Squeezing The Dummy

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Love of The Game

A reporter recently asked me two questions that I had surprisingly never thought about.

1) Why did you choose to be a bridge professional?
2) Why is your goal to become the best player in the world?

Answering question #1 was easier. The main reason is simple; I love bridge. I truly think it is the greatest game in the world. No matter how long you play it never becomes boring and you never master it. Every hand and auction has a certain beauty about it. The game challenges me, stimulates me, and affects my thinking in other areas of life. I find myself completely infatuated with the game and its intricacies.

I also love to compete. Those who know me know that my main goal in pretty much everything is to win. It doesn't matter if you are my best friend or a family member, when I sit down against you I am hoping to kill you. I expect the same from others. There is something about competing that just gets my juices going and makes me feel alive.

Working a 9-5 job, I just feel like I'm going through the motions. It felt the same way in school, completely monotonous. That is not a good feeling and not the way I want to spend my life. A 9-5 job is just not for me. Sure, I could probably make much more money being a lawyer or programmer, but what good is it if I feel bored and unhappy? Money to me is just a means to live, as long as I can make enough to live playing bridge the rest is extraneous.

Some people have speculated that after playing pro for many years I will become bored or that I will look back on my life and feel like it was empty. This may be true, but this is also true of almost every profession. It's impossible to tell the future, but I do think it is unlikely that this will happen.

Question #2 was a little bit tougher to answer, but I think it is closely related to my answer in question #1. I am very competitive, and if I am going to dedicate my time and life to something I want to be the best. Not one of the best, but the best. I'm sure many lawyers want to be at the top of their field, and professional athletes want to achieve greatness. There is just some internal drive in me to reach the top. Will I feel like I have failed if I become the great player but not the best in the world? It's hard to say, but I think if I try my hardest and know that I did and someone happens to be better I will feel successful. The real failure would not be trying my hardest and having my game stagnate.

I think about, write about, talk about, read about, and play bridge every day. I try to do so with an open mind, willing to learn to things and discover that I have been wrong about certain things. I think if I keep this attitude I will be able to achieve my goal. Natural talent is necessary, but I think (hope?) that I have it. I do realize that other people probably have the same goal as me, and we can not all be the best.

I also realize that it's hard or impossible to determine who the best really is. Many would claim Jeff Meckstroth is, very reasonably so, even though circumstances have not permitted him to hold the number one ranking in the world. It is hard to measure, and I will never really know so perhaps being "one of the best" is a more measurable thing to attain.

I think this is a good question for everyone to think about. To make it more applicable to most people I would ask what are your goals in bridge and why? Are you doing everything you can to achieve them?



  • Ah - True Confessions of a bridge player - I like it.

    Some unsolicited advice:

    Don't get too 'top-heavy' in anything in your life: bridge, relationships, work, school, whatever. Stay well rounded in certain areas. Rodwell is a great piano player; Meckstroth likes golf, etc.. Staying 100% on bridge is a sure path to burnout and besides, it makes you a dull person.

    Developing your bridge skills will actually pay off in other ways. You have strong analytical skills and your instincts are sharp too. And if you want to get the best out of CHO, you have to understand how to settle conflicts as well. If you ever decided to get a 9 to 5 job, you are better prepared than you might realize. Many bridge players have done well in the options market; for some reason bridge skills carry over well. - Phil

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/13/06, 1:37 PM  

  • Unsolicited seems to be the key word there.

    By Blogger Justin Lall, at 1/13/06, 3:33 PM  

  • I agree with you that it seems impossible to determine the best player in bridge. It may be possible to determine the best partnership, but even that is very hard as many of the worlds most important events are team events.

    So as the goal of becoming the worlds best bridge player seems hard to test, I wonder if you have made some concrete goals for the next few years. I can think of goals as "winning the bermuda bowl in X years", "playing on the US Bermuda bowl team in Y years" or even "Becoming part of a team that has the potential to win a Bermuda Bowl in Z years". Of course, the last one is somehow less concrete than the former two, but I'm sure that you have given more thought to these questions than I have.

    Is there anything you would be willing to tell us/me about concrete goals you have made for yourself?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/13/06, 5:41 PM  

  • Oh well, you can lead a horse to water....


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/13/06, 7:04 PM  

  • I was totally obsessed with bridge but gave it up at the age of 17, as I realised I was highly unlikely to complete my university education if I continued playing.

    That I did so is my biggest regret, but am glad to report that after a 20 year break I am now completely re-obsessed with bridge.

    I watched you play (on BBO) and admired your skill before I realised your relative youth (Before I found out your age I remember reading your table-talk and thinking to myself "They sound young" but being unable to mentally reconcile it with the quality of your play). So I just want you to know that there one random soul out there that wants you to achieve everything in the world of bridge as much as you do, and will be following your career with genuine interest.

    And a final thought - being well-rounded is over-rated. It is something people who have achieved nothing of any note console themselves with.

    Matt Geare

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/13/06, 9:47 PM  

  • Han: I have concrete goals but I have no timeline. Much of becoming a part of the bermuda bowl team is based on circumstance, what client hires you and who else they hire, etc. Greco and Hampson have easily been able to compete at that level for years but were just now able to be on a team that could win the trials. Sometimes bridge isn't fair that way, but that's life.

    Phil: I actually have a 9-5 job right now temporarily. I have had it for about 9 months now (longer than the project was expected to last). I am a consultant so I am able to play bridge tournaments guilt free. As for being well rounded...of course I also play poker when I don't play bridge :P

    Matt: Thank you for the sentiment

    By Blogger Justin Lall, at 1/13/06, 9:55 PM  

  • Hi

    While i admire your goal to be the best, I am sure that there are couple of hundred players , if not more in the world who play bridge as well or better then you, and probably have the same goal. Why do you think it has to be you. It is probably something to come with with good fortune too. Will you be happy if you win Bermuda Bowl one year, or be in the top 10 in the world? Or that will not give you complete satisfaction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/16/06, 2:36 AM  

  • Very good, Justin!
    Marv Migdol

    By Blogger mmigdol, at 1/19/06, 2:47 PM  

  • Part of growing up and growing older is learning to take criticism and advice. Justin doesn't seem to want any of that. Let the boy become a man.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/22/06, 11:28 AM  

  • Ironic that you post that anonymously. I guess some never grow up?

    By Blogger Justin Lall, at 1/23/06, 3:17 PM  

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