Playing Cards with the Bridge Club at Georgia Tech

Players concentrate with laser sharp focus as they strategize their next moves. While Bridge is not as popular as it was in its heyday during the 1940s, it remains a timeless American pastime. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

The Bridge Club at Georgia Tech  (GT Bridge Club) hosted their annual open house event on Feb. 1 in the John Lewis Student Center. 

Bridge is a four-person card game played in competing partnerships of two. 

Known as a trick-taking game, players play one card from their hand into the center area, which is then “won” in a series of finite turns by the other players per game rules. 

At its peak popularity in the 1940s, nearly 44% of all American households played the game. Still, bridge is one the most widely played card games, requiring analytical concentration, flexible strategy and the ability to read others well. 

Leo Xu, third-year CS and the current president, explains the persevering and unique history of the club.

“I know the club was first founded sometime in the 1950s when bridge was really popular back then and my understanding is that the game lost popularity, so it kind of disbanded for a while and then it was rechartered again in 2009 and since then it has been going strong,” Xu said.  

Besides weekly game sessions, the GT Bridge Club competes in various regional and national tournaments throughout the year. Just this past summer, four of the club’s competing members won first place in the teams and pairs championships at the North American Collegiate Bridge Bowl, the premier bridge competition on the college level. 

“Bridge is not the most popular amongst like college students, so it’s also hard to find people in your college, but I think it kind of speaks to our club and that we have a team of really talented individuals all at our school that play under Georgia Tech and so we we have a really good team for that,” Xu said.

The GT Bridge Club not only participates in various tournaments and competitions, but hosts such events as well. As president, Xu has been working on
organizing a tournament next. 

“I mean one thing right now that I feel has been a big success is the tournament that we’re running and so just kind of trying to grow each and every year. Last year we had an attendance record, and this year we’re projecting attendance records with the schools that are attending,” Xu said. 

University of Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Georgia and University of Wisconsin-Madison are all set to attend the upcoming tournament here at Tech.

While the tournament and club feature of bridge is prominent, many others play bridge as a social activity. The teamwork aspect of it appeals to casual card players of different levels and styles as well. 

“I’m here to have fun and treat it as a social thing. I do think my main goal would be this kind of outreach at Georgia Tech: get more people playing bridge again, get more people coming to our meetings and socializing. Of course I also understand the importance of having a presence in our local community. There’s an Atlanta Bridge Club that we’ll go to every Saturday, we’ll send some members just to play there,” Xu said.

Although Xu is now the president of the club, he started out at Tech without any previous experience in playing bridge.

“For me personally, at home with my family, we like to play a lot of card games … so when I came to college I was specifically looking for a place like a club that was like ‘hey we just play games, to socialize and play through something’ … I didn’t know how to play bridge beforehand, I just showed up, learned how to play, got through kind of like the bumpy part of the beginning and I really enjoyed it, so I kept showing up to the meetings and here we are,” Xu said.

Xu emphasized the open and social nature of card games and the club. Their weekly games are low pressure so no matter one’s skill level, anyone is welcome to stop by to learn, play or meet new people.

“We will absolutely teach anyone who comes in. The rules aren’t the hardest but there’s a lot of nuance behind it … that’ll all come naturally to anyone who wants to join the club and its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. A lot of times we’ll have new players playing and they’ll get stuck and we have people kind of wandering around being like ‘oh let me help you out’ …  I would encourage anyone to at least try it and show up. I think it’s a very friendly environment to just have fun,” Xu said.

Card games are a classic way to socialize and exercise one’s mind in a comfortable and low-stakes setting. Spending an afternoon playing or learning with the GT Bridge Club can be a great space for Jackets looking to try out a new hobby and meet people. 

Meetings for GT Bridge Club normally take place on Thursdays  from 6-9 p.m. and Fridays from 3-6 p.m.  in the Rafael Bras meeting room in the John Lewis Student Center.