Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Jeff Bayone
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Let's take it further. Why not poll everyone? Where did they learn to play in the last five years?
Jan. 27, 2018
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Because I have some confidence that I know the answer.
Jan. 27, 2018
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Don't know that stat. But I do know that of the 2853 sanctioned clubs exactly half average 7 tables a week or less. So my guess is you are correct.
Jan. 27, 2018
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From forty years experience watching and running teaching programs, and from talks with many other club managers and owners from most parts of the country, I'd put the percent about where Steve Moese just did.John's comment is also correct. The question was flawed, but had to be.
That will bring me to my next question. See next post.
Steven's response was most interesting. It turned out to be spot on. Of the 300 views there were 31 responses. 9 of those responding, chose to abstain. My takeaway from the remaining 23 votes was the 16 who voted for 10% or less. 69% of you already know, or guessed correctly, what a huge uphill battle the League and the entire bridge community will be facing in the years to come.
Jan. 27, 2018
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A married couple at my club: KQtight
Jan. 24, 2018
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Kyle, a 45 year old empty nester has a life expectancy of 90 plus. If we capture her today ACBL will have her for the next 45 years. While she is playing, a large percentage of the 20 year old bridge players you were able to create will probably play for a couple of years, disappear to career and to raising a family, and 25 - 30 years later come back to bridge.
Point is we need to concentrate on both. They are equally important. 45 year olds sustain bridge clubs. Strong clubs will be able to offer programs for high school and college kids. Right now clubs are mostly break even propositions without the where-with-all to develop and sustain non profitable programs for children. Strong clubs, strong children's programs. Go seniors!!
Jan. 4, 2018
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Points inflation? I believe Hall of Fame Center,George Mikan,who recently passed away, made less money in his career then most star basketball players today make in a game.
Jan. 4, 2018
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Novice player, 20 points, 50 points, 100 points, Life Master. 1,000 points, 2,500 points. 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, etc. Expert.
These are goals people set for themselves. Is that so bad?

I agree, LM used to mean more than it does today. So did a dollar. Times change. But the meaning of Expert hasn't changed. An expert knows when they are playing against another expert. Points, schmoints, LM, non-LM. Why does this continue to be so important?

OK. it was harder for us back then. So what? Expert versus expert and let the games begin. EHAA. That's still what gets my juices flowing. Everything else is window dressing.
Jan. 2, 2018
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Saturday a woman called asking about getting back to bridge. She said she hadn't played since she got married and supposed the game had changed some since. I asked the usual first two questions, where did she learn to play and how often did she play? “College, once or twice a week.” I suggested she try social bridge to see what came back, since bridge is pretty much like riding a bike. Then I asked the third question, how long has it been since she last played? Ready? 1949. I keep track. She broke the previous mark by almost a decade. She's coming today to Jess' 9:45 session. Can't wait.
What's that do to the model?
Steve, you were away all of 20 years? Pretty wimpy.

I'm all for efforts to try to build a strong base starting with children. I think Kyle hit it on the nose. Times are different now. Kids are different. The culture is different. It will be a serious uphill struggle.

Honors is trying to start a parent and child (10 - 14) program this month. Not much interest yet. But it is a business model that might work. Even if we don't wind up drawing the child into the club, we may get the parent. It's a good one-two combination.

Yes, getting them at 10 is best. But getting them at 45 is not so bad either. That still leaves us with about 45 good years. All I'm saying is that from a club owner's perspective (bottom line) teaching adults makes a lot more immediate business sense than teaching kids. Immediate, as in the next 45 years. No matter what conclusions will be drawn from studies, individual businesses will continue to spend their limited resources on what's best for them short term.

Like I said, it will be an uphill struggle. The League still has close to 3,000 potential places to reach children. It's our member clubs. If going after this population is deemed critical, a business model that works, that makes good short term sense, needs to be developed.
Jan. 2, 2018
Jeff Bayone edited this comment Jan. 2, 2018
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When I ran a one section club, the director was responsible for making up the hands ahead of time. On the last round of the previous session our club players knew to put the finished boards into suits. This made it a whole lot easier to duplicate a set. The whole process took less than 45 minutes. An uninterrupted person could do it in under a half hour.
Dec. 16, 2017
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Len that's the average. Some members are 12 years old. That brings the average down quite a bit. The more useful number is the median age. Half above, half below. That's more accurate. And a whole lot scarier.
Nov. 28, 2017
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On setting goals.

