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Twenty Famous Bridge Players

Bridge is the most popular trick-taking card game and is regularly played by millions of people around the world. It regularly appears in popular culture and is played by fictional characters such as James Bond and Snoopy. But which real-life celebrities play this game?

Well, there have actually been a number of famous figures over the years who play bridge. This includes billionaires, politicians and entertainers - some of whom are still alive and continue to be avid players.

Bridge is also known to have spawned many champions who have become famous within the world of bridge. If you’re hoping to take part in local bridge tournaments for the first time, it could be worth familiarizing yourself with some of the sport’s greatest players. This includes past champions and current champions.

Below you can check out some of the most famous players including its celebrity participants and champions.

Which celebrities play bridge?

Many iconic people are known to participate in bridge. Some are casal players, while others are known to take it very seriously. Some of these famous names include:

Bill Gates

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft back in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen. At one point, he was the richest man in the world. Alongside managing Microsoft, he has involved himself in a number of philanthropic causes and remains a prominent voice in the tech industry.

Despite all these ventures, Gates still finds time to regularly play bridge. In fact, he may be one of the most passionate celebrities, often speaking about his love of bridge and delivering many quotes including ‘bridge is the king of all card games’ and ‘bridge helps you think’. Gates started playing bridge as a child, which he attributes to helping build his intellect, and now plays at a high level - regularly playing with some of the top bridge players in the world.

Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet is a famous stock market guru and is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He has also previously held the title of richest man in the world, and is known for his many philanthropic ventures alongside his involvement in the stock market.

He is also a very passionate bridge player. In fact, he is known to have introduced Bill Gates to bridge tournaments and has played on the same team as Gates in the past. Nowadays, he rarely partakes in tournaments, but still regularly plays online bridge. On his love of the card game, he is quoted to have said: ‘bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players’.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of the most famous British prime ministers. He led Britain to victory in World War 2 and served a second term in the 1950s. He was known to be an incredible military strategist, having had some military experience himself.

Long before his career as prime minister, Churchill is known to have played bridge, quoting ‘it amuses me’. It is said that he learned bridge while on a trip up the Nile in 1902 with Sir Ernest Cassel, where he played it every day. Unfortunately, Churchill was not very good at bridge, and although he continued playing for some time, he had long given it up before becoming PM. He is one of several British prime ministers who is known to have played bridge.

Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States. During his presidency, he ended the Korean War, established NASA, built the Interstate Highway System and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Before his presidency, he played an instrumental part in planning the D-day landing among other military operations.

Eisenhower was a very good bridge player. In fact, he regularly hosted bridge games in the White House and was nicknamed ‘the bridge player in chief’. He is known to have had his own operational code: ‘play every hand as part of a lifetime bridge career. The result is more slams, less sets, and a fine average record’. Several other US presidents have been known to play bridge beyond Eisenhower.

Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping was the paramount leader of The People’s Republic of China from 1978 to 1989. He helped abandon many Maoist ideologies that were previously keeping much of the country in poverty - most notably introducing China to the global market and kickstarting international trade.

Before Deng became leader, bridge was banned in China. Deng himself was a keen bridge player and lifted the ban, hosting the first national bridge contest in 1979. Deng was known to play bridge religiously every Sunday from 3pm to 10pm, taking only a short break at 6pm to have dinner. He believed it was an important way of keeping his mind sharp.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is a renowned spiritual leader and activist, who through acts of non-violence helped gain India’s independence from British rule. He has influenced many civil rights movements across the globe.

What many people don’t know about Gandhi is that he was an avid bridge player in his younger days. In fact, he used bridge to teach some of his early followers the difference between karma (the hand you are dealt) and dharma (what you do with it). His love for the game is believed to have helped shape his strategic prowess.

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. During her career in the 70s and 80s, she won 18 major singles titles, 31 major women’s double titles and 10 major mixed doubles titles - the record number of titles in the Open Era.

Tennis is not the only sport that Martina is an avid fan of though. She is known to be an avid bridge player - playing with friends and fellow tennis players. Apparently, it was her tennis coach that also taught her bridge. Her passion for bridge would grow over time and she even contributed to a book on bridge in 1987. She is quoted to have said: ‘no matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table’.

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton is one of the great icons of the silent film era. He is known largely for his comedy movies which he acted in or directed. His work would influence many directors and actors that came after him.

Keaton is known to have loved a bridge game. He would regularly play bridge with his wife, Eleanor, sharing one last game with her shortly before his death. There are claims that Keaton even supported himself in his latter years by winning bridge games against Hollywood moguls, although this is likely a myth. Buster Keaton would famously cameo in the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard, where he can be seen playing bridge.

Omar Sharif

Omar Sharif was an Egyptian actor, whose most notable roles include Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia and the title role in Doctor Zhivago. He is regarded as one of the greatest Egyptian actors.

A man of many talents, Sharif was known to speak 5 languages and also be a skilled bridge player. In fact, in the 60s and 70s, he began playing in international tournaments and for a brief time he was ranked among the top bridge players in the world. While he is not the only Hollywood actor to play bridge competitively, he is definitely the most successful. Many online bridge games continue to use Omar Sharif as a mascot because of his relationship with the card game.

Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke is a musician who is most known for being the lead singer of influential UK rock band Radiohead. Other musical acts that he has been involved in include The Smile and Atoms For Peace.

Yorke has stated in a past interview that he and the band ‘play cards and bridge’. Sadly, there are no interviews that elaborate on this - so we don’t know how casual or serious he is about the game. However, he clearly does play.

Who are some famous bridge champions?

