Cam French

Rashoman Redux


                                                   An Ode to Frank Vine







  A personal perspective into the ego-driven wild-west that is on-line bridge.





I find myself on-line with a random partner against and a couple of wanna-be experts sitting E/W. Now I have played these guys before, not sure if they were a partnership…but I have my both marked on my enemies list. The notation for LHO is “likes to bid with crap”.  RHO saw his name in print and now he imagines himself as Terrence. He plays OK. I just don’t like his attitude. I call him, “Mr. New York Times”. I don’t think so. I want to drill these guys. Pard is a no-name. Let’s hope he pays attention. I am sure I am the only real expert at this table.


So I pick up;







All Vul, IMPs and first to call. I open 1NT, (15-17) as who would not?  Hamman would concur.


The clown on my left takes at least two seconds and overcalls 2D. They play natural! Perforce no alert – they must be dinosaurs. Hope partner whacks him. That guy just loves to hear the sound of his own voice if I say so myself.





Well, I have played against the bozo on my right a couple of times. Have him marked on enemies’list as “likes to bid on air”. My “expert” partner prefers natural vs. NT, must be some kind of old geezer though he likes Lebensohl for some reason. I never did understand Leb that well. LHO never seen before. Convention card unrevealing. Everyone here overstates their level of ability. I am probably the only expert in this alleged all-expert game.


I hold:







Well you don’t win these games by going quietly into the night. My pard wants to play natural, versus no trump. Can you believe that? I have a natural bid. I bid 2D, as who would not? Nice to have natural available as with most of my usual partners want to play Capp or DON’T or some other obstructionist convention. I have a surprise or two and besides, I want to direct the lead. Oh, I will probably be on lead. Still, just in case. I learned from Barry Crane to be active. I like stirring the pot. Vulnerability is for children. Bergen and Cohen would applaud at my bid. Imps, shrimps!




Have my partner and LHO marked on my enemies’ list. Why did I sit? According to my notes my pard “hogs every hand and bids erratically” and LHO thinks he is the cat’s meow because TBW published his drivel a couple of times. He is always lecturing; he disdains conventions, save Lebensohl but always drills me. Drives me crazy! I am positive I am the best player at this table. Why did I sit? Will leave soon… probably after this hand.


The auction is


P            RHO       Me

1NT        2D*          ? 


*Natural  (LOL)


I hold:







Who in the hell plays natural versus NT anymore? I should whack him, but we probably have an easy game. I would like to use Lebensohl, but my “expert” partner doesn’t play it. Oddly my LHO loves it, and extols its virtues on his stats. So I bid a straightforward 3NT. Everyone who can follow suit knows Hamman’s rule. So I apply it. Will redouble to show faith.




Have LHO marked on my enemies list with this notation: “likes to skate on thin ice”. Personally I like that. And if you are Gretzky or Crosby (I am a Canadian after all) well more power to you. RHO I have marked as “play against”, I guess he is an easy mark. Don’t recall. These guys are more like Tie Domi and Sean Avery. Talks the talk, but can’t walk the walk. I love drilling these kinds of players. Would rather have a familiar partner, but on-line bridge is so hit and miss, never know what you might get. I like to make it easy for partner. That’s why I disdain conventions beyond the obvious, leads to problems. As far as I am concerned if they don’t play Leb – they are not an expert. I love it when they play Capp and DONT against me. Such conventions just give poor players a lousy reason to open their mouths; a temptation that they succumb to with predictable consistency.  


I hold:







And the auction is to me:


LHO     Pard        RHO     Me


1NT       2D*         3NT       ?  


A ten card suit! With allegedly a couple of balanced hands. Either LHO or RHO probably has clubs like rice. I paid my entry fee, well actually it’s free, but that is moot. I came to bid. I will make it if part has as little as xxxx  –  AQJxxx xxx; and really, can he have less? I bid a normal 4H, only to see a quick double (not unexpected) on my left. Ten card suits are meant to be played, Best 4 HCP had I have held in my life! Al Roth would concur after talking about a “scotch-drinking game” or a like insult. Points, smoints!




Mr. NYT on my right just bid 4H vulnerable! Christmas has come early. I will wager he thought it was Capp or Brozel or some other silly toy. I don’t care what my partner has; I have him in my own hand. I taste blood. The time has come to cut him down a notch. I am the best player at the table.


