Gene Marks – Ruby Life Master
My dad taught me the basics of bridge when I was about 16. I taught my friend, Billy Ullman and together we taught two others. From there the game grew to four tables at school lunch and from there Billy and I started playing duplicate at the Roger Smith hotel in White Plains. There were some very good players there (Ron Gerard, Dorothy Hayden, Allen Truscott to name just a few) but we were too inexperienced to be petrified. Eventually we began traveling to regionals (I can remember a section top in Asbury Park) but we just loved the game. After graduating from high school, I began attending Adelphi University in Garden City, New York where I fell under the thrall of a 25 year old sophomore, with a car. We were within an hour of a dozen clubs on Long Island and I found myself playing more bridge than studying and soon began missing classes and exams. After one semester, I flunked out of college because of my bridge playing. This became even more serious when I was drafted into the army (this was 1966 and Vietnam was my probable destination). However, I lucked out and wound up in an army band in Japan. After the army, I went to Syracuse university where I managed to keep my bridge playing under check enough to graduate in 1973.
After banging around for a while, I found myself in the restaurant business and wishing to expand on that, I attended the culinary institute of America, graduating in 1978. By 1981, I was first hired as a Chef. Being a chef and the father of 3 children left me little time to play bridge and rarely would I have the opportunity to head out of town to play in sectionals, regionals or nationals but one year, some buddies and I qualified for a National in Toronto and even though we were very low ranked, we managed a win against a team headed by Barry Rigal and got our first platinum points. However, those opportunities to play at a high level were rare and there were years where I was lucky if I got to play once a week. It took me till around 2000 for me to become a life master.
In 2019, after over 40 years in the restaurant business, I was finally free to play on my schedule. This past few years, I have felt like my bridge skills had never been better and I went to the Nationals in New Orleans with every confidence that I would do well. Playing with a friend who had been a teammate in the past but rarely a partner, we did so poorly on the first day of a qualifying event that I was ready to quit. After a below average first round, we managed a 54% on the second, qualifying us 59th out of 80 pairs or so. To complicate things a bit, I managed to rupture my Achilles tendon the week before. In any case, we got our heads back in the game and finished with the top score of the third round. On the fourth round we had a decent game and wound up finishing 7th out of the 162 pairs who started the competition; good for over 33 platinum points against a pretty damn good field. Two days later, my regular partner and I finished with the top score out of 124 pairs, good for over 37 gold points.
I love the competition that a national tournament offers. Playing a club game rarely is a good measure of your skill since a mixed field of skill sets tends to give more random results. Your mind wanders as you wonder what your opponent could possibly be thinking as you wait for 15 or 20 seconds for them to open a no trump or pass or play the jack of diamonds. Playing against the best competition forces you to utilize all your skills and if your mind wanders, you lose. I love that my game continues to improve and, at almost 77 years old and having played bridge for over 60 years, I still find it as exciting and interesting as I did when I was 16.