Bridge isn’t a game you can get good at quickly. It takes years to reach a reasonable standard — far longer if you don’t practice continually. Of course, some people get there quicker than others. Claire Robinson is one of them. I first met Claire about four years ago; she’d only been playing for two or three years — a novice in bridge terms — and I was struck by how good she already was.
Since then, we’ve teamed up a few times and she just gets better. What really makes the difference is that she was a dedicated poker player (and casino dealer) before taking up bridge. So she’s not just well-practiced in counting cards and calculating odds — she’s also skilled at ‘reading’ people. Take this hand from a Swiss Pairs tournament.
West led the ♥6 and Claire won East’s ♥9 with the ♥A (ducking would risk a spade switch). Next she cashed three clubs, and when East discarded the ♦5, she asked about his carding. She knew East to be a wily player, and she noted that his answer — ‘standard count’ (meaning high/low with an even number) — was just a bit too keen and emphatic.
Sniffing a rat, she cashed her last club (East discarding a spade), and instead of playing diamonds to be 3-3 like everyone else, backed her judgment with a spectacular play: she ran the ♦10! Who can blame West for not covering? A doomed contract suddenly made with an overtrick.