Top of the Morning, May 24, 2017

Top of the Morning, May 24, 2017

More than 400 players are expected to compete at this week's Illini Regional Bridge Tournament, which kicked off Tuesday night at the Hawthorn Suites in Champaign (three sessions per day through Monday). I asked Chairwoman Karen Walker if it gets rowdy.

"We're quite civilized and there are a lot of 'proprieties' we follow to keep the game ethical," she said. "Still, the players have fun. You'll see a lot of laughter at a tournament, especially at tables where the players know each other."

This week's lineup might include Hall of Famer Lou Henson, a regular at a tournament held in Champaign-Urbana since 1993.

"He's been playing for at least 60 years, and he gets better every year," Walker said.

If I practiced really hard, could I beat him?

No, but Coach is such a nice guy that I wouldn't be surprised if he would let you beat him.

How many years does it take to get good at bridge?

If you're serious about it, maybe a year to become "goodish." "Great" is almost impossible, although I've spent more than 40 years trying to get there. It's a game that can never be mastered.

What do bridge players like to do when they're not playing cards?

There are lots of Illini fans at our local club. A good number of movie and TV buffs, too. Trending now is the third season of "Fargo" on FX, which features the main characters competing at a regional bridge tournament.

The secret to being a good player is ...

Have a good partner — ideally one better than you. It's the fastest way to learn.

Can nonplayers come watch?

Yes. They're called kibitzers.

What should we look for?

Pick out someone who looks like a good player (their swagger will give them away) and pull up a chair. Feel free to ask questions after a hand is over (the players will be flattered).

Is there much trash-talking during games?

Yes, among old friends. We don't taunt strangers or beginners, though.

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