The auction is to me:


Me       LHO     Pard       RHO      

1NT      2D*      3NT        4H!!!





I hold:







I have to stop my pard from bidding more and punish these guys. I smell a toll-free (800) number.




My partner is a lunatic. Marking him on enemies list as we speak – notation –  Mr. No Convention when he remembers! Let him go for the number. I heard he thought he was a hot shot as he was published a couple of times…whoopee! I refuse to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. I had my bid. Let’s see how far short his falls. Nice to cut him down to size. Will leave after this carnage. Have him marked on enemies list, regardless of result and how can it be less than -800? Got to wait and see how harsh the punishment will be. This will be brutal. I am hoping for and frankly – expecting two sticks and two wheels, aggravation from a partner? I want to play against these wild men, not with them. I am the best player at the table.




Well, it looks good. Certainly I have my call. The bad trump break and off-side to boot bodes well for us. I predict toll-free but who knows? Sometimes these authors suffer from New York Times Syndrome and the ensuing slaughter is off the scale. This confirms (I mean partner could not even pass, clearly forcing) that I am the best player at the table.




Perhaps I should redouble. I will lose two trumps and a spade. Is it too much to ask that a vulnerable partner has the diamonds covered? Will they run? Not likely but possible. Would I care to defend a black suit? No, but my guess the ego which oozes at this table will preclude that. Will my partner run? Not worth the risk. Somewhere I read that the real expert will only redouble when he prefers that the opponents run. An interesting gambit, what shall we call it? The Beaver Tale? In any case, can’t risk a run out, better to play as declarer. I pass, albeit reluctantly.  


The deal in full.






7xxx                                                           X


AKxxx                                                        Tx

Qjxx                                                            –








S             W           N           E      


1NT        2D*        3NT       4H

Dble     All Pass


After chalking up the obvious 10 tricks for 790……and 15.9 Imps.





Lucky SOB! Ten card suit. I had my bids. Partner should have pulled. 4HCP!! It’s clear; I am the only expert here.




Lucky SOB! Ten card suit! LOL. Opps are seething. I can’t believe it. Glad I had my values. He only had 4HCP! Coming in vulnerable at the four level, must be out of his mind. Still, I can’t believe he made it. Does he have horseshoes? It’s obvious; I am the only expert at this table.  




Lucky bastard! What did I do to deserve this fate? My partner has to double in front of me. As if I didn’t hear him bid 1NT? Still the lucky SOB had a 10 card suit and a 4 count! Where do people learn to bid like this? Wish I knew. Still, I would rather he play with me than against. Nonetheless – he is a jerk, although no gloating yet, except from his groveling partner who justifies his wonderful “natural” 2D call. I am more positive than ever that I am the only expert here.




He overcalls 2D vulnerable on that pail! Wow. Still, as pathetic as it was, it sufficed. Maybe I can make this a story for TBW? Jeff’s readers might love this kind of stuff. But certainly – he doesn’t. He sees the bridge world inhabited solely by experts. He should try the internet, like a club game with all of S.J. Simon’s characters. The truth is, the MSC excepted, the bridge playing public, like golf or any sport has many participants and precious few of us are of expert calibre.


Maybe he will recognize my expertise herein. You never know. Somewhere somehow Frank Vine is smiling. And if you don’t know why, ask Jeff, not me. Then order some back issues from  If you are lucky, might get some Frank Vine material. You can also check out  and see a book of Frank Vine’s writings, fresh off the press. They are guaranteed to make you smile.


On-line bridge is like Vegas, a crap game, and I mean that in every sense of the word.


It is easy to play, tough to beat the house and only a pleasure if you can suffer through the occasional (partner and self-inflicted) carnage. And as one of Frank’s characters referred to a hasty conclusion, or in this case, (a poor result) “hasty conclusion like poisoned mushroom, easy to swallow, hard to digest.”




And by the way, I did give Jeff first crack. He declined. But he was kind enough to pass along insight that will allow me to target his audience with accuracy. Thanks Jeff.









Dave Memphis MOJONovember 10th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Quite humorous! One of the reasons it’s so funny is that I can see these people everytime I play online. Thanks for sharing.

LindaNovember 10th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

I agree. Funny and too true.

I need to make notes when I put people on my enemy’s list although I don’t usually put anyone on my enemy’s list just for being “not a real expert”. Usually they have to be rude, very rude.