Before we talk about growth.
Let's talk about shrinkage.
76 is the median age of our 180,000 members. I think that means that 90,00 are 76 and above. What's the median age of our players 76 and above? Can we guess it to be in the low 80's? In just 10 - 15 years the vast majority of these players will have stopped playing. That's an attrition rate of about 5,000 per year. Of the 90,000 below 76 let's say only 3% a year stop playing. That's another 2,700 a year. That brings the rate of attrition up to 7,700 a year.

So to keep the organization from imploding we need a 4.3% growth rate.

I just learned that new member 3-year retention rate is 61%. 4.3% now becomes 7%. (10/6 of 4.3).

7% of 180,000 = 12,600.

Now a 5% increase (growth) would require 10/6 x 5% = 8% additional or another 14,400 new members.

12.6 plus 14.4 = 27,000 new members per year to yield a 5% sustained growth rate.

Anyone know how many students you have to teach to create just one open duplicate player? It's between 20 and 30. And that number's been steady for at least the last 25 years. Let's be conservative and use the 20 figure. 20 times 27,000 = 540,000.

Call it an even 500,000. That's how many students we need to teach each and every year to hope to achieve a sustained 5% rate of growth.

So if we need a concrete number in order to set a goal, we now have one.
Nov. 26, 2017
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Not yet ready to weigh in completely. One point though…with the median age of our members in the mid to high 70's, the three year retention rate may have more to do with their advancing age then with anything we could hope to do to try to affect retaining them.
Nov. 26, 2017
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Let me try to shed some light.
But before I do, I just want to let you know why I waited so long to comment. I've been too busy.
That damn REACH event. Bahar and Jay are completely to blame. They purposely scheduled it at the busiest time of the year for most clubs and they chose the five busiest sessions, weekday afternoons. We were jammed. We're just getting out from under.

About ten days before REACH week I asked Jay to give me his best guess on how big a sample he hoped he would be getting. Between 300 and 400 was what he said. He told me in order to get enough data, he had to have at least that size sampling. He and Bahar chose weekday afternoons because of their popularity. They chose late October because of its popularity. They selected 11 Districts hoping to be able to interest enough clubs to try something out of the box.

Well he got his “between 300 and 400” players alright. He got all 300 plus from Jordan's and Honors' by themselves. Just our two clubs would have been enough to put him over that threshold. But who knew? Who knew of the pent up longings of the nearly 2,000 players, many with zero Gold on their resume, who would eventually make up this event? Who could have anticipated REACH's amazing popularity when the practice session, held just a few weeks prior to the main event, met with so little interest? And it was free!!

So that's why the 11 Districts. The next time this experiment is run maybe they intend on using the remaining 14 Districts and maybe they'll be trying this event out at night and maybe there will be a different method of awarding points, of explaining how it works, of advertising it.

Reach has weak spots. It needs a few more roll outs. A few more tweaks. But it was fun for the players. Exciting and new.

Will it effect Regional attendance? Perhaps. It could be a trade off. Attendance might be counterfeited. Clubs gain, tournaments lose. But is this so bad? The pendulum for the past 40 years has swung in only one direction. From the clubs to the tournaments. Maybe the best thing REACH can do is start the process of restoring equity between clubs and tournaments. Without a strong teaching base, tournaments won't just get smaller, they will die. Developing a new generation of bridge players should be at the top of everyone's list. Top down, the bridge world hasn't done such a good job of creating players for several generations. Programs like REACH, designed to help support clubs of all sizes, will help pump much needed resources into the grassroots portion of our organization. The organization's “life blood”. With the added resources, and the prospect of a brighter future, we can hope that clubs will be inspired, and have the where-with-all, to build better and stronger teaching and developing programs, programs vital to the organization, but rarely programs that positively affect a club's bottom line.
Nov. 24, 2017
Jeff Bayone edited this comment Nov. 25, 2017
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Honors Bridge Club and professionalism.

I'm going out on a limb here but I don't think there is another club in the world quite like ours when it comes to the sheer number of professional players that daily offer their services mornings, afternoons and evenings in our open games. Thirty to forty a day, some playing two sessions, sounds about right.

All levels of pros too, and for at least three very different reasons: Either their partners mainly want to learn, mainly want to practice for major tournaments, or maybe simply want to add substantially to their master point totals.
The club is a microcosm of the ACBl. Every issue Gary raises we deal with on a daily basis. Seeding, cheating (the taking inference kind) intimidating, you name it. It's awful and wonderful at the same time. Awful for the reasons stated, and for the fact that the pros do earn a large percentage of the points. Wonderful because everyone gets to play against them. We all get to watch and learn from Barry Rigal, Joe Grue, John Hurd, Joel Wooldridge, Augie Boehm. The list is a mile long. Imagine my delight when I presented Joel with a bidding problem that had some of us lesser “experts” puzzled. I got chapter and verse on the history of that bid, how this or that expert pair treated it, and where and when it last appeared in competition. You can't beat it.

