Bridging the gap: Robins engineer introducing old game to new generation

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78 ABW/PA
Many card players are under the impression that bridge is for old ladies, and one Robins employee is working hard to change that image.

Andre Asbury, a 24-year-old master bridge player, thinks the stigma of bridge being a game just for old timers is perpetuated by people who don't really know much about the game or haven't really given it a chance.

"People who say that it's just for old people don't know what a complicated and intense game it can be," Mr. Asbury said. "It's a very competitive and challenging game."

Mr. Asbury, an electrical engineer in the 579th Software Maintenance Squadron, started playing bridge when he was 14. He and a friend were looking for something to do, so he made his father, an experienced player, teach him. He discovered he had a natural talent for the game.

"My father had been playing for 20 or 30 years and six months after he taught me, I was teaching him stuff," Mr. Asbury said.

In 2008, he won a national championship in the under-26 category and was on one of six partnerships to represent the United States in an international tournament in Poland. Since then, he's been diligently working to grow interest in the game, particularly among youth.

While living in Atlanta, he started running bridge camps for middle school students, a program he'd like to start in Warner Robins.

In the spring, he offered a free eight-week bridge course at the Robins Community Center. This fall, he will be teaching a free, start-from-scratch beginning bridge class Mondays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the local bridge club, the Robins Duplicate Bridge Club at 151 Maple St.

Ruth Suggs, manager of the RDBC, said she is grateful to have someone with Mr. Asbury's enthusiasm for the game actively promoting it among the local population.

"He really is an asset to our club," she said. "He's a great teacher with a strong desire to see interest in bridge grow."

She said while bridge is a game for all ages, the reason it's becoming more popular among children is that they are "begging for something to occupy their minds."

Mr. Asbury said bridge has declined in popularity because of all the other forms of entertainment readily available, like video games, movies, television, and other popular card games like poker.

"Those are things you can pick up and enjoy almost immediately, whereas with bridge, it takes several hours, days, even weeks and months to be able to play well," he said. "Bridge is a whole lot harder to learn than card games most people are familiar with, like poker or spades or pinochle."

In addition to challenging the mind, it's a great social activity.

Mr. Asbury said he loves to travel and meet new people, a luxury he might not be able to justify if it wasn't tied to his hobby.

"Playing tournament bridge gives me an excuse to travel," he said. "Sometimes I feel like traveling just for the sake of traveling is unjustified, but to go to Las Vegas or Washington or Chicago for a national bridge tournament, or even to Augusta or Jekyll Island for a small tournament, makes it seem worthwhile."

He said people with young families may not have the time to devote to bridge that the elderly have, but that shouldn't be a deterrent, as bridge can be an enjoyable and stimulating family activity. It can also be a way to introduce mathematical concepts to juniors, such as probability, percentages, data analysis, reasoning, assessing value and problem solving.