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September 20, 2022

It’s time to bring back bridge

All you need is a deck of cards, some friends and a couple tricks up your sleeve.

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  • Words and pictures: Dana Batac

Priya, who didn’t want her last name published, discovered a new passion during a year-long break from her busy life.


SA Bridge Association
243 Young St, Unley SA 5061
More info

While looking for something to help her improve her memory and strategic thinking she came across bridge. She’s become so hooked she’s now the general manager of the SA Bridge Association in Unley.

“In the business world, they often say that sports or chess will help you improve your strategy for business, and I saw bridge as something like that, to keep my mind sharp,” Priya says.

Unlike chess and mahjong, bridge is a multiplayer card game where two pairs of players attempt to one-up each other with different tricks. It’s strategic, competitive and requires full attention and great teamwork.

“You need a plan on how you’re going to use your 13 cards between you and your partner. To get more winners, you have to remember what’s played and make a plan of everything in your head,” Priya says.

“I regularly meet people who worked in IT, defence, have been CEOs of various organisations, and everyone from pensioners to millionaires. All have one thing in common: their passion for the bridge game and the social aspect.”

Annie Payne, a long-time bridge player at the SA Bridge Association, says they have noticed that they had a couple of members in the early stages of dementia who still played a decent game of bridge.

“The reason is that when they sit down, this is learned behaviour,” Annie says.

“I’ve played bridge 40 years and I’ve come in here and I sit down and my brain goes into bridge mode, and I can do it almost automatically.”

Annie Payne


The game may sound daunting to first-timers, but Annie says the only requisite for a player is knowing how to count. Annie herself has been playing bridge since 1982 and is now passing on her passion for the game to her grandchildren.

“My young grandson Toby has been playing online bridge and he’s done quite well, really,” she says.

While online players, like Toby, enjoy the accessibility and being able to play from the comfort of their own home, bridge has always been a social game, with people, like Annie, playing with friends at home or signing up for bridge clubs.

“The social aspect of bridge is a major component of our enjoyment,” she says.

The two teams, East-West and North-South (who sit across each other on the table respectively), get to play with different pairs during the day, letting them socialise with other members of the club. In the club, a director supervises the game and sorts the cards out for the players beforehand.

Those who’ve joined a club always know they’ve got a partner and a pair to play against, as each meet turns out large numbers of members.

“Certain committee members also have an interest in encouraging young players along with them,” Annie says.

The SA Bridge Association offers free classes for players under 25 at the Unley Hall on Young Street, midway between the King William and Wayville tram stops. For the more advanced player they offer foundation classes or supervised lectures.

Like most games, bridge gets pretty competitive.

“We have intra-bridge championships here within this bridge club and you can stay at that level,” Annie says. “But some of our players have gone on to play national championships and even international championships, going overseas to play.”

The most recent championship, the 2022 Autumn Nationals, was held at the Wayville Showgrounds in April and Annie says it was very gripping to watch players at that highly competitive level.

SA Bridge Association holds the occasional team championships, with September’s event currently at a $3500 prize pool. It’s a lot of excitement for the competitive members, but Annie says most, like herself, participate to socialise.

“I like the face to face, you know, the bit of chitchat that we have,” she says.

“Some people go and form really, really strong, firm friendships out of playing here, while others are quite happy just meeting with the same people every Saturday afternoon.”

Find out more about SA Bridge Association’s classes and events here.

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