I don't know if I'm being helpful. I haven't competed seriously since the 80's and the professional world was in its infancy then, so I can't weigh in on what's happening at the tournament level. But what we've done at the club about it, I can tell you about. First we made the top section, our “White Section”, the one where most of the top pros choose to play, a handicapped event. And it's worked out great. Some intermediate players who chose to play there can get up to a very liberal 4-board handicap. They want points just like everyone else, but they want the challenge and the learning experience too. The handicapped White Section gives them both.

Intimidation. Just playing against Grue is intimidating. And he's the nicest guy in the world. Not the bridge world, the world.
So you're never going to be able to outlaw intimidation. We outlaw intimidating practices. We hear about them we put a stop to them. Period. We are a club first. Members must respect each other and adhere to courteous behavior or be gone. Once it's known that barring is a very real consequence of rudeness, rudeness ceases to be a problem.

Our two regular “yellow and green” open sections are stratified. Here is where the friction exists between pro and non-pro pairs. The pro/client pairs finish in the money a disproportionate percent of the time. We ask of the professional players who choose to play in these sections (actually it's their clients that do the choosing) that they adhere to the highest standards of professionalism. We demand that they play tough, but play straight with all that implies. Otherwise, we ask that they play only in our White section with those who know how to deal with their tactics.

A final note that speaks to the problem of having two ACBL Boards. As Gary pointed out, one's completely powerless.
Who agreed to this division in the first place? Who said, great idea, let's create a second board, make it five times larger than the first and give it not five times less power, but zero power?

Split the two boards. Let the BOG be responsive to the clubs and to the basic daily player/league issues and let the BOD perform its judiciary functions and deal with the tournament end of the business.

Tournaments versus clubs. One body hasn't kept these two competing forces in balance. It's not the size of that board that's the problem, it's that there really is only one board. Their members are overworked. I believe there were over 100 motions before the BOD in Toronto and a similar number in K.C. Way too many for one non-paid board to have to deal with and also be expected to have to deal with maybe 50 more club based motions that need to be thought through.
It shouldn't just be up to Bahar to speak for the clubs. A 125 member ACBL organization already exists that can, and probably would love to help. It just needs to be empowered.
Nov. 13, 2017
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The fix is in.
I hope it is.
God knows clubs need fixing. They're dying by the dozens. Our organization has lost a thousand of them in the past twenty years. The clubs are the engine. The “life blood”. There's precious little teaching going on in the whole country any more.

Clubs don't have the resources for it. We're a capitalist country. Let's start capitalizing on it. Honors has a dozen volunteers. Without them we couldn't offer all of the services and programs we have that help support the development of our new players. There is a place for volunteering in a viable organization. It's within a viable organization. It's not the organization itself.

We need to build profitable, sustainable bridge club businesses.
We need a model. One that rewards both the playing end and the teaching end. Without teaching, bridge dies. Without teaching centers, bridge dies.

Let's turn conspiracies around. Instead of looking for them, let's try creating them. Let's conspire to get this organization working as it should have been working all along. Not clubs against tournaments, but clubs with tournaments. We need a model that lets these two diametrically opposed forces come together.

Stand-alone tournaments kill club attendance. That is a fact. Clubs create the players that these tournaments need. That is a fact too.

What Bahar is trying to do is find a way out of this conundrum. RaC and NaC are just a start. Monetarily rewarding the clubs and teachers who create players that play in ACBL Sectionals, Regionals, and Nationals, need to be given consideration. So does profit sharing with clubs negatively impacted by tournaments in their area.

The clubs are where it all begins. That's a fact. Let's never lose sight of what should be the single most important topic on ACBL's, BoD's, BoG's agenda. Everything else is window dressing.
Nov. 12, 2017
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The first part is almost done. There are now over 1600 players signed on.
This coming week we get to see it implemented.

Len, Don,
Non-life masters, especially those who have a hard time getting to Regionals, will now have a window open to them. Daily 2-session events are also a huge turn-off to older players.

New players get a chance to taste Gold for the first time. Even Regional events don't offer Gold to our newest players until they can compete at a certain master-point level. Giving them a taste may give them a craving.

