District 13 - ACBL
How to Handle Behavior at the Club Game


Harriette Buckman, District 13 Director

At a recent "bridge luncheon" (eight women bridge players, lunch, no cards, you get the picture), there was a swapping of fun bridge stories until the subject turned to behavior at the table. A particular player's demeanor and attitude were called into question followed by some heated discussion. I asked if any one of the women had filled out a recorder form for submission to the unit, and I was met by seven blank stares.

By not taking some steps to reduce poor behavior at the table, we are enabling that behavior. In words of one syllable, we let the guy (or gal!) get away with it! Since the introduction of active ethics and zero tolerance, the bridge table has become a better place to be...for the most part. If these philosophies were in place over the years, we would not have lost dozens, perhaps hundreds, of folks who came to duplicate, tried it and swore never to return because someone turned them off. Duplicate bridge got a bad rap; the game suffered because of a person, not because of the game. Those of us who stuck around found this to be a wonderfully stimulating and challenging experience and are enjoying it to this day.

So what's the point? A club director either carries Recorder Forms (Player Memos) or has access to them through ACBLscore (in the Utilities section under printable forms) so a player can be provided with one when something untoward happens at the table. Directors are not always willing to confront a "customer" with a complaint, forgetting, of course, that the complainant is a customer, too. Expressions to the director of your dissatisfaction with one's behavior is certainly an option, but you don't have to rely on him/her to champion your cause.

By filling in and submitting a Player Memo to the Unit via the Unit's administrative secretary, it will be forwarded to the individual who is the Unit Recorder. That person has been charged with the responsibility of filing the memo and contacting the person in question to discuss the merit of the complaint. It is kept on file, and, if there is a paper trail of several incidents, the offender could become the focus of a Conduct and Ethics Committee hearing. [This sentence is for Unit 123: At the present time, Lavern Wiebe, CCBA President, is the Recorder, and Jim Burt is chair of the Unit's Conduct and Ethics Committee.] Their jobs are proscribed by and in accordance with the Code of Disciplinary Regulations of the American Contract Bridge League. It is a complex document that puts forth a system of due process for all parties involved. It is a constant work-in-progress, and this author has been a party to its recent rewrites.

In addition to the Unit's involvement, there is an appeals process available at the District level, so a player has the right to appeal a judgment made against him if he feels there is reason to do so. The District Appellate Committee, Dan Dennehy, chair, oversees appeals that arise from Unit Conduct and Ethics hearings. (The District Disciplinary Committee, Stan Katz, chair, handles original jurisdiction cases arising between units or events at District-sponsored events.) Beyond this, there is a National Appeals and Charges Committee which acts as the Supreme Court with a final nod to the Board of Directors of the League.

All of this has nothing to do with bridge appeals at tournaments. Those committees meet because of a dispute that has to do with the actual playing of the game.

We recognize the complexity of both the game and the people who play it. We are not automatons, and the flesh and bloodedness of the competitors sometimes makes for an adversarial situation at the table, but we are all expected to act like the ladies and gentlemen we are away from the table. The competitiveness of the game does not mean we should leave our best manners in the parking lot. In the final analysis, we are all responsible for the tenor of the game.

Don't let the bad guys prevail! If someone's mien at the table is not what it should be, do something about it. We'll all thank you.