause, of Pittsford, was introduced to duplicate bridge about five years by a friend and said she is always improving.

“I learn every time I play,” she said.

Expanding its reach
Mary Lou Lawson, of Webster, learned how to play bridge in 1983, and five years later, received accreditation through the American Contract Bridge League. She has been teaching bridge ever since, including at local recreation centers and through private lessons.

“I like a game that involves strategy,” she said of her interest in the game. “I was always a math-oriented person. ... To me, there’s just nothing like the game. It’s part math, part logic, part reason.”

One of her goals is to get younger generations involved, and, to that end, she is looking to get bridge teachers into local schools. She already teaches to a bridge club at Pittsford-Sutherland High School, which was founded last year and has about 20 members.

“They get really passionate about the game when they learn,” said Lawson, adding that she is reaching out to other schools. “ ... I enjoy seeing their excitement and enjoy watching them work through the challenges involved and just their joy in playing the game.”

The club’s president, senior Kevin Mizes, said the game is not just for older generations — it has a lot to offer all ages.

“Bridge is just an interesting game,” said Mizes, who learned how to play from his parents. “It’s a fun thinking game. It’s more social than chess.”

Junior Marc Colby knew very little about bridge before he joined the club, but said it is similar to euchre, which he had played before. He enjoys it, in part, for the social aspect.

“A lot of my friends do it,” he said, adding, “Everyone gets very intense. ... We’re not really that stoic. It’s a lot of fun, and you definitely learn the basics.”