While you could put Omar Sharif into this category, there are some people who have risen to fame purely for their ability to play bridge. These players have gone onto win titles and become legends within the bridge game community. A few of the most famous examples are listed below.

Harold Stirling Vanderbilt

Harold Stirling Vanderbilt is not just regarded as one of the first contract bridge champions - he technically invented contract bridge, which remains the most common form of bridge played today. Using money from his family railroad company and yachting achievements, Vanderbilt invested heavily into developing bridge as a sport. In 1928, he established the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (commonly referred to as the ‘Vanderbilt’), which remains one of the most prestigious annual bridge events in the US.

Vanderbilt himself was a very skilled bridge player and won the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams twice - in 1932 and 1940. He is known to have won several other major tournaments in the early days of his career, while continuing to host events.

Charles Goren

Charles Goren was known as ‘Mr Bridge’ in the 1950s and 1960s both for his track record of wins and his many books about playing bridge. He also wrote many articles on bridge and was a popular lecturer and instructor on bridge and card games. Throughout his career, he partnered with many other famous bridge players including Helen Sobel and Omar Sharif.

He won the Bermuda Bowl in 1950 and was a runner up twice in 1956 and 1957. He also won 32 North American Bridge Championships spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s. He retired in 1962, after which he focused on teaching bridge.

Bob Hamman

Bob Hamman is regarded as one of the greatest bridge players of all time. He has won 66 titles over the years, making him one of the most prolific champions, and has partnered with many other notable bridge players. In 1999, he was inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame (he’s even appeared in movies - played by Dustin Hoffman in The Program).

Between 1970 and 1995, he helped secure eight world championship wins for the US and North America - including seven Bermuda Bowls and the 1988 Team Olympiad. He has won the Vanderbilt six times, the Reisinger eleven times and the Spingold fifteen times making him a formidable contestant.

Bobby Levin

Bobby Levin became the youngest Life Master in the history of the American Contract Bridge League in 1973 at the age of 15. He would later regularly partner with Steve Weinstein, helping to win a number of titles. He continues to be regarded as one of the top bridge players in the world and is feared among his competitors..

Perhaps his most famous win is the 1981 Bermuda Bowl - until Michal Klukowsi succeeded him in 2015, he was the youngest Bermuda Bowl winner. He has also won six Vanderbilts spanning from 1980 to 2017, as well as numerous other NABC titles.

Lew Stansby

Lew Stansby is known for his phenomenal memory - famously being able to recall each hand from every major game he has played years after each event. His wife, JoAnna Stansby, is a fellow national champion. Since his first national win in 1965, he has managed to score a national win every decade.

He is a three times Bermuda Bowl winner. He also has 35 North American Bridge Championships under his belt (including 7 Vanderbilts). This remarkable list of accolades has established him as one of the all-time greats.

Marty Fleisher

Marty Fleisher began playing bridge when he was 8. By the age of 17 he was an American Contract Bridge League Life Master. Marty would go on to become a lawyer and investment advisor. However, he has done so while continuing to pursue a career as a professional bridge player, winning the bulk of his titles since the turn of the millennium.

Some of his most impressive wins include the 2017 Bermuda Bowl and 5 United States Bridge Championships. He is also a two times Vanderbilt winner.

Steve Weinstein

Steve Weinstein is a bridge and poker champion. He has stated that as a child he dreamt of becoming a truck driver. He ended up becoming a professional bridge player instead after discovering the game in 8th grade, but is known to constantly wear a trucker hat as a tribute to his previous lifelong goal. He is famous in online bridge and poker communities, at one time giving online advice under the since revealed alias ‘Thorladen’. Over the years, he has participated in a number of national and international championships.

He has two world bridge championship wins under his belt including the 2010 World Open Pairs and 2022 Rosenblum Cup. He has also won 4 Vanderbilts. On top of this, he is the most frequent winner of the Cavendish Invitational Pairs.

Eric Greco

Eric Greco is another player that got into bridge early - coming first place in the North American Non-Life Master Pairs at the age of 16. In 2016, he was awarded with the title of Player of The Year. He has since won a number of North American Bridge Championships and continues to be a player to watch.

Making up his wins is one Vanderbilt, two Reisingers and two Spingolds. He also holds many national pairs title wins including two Von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs.

Rixi Markus

Rixi Markus was the first woman to become a World Grand Master within the World Bridge Federation, earning this title back in 1937. Her bridge playing career spanned 60 years, in which time she won numerous titles. Competitors and partners described her as ‘brilliant’, ‘intense’ and ‘argumentative’ during bridge games.

Markus won five world titles throughout her career. These include the 1937 Ladies Teams, the 1962 Mixed Teams, the 1962 Women Pairs, the 1964 Women Teams and the 1974 Women Pairs. She remains an inspiration to many female bridge players.

Helen Sobel Smith

Helen Sobel Smith is often referred to as the ‘greatest woman bridge player of all time’. She learnt to play bridge at the age of 16 and quickly became proficient at the game - trading her career as a chorus girl for a career as a bridge player. From the 1930s to the 1950s, she won 35 North American Bridge Championships.

Sobel Smith’s wins include two Vanderbilts and five Spingolds. She also won the esteemed Chicago tournament (now the Reisinger) four times. In 1957, she also competed in the Bermuda Bowl and was a runner up. Sadly her career was cut short at the age of 60 after a long battle with cancer.

Who is your inspiration?

Above are just some of the most famous bridge players from around the world - but of course there have been many others. Who do you look to for inspiration? Do you have a bridge idol?

There is a lot that you can learn from the greats. This includes watching games, reading books and even attending lectures by famous players to help build your skills.


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