What started in Ruby Mantle’s living room 62 years ago as simply a fundraiser remains the go-to institution for bridge players across the peninsula.
The Sequim Duplicate Bridge Club brings competitive card players twice a week to the Sequim Masonic Lodge from 12:30-4 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.
Sequim always had avid party bridge players, Mantle said, but never duplicate bridge players, so she introduced the game as a fundraiser for Sequim students one night in her home.
“That year the state was broke and eliminated kindergarten from schools,” Mantle said. “I had a kid in kindergarten that year, so we had a private kindergarten, which was very successful. We charged $5 a month for those who could pay and those who couldn’t came anyway.”
As for the first organized duplicate bridge in Sequim, Mantle said it was an instant hit.
“They enjoyed it so much they asked to play it again,” she said.
Mantle took a 40-year break from the club for work, but she rejoined and continues to attend and compete.
“The club has always been very successful and always had 12 tables or so,” Mantle said.
Several duplicate bridge players said their game is more complex than popular American card games like poker and even party bridge.
In duplicate bridge, teams of two compete against one another at different tables using bridgeboards, aka four-way cardholders. The cards remain the same in each board and move down a table while east/west players move up after a round. Players earn Life Master points, in an American Contract Bridge League scoring system, by scoring highest and/or among the best against other east/west and north/south pairs.
“It’s not a game of who wins or loses at one hand,” Mantle said. “It’s how they do against other east/west and north/south players.”
Sequim duplicate bridge players are dedicated to their hobby. They play all holidays except Christmas and some travel from Brinnon or Lake Sutherland to play.
Most travel within the Sequim area, including Carol Keller, whom many in the club describe as one of the best players. Keller said she and her husband purposely moved to Sequim 10 years ago because it has a good bridge club.
“I’ve played longer than most. I started in high school,” Keller said.
Her husband doesn’t play in the club anymore, but she said it’s not common for husbands and wives to pair up because of the competitive nature that exists.
Her suggestion to newbies is to “Just get in there and play.”
Bonnie Broders is relatively new to the club after learning duplicate bridge a little more than two years ago.
“I home-schooled four boys and my last one is finally off to college, so I wanted something else to do other than clean house and do the yard,” Broders said. “I had a cousin who suggested the club.”
Since then, Broders has been quite successful in the club. With two friends, she has developed what she says some feel is a “controversial” yet legal method of playing.
“It’s totally different than how any one else in the club bids (an early step in duplicate bridge rounds),” she said.
“We work hard to make sure it works. We study it compulsively. The system doesn’t have any magic to it. We just work hard to do very well.”
Pairs can choose many strategies and often in the quiet lull of the game room, pockets of chatter arise after a bridge round between teammates and opponents, discussing successes and mistakes.
“Sequim has a lot of brilliant players,” Broders said. “It’s a great opportunity to play against the best anywhere.”
Despite the popularity of duplicate bridge in Sequim, the trend nationally is that the hobby is slowly going away, said card player Michael Walker of Port Ludlow. He said the American Contract Bridge League leads constant outreach to younger generations with scholarships and various programs to keep the game alive.
“Unfortunately, bridge is associated with an elderly population,” Walker said.
Most of the Sequim club members are retirees. The closest club with nighttime games for workers and students is the Port Townsend Duplicate Bridge Club, which meets at 6 p.m. Wednesdays.
Walker said the hobby is advantageous for children especially because of its math skills, like learning probabilities. At tournaments, children quickly can become professional players because of how fast they absorb information, he said.
Bridge player Vern Nunnally, of Sequim, said he learned duplicate bridge before he got out of the U.S. Navy in 1965, but always had been a card player.
“My family didn’t like playing with me when I was 5 or 6 because they didn’t like losing at canasta,” Nunnally joked.
He said most people feel the game helps their minds.
“I don’t know anyone getting Alzheimer’s or dementia that have played bridge,” he said. “I always learn something new each time I play. No other card games even interest me anymore.”
To play, the cost is $4 per person each session. There are no membership dues but a nominal fee to join the American Contract Bridge League. New players are welcome and can find more information at www.sequimbridge.com. Beginners lessons begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.