Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bridge Players' Egos and the Ranking System

Bridge players have big egos and they need their egos petted regularly or they’ll go insane. Well, most bridge players already are a bit insane but that’s beside the point. As a whole, the people that make up the bridge community are a very bright and scholarly people who love mind games and for the most part do not have great social skills. Such people tend to get more joy from solving problems than from social pleasantries.


When you go out to dinner or drinks with bridge players, each player wants to talk about the hands that he or she did well on or complain about getting bad scores by opponents who didn’t know what they were doing but got a good score against you anyway. It’s an endless cycle of trying to convince others that you are better than other think you are. It’s really just human nature, though.


Since masterpoints are largely a longevity thing and cannot be lost, it’s difficult to use that as a basis for who is better. Discussion has been around for awhile about changing or adding a second system for bridge ratings/stratification not unlike what they do in chess or scrabble where you have a rating that fluctuates based on recent performance. It has never gained much popularity in bridge. Is that because people would no longer be able to make claims that he is better than someone else who has a higher ranking for there would be a clear ranking system based upon actual table results from several games to show otherwise? I think bridge players like the uncertainty of a vague ranking system and like the idea that once you’ve become a life master or a gold life master, that title cannot be taken away from you. In chess, your rating may go over 1200 but you have to maintain your play at that level to stay there. Does the thought of potentially losing ranking points scare bridge players?


In the last 5 or 6 months or so I have been compiling data from play on bridge base and have written a program to rate bridge players.  I’ve been tracking about 50 junior bridge players on bbo and the ratings take into account the rating of partner and the level of competition and who declared each hand. Partners and opponents not among the 50 players I actively track are assigned an arbitrary rating (which is slightly subjective) and random players and GIBs were initially assigned a rating of 500 but that rating has since dropped below 400 (on a scale of 0 to 1000) because the known players have consistently beat them. The top 3 or 4 are just who I expected would be at the top but there were a good bit of surprises in the middle. Clearly, this isn’t a great system since people don’t always play seriously on bbo but I really think my formulas are good.


Why? Because it’s interesting, because I have time, because I wanted to see whether my perception of other players was reasonable. I have also done this with games from the local club before and with college football. Come fall, look for my Asbury Computer college football rankings, in its 3rd season of existence, probably on my other blog. I’ll make those public while the bridge ratings probably will not get posted on here.


  1. The masses of bridge players who pay entry fees at local games and most tournaments are not very good at the game, and if there ratings were subject to decline, they would play less and acbl would make less money. Acbl goes with the bucks.