I’ve recently been reading Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca to my children, and while it’s every bit as enjoyable as I remember, I’ve been bristling with embarrassment at the unflattering references to bridge in the first few chapters. The narrator is a paid companion to the grotesquely snobby Mrs van Hopper, who, we are told several times, loves nothing more than passing her evenings with her equally snobby circle of friends playing — well, your and my favourite game.
Yet again, I found myself wishing that I’d chosen the altogether cooler game of poker, which has never suffered such stereotypical slurs. But would I really have preferred it? Although the two games have much in common, I’m convinced that bridge is ultimately the more complex and skilful. Moreover, it can be just as exciting in terms of dare and bluff. The American bridge star Steve Weinstein — also a professional poker player — often demonstrates the point, bringing a thrilling psychological edge to both games. Take this hand from a Las Vegas regional tournament (Weinstein was West):
Weinstein and his partner Bobby Levin were as obstructive as possible in the bidding, but NS nevertheless reached a grand slam, which, as you can see, makes on a trump finesse. At least, it was going to make — until Weinstein led the ♥3! Declarer, never believing he would lead away from the queen, rose with the ♥A and cashed the ♥K. One down. Put that in your hat, Mrs du Maurier!