Cam FrenchNovember 11th, 2008 at 2:34 am

I’m with Linda. Rudeness is what gets them onto the list, like leaving in mid-hand, almost always in the midst of a bad result. Drives me nuts. Imagine trying to do that at a tournament or in the midst of a rubber-bridge game with stakes at risk. Somehow the anonymity of the internet bestows the right of rudeness to all who need no help getting to that point. I might note that the majority of the jerks are of the male gender, no surprise there.

The ego, which we all know is part and parcel of the game, is out with full-force like a Peacock’s feathers blazing in their glory. I confess, I have a long enemies list. I always make a notation and it might be as benign as “nice, but no expert” or “leaves in mid-hand” or “jerk”. And then again it might be more graphic.

I was telling a friend of mine on the weekend that being an ego-driven is, for many of us (me included) part of the learning curve. You enjoy a couple of modest successes and imagine you are going to drill Zia in the next Kansas City Regional. Dream on.

One day another light goes on. You still – like Hilary, put your pants (or pant suits) on one leg at a time. Being a better player does not make you a better human being. In fact the lack of ego that comes with the novice and intermediate crowd is quite refreshing sometimes.

Of course some never emerge from the enlightened end of the learning curve. There are jerks in every aspect of life, and I dare say our game has more than its fair share. Do your part. Don’t accept it at your table, and teach that to your novice friends too.

Saying that reminded me of a local friend, one hell of a card player – the late Ben Paul who for some reason was called “Rookie”. Well, the Rook had a total lack of table decorum, imagining cheating, hesitations, flinches and wheezes, making the Warren Commission look like conspirators. He abused partners, kibitzers, directors and opponents with equal zeal.

One day he approached me before a game at the Royal York hotel in Toronto.

“You won’t believe what happened to me” he said.

“Try me.”

“Well I am playing with ###### and she passes me in a cue-bid!!!! We are cold for 3 slams playing in our 3-1 fit and the little old guy on my left takes a decade to lead. I mean, he was hesitating deliberately to piss me off. Finally I say lead something you twerp!”

“Rookie….How could you?”

You know what happened? Eventually I found myself in front of a Conducts and Ethics committee and they gave me an immediate 30 day suspension with a recommendation for 90 to be approved by the local idiot leadership. Can you believe that?”

And then, demonstrating the depth of his delusion he said:

“They wouldn’t give YOU that, if you had said it.”

“Perhaps. But a) I wouldn’t say it and b) I don’t know the committee members on a first name basis because I have been in front of them so many times before.”

I used to say the Rookie would be a superstar on intergalactic bridge where your partners were on different planets. The internet was perfect for his combustible personality.

Too bad so many of our players forget that decorum and politeness are intrinsic to the values of this game.

Still, we miss him, not his antics.


Luise LeeNovember 11th, 2008 at 3:58 am

I loved this story! It reminded me so much of sitting next to Colin watching him play online at BBO — he’s constantly sizing up the opponents and partners and pointing out all of the mistakes and errors that they made. Colin is OBVIOUSLY the only expert at the table… except, of course, when he’s playing with Linda 🙂

I don’t mess around with my ratings on BBO. I’ll rate as a beginner/intermediate for a long time. It’s just so much easier that way, no-one will expect me to be brilliant.

Malcolm EwashkiwNovember 11th, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Hilarious story, Cam. I’ve just recently started playing online (can you believe that?) and encountered a deadly duo the other night. I heard the bidding, starting on my left, go 2C-4C-7S all pass and decided there was no reason not to lead the ace of clubs. It held, down one. LHO shouted, “That’s not bridge”, and left the table. RHO held eight solid, 2-2-1. He probably could have done better. The shouter held x/AKQxxxx/AKJ/xx. LOL. It strikes me that this scenario might make a perfect “Rashomon” tale 🙂

Danny KleinmanNovember 17th, 2008 at 6:26 pm

I wouldn’t open 1NT holding S-AJ8x H-AQ D-Jxx C-Kxxx, even playing 15-17 notrumps (I much prefer a range of a good 15 to 18). The hand is worth only a good 14 HCP, as its two bare heart honors and short, stray jack of diamonds are both defects calling for downgrading. A 1C opening should be routine, especially as an easy rebid is available in spades.

John CunninghamMarch 31st, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Engaging, well crafted. SJ Simon, sure. But I can picture Mr6diamond and the boys in there. Keep writing, please.

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