It has been a while since I wrote anything about bridge. Part of that is that I have not been playing or directing for some time.
I have debated whether or not to talk about this, as I am not sure anyone is really interested. However, I realized that if I do write about it, people can just ignore the post — assuming anyone knows it exists in the first place!
The issue revolves around why I play the game and have occasionally taught and directed games. I have played bridge, off and on, all my adult life (with a 15-year hiatus early in my working career). I play bridge because it is a fascinating and addicting game. Also, I am not very good at socializing and playing bridge has given me an opportunity to meet and interact with people.
Like most bridge players, I like to win and generally try my best, but it is more important to me to have a pleasant experience. I thought that I was meeting a lot of people who felt the same way, but I realized that many of those people are caught up in the Masterpoint game, whether they admit it or not. That saddens me.
While Masterpoints are not quite “Reward Miles”, they are not that far off. Professional bridge players who have devoted their lives to playing professionally, amass tens of thousands of Masterpoints. I am, of course, discussing Zone 2 of the World Bridge Federation whose bridge organization is the ACBL (the United States’ “National Bridge Organization“ is the USBF). As an aside, there are three countries that are part of Zone 2: Canada, Mexico and the USA. Contrarary to some people’s belief, Bermuda is not part of Zone 2 (it competes internationally as part of Zone 5) — it does, however, maintain an “affiliation” with the ACBL (as Unit 198). The Virgin Islands is in exactly the same strange situation.
I wonder if Bermuda and The Virgin Islands maintain their ACBL affiliation so their memberships can continue to pursue the almighty Masterpoint?
Many, many people have written about the value of Masterpoints inflating wildly over the years — 40 years ago, even in a large club game, one would receive Masterpoint slips for 0.08 MP or 0.15 MP with higher awards being 0.71 MP (or whatever). The current situtation is that, using stratification, people earn more than that for below average performances!
The other thing that bothers me, and has also been reported extensively, is that Masterpoints are an ACBL marketing scheme. Now they have always been a marketing ploy, much like suprise toys in cereal boxes; however, the analogy with coloured credit cards is hard to miss: basic, silver, gold and platinum cards. Pigmented Masterpoints are used to promote ACBL marketing — to get players out to Sectional, Regional and National bridge tournaments. Though even that has been watered down, with “special” club games awarding red, silver and even gold points.
I find the local bridge scene revolving around Masterpoints and not bridge to be depressing. It makes me reluctant to play bridge.