It's not one RaC, it's several. And an NaC or two also. One special event every two months feels about right. One might be just for evenings, another for weekends. To draw experienced players in (a huge percentage for this event were NLM's) why not offer Green points as they do for GNT events?

I project an additional 50 tables this coming week. Could have been more, but this time of year, while we don't sell out, we come close several afternoons, so we will be turning people away (to the non-teaching clubs that hadn't been affected). A rising tide…

An evening RaC could really be huge. Maybe 75 or more. A sixty table average six times a year comes to 360 tables. Cool amount. I just looked it up. It's the median amount of tables of all 2950 clubs in the country for ALL of last year. Half the clubs in the country had fewer than 360 tables last year. For almost all but a handful, 360 additional tables would mean at least a 10% increase.

For Honors, the total revenue from these events would come to a little less than 1.5% of our $2.5oo,ooo budget. A significant portion of our earnings come from teaching and social bridge play. Contrary to what you might have thought, for the larger clubs, it's not about the money, it's about the excitement.

BTW: We lose way more than 360 tables just during the two weeks when the NYC Regionals are in town. Because there is no nationwide system of revenue sharing, most major clubs find themselves in the awkward position of having to stay open in direct conflict with these tournaments. Income derived from RaC events could be diverted to the regional clubs being impacted on any given week by Regional and National tournaments in their area. And, in return, we'd be able to more fully support these tournaments. The club versus tournament conflict has been detrimental to both parties for too long. Above all else, this must end. A house divided can not stand.
Nov. 11, 2017
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It's Saturday morning, 2:00 am in NYC
I just woke from a nap. I needed it. What a week. More coming.

Over 1,400 players have registered for this RAC. More than 140 from my club alone. We're sold out Monday through Thursday. All sixty-odd tables. In all of October we may have sold out once or twice. My staff has been emailing players all week making sure those who have reservations for next week's five afternoon sessions intend on keeping them. Demand is so strong. We have waiting lists for three of those afternoons. Players emailing twice a day to see if their number's come up so they could get a seat. The excitement is palpable.

The other two open Manhattan clubs haven't experienced what we have. However, I do know that one of the private clubs, the Cosmopolitan Club, is also sold out with a waiting list.
Honors and the Cos Club are teaching clubs with large populations of developing players. Honors has 14 games a week for these developing players, from 0 -750 on down. The vast majority of our players who have signed on to this event come from these games.
It's not the area that draws, it's the teaching program.

“Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks”
That's exactly my business philosophy. I get an idea, run it by my staff, email and talk with my clientele and, if it feels right, I give it a try. More often than not, it's worked. Once in a while it flops. Maybe poor roll out, maybe poor timing. Maybe wasn't such a good idea in the first place, but it sure looked good on paper.
Point is, that's how you do it in business. You throw it against the wall.
For too long ACBL has not been a real business. It's been some 401 something or other. In ten years the median age of our players will be in the 80's. Bahar was brought in to prevent this from happening. Jay Whipple is trying his best too.
I for one applaud and support them. I'm also thrilled that finally some people from ACBL management and from the BoD are reaching out to the clubs for input and feedback. I've waited forty years for this to happen. I hope it's not too late.

Regionals..A double edged sword.

In 1976, when I started the Manhattan Bridge Club, we had a thriving weekend business. Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoon games. Would you believe, a Saturday evening game?! Sunday evenings we had to start chicken dinners to draw them in, so we did, and it worked. (Some of that greasy chicken may have stuck to the walls.) Then came the proliferation of the Regionals. This killed our entire weekend program and has continued to put a damper on it to this day. I'm not saying this alone has made it nearly impossible for a bridge club to be a profitable endeavor, but it sure hasn't helped. Landlords have a funny way of charging tenants even on days when business is bad or non-existent.

Players need Regional and National events. It's what gets their juices going. It's what sends them to my classes. I agree with Bahar and with Steve Moese, who happens to be at a Regional right now, we need to strike a balance. The ACBL is made up of tournaments AND clubs. One won't work without the other. Having my players be able to play in a sectional or regional within a two and a half hour drive of the club over 40 weeks a year is not a sustainable balance. Add in the 30 days for the Nationals and it's even more unbalanced.
Plus it cheapens these events, makes them less special.

The population of this country has increased enormously since 1976. The number of ACBL clubs has decreased enormously. The membership hasn't budged. It's only gotten way older.

So let's stop trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship may have already sailed.

I'm as stunned as anyone that this event has created such excitement. When this is over, we must reflect on what touched so many players, and bottle it.
Nov. 11, 2017
Jeff Bayone edited this comment Nov. 11, 2017

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