About 1,000 Orange County residents have been brushing up on bids, firming up their conventions and sweating with partners to get in shape for the fall North American bridge championships, which open Friday in Anaheim.
The American Contract Bridge League holds three national tournaments a year.
"We only get one in Southern California every 10 years," said Gene Simpson, a stockbroker from Anaheim Hills. "It's a very big tournament."
He will be among 7,500 players to compete in the 10-day event at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers.
A major team event, the Reisinger Cup will qualify winners to represent the United States in world championships in Perth, Australia, in 1989.
Domestic players usually provide the stiffest competition, said Pam Wittes of Los Alamitos, who, with her husband, Jon, holds the world championship title for mixed pairs.
"You always go with the idea of winning, but it's also stimulating and sociable," said Pam Wittes. "There's nothing more mentally stimulating. Our best friends all play bridge."
Wittes and Simpson are professional players who make up to $500 a day playing with partner clients.
The league--marking its 50th anniversary--is promoting the joys of bridge to lure more and younger players to the game. The average age of league members is 57. Without converts, promoters fear that the league may become extinct.
"We've been beating the bushes for new players," said Pat Elms, tournament chairman from Newport Beach. Games for novices will be held each day at the tournament, with clinics, coaching and lectures also available.
More advanced players will compete in the Reisinger Teams, Blue Ribbon Pairs, Men's and Women's Board-a-Match Teams, Life Master Women's and Men's Pairs, Non-Life Master Pairs, American Swiss Teams and North American Rookie Pairs.
During the Reisinger event, Nov. 27-29, screens will be set up between teammates to eliminate distractions and illicit communication. The finals will also be shown on closed-circuit TV outside the hall.
The main event games will be played every day, including Thanksgiving, at 1 and 8 p.m. from Friday to Saturday. On Sunday, game times will be at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m..
The public is invited to the tournament to play at one of the 1,100 tables, or simply to watch. Entry fees range from $5 for novice and intermediate games to $9 for North American championships.
The tournament opens tonight with a charity ball at 6:30 at the Anaheim Hilton, followed by a charity game at 8:15. The game is open to all duplicate bridge players. Proceeds will benefit the Arthritis Foundation. Tickets are $60.
On Saturday, members will celebrate the 50th anniversary with a ball starting at 10:45 p.m. at the Anaheim Hilton.