Bridge builds social links
PLAYING a session of bridge is like a good gym workout for your brain.
It's a great description from Gold Coast Bridge Club president Julie Wicks, who became hooked on the game after she and husband Jeff took bridge classes while on a cruise six years ago.
The fact two of America's smartest and richest men, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are both accomplished bridge players would seem to lend support to her comments.
Studies, including by Scotland's University of Stirling, which refers to bridge as "a mind sport", have shown that people who play have higher levels of wellbeing.
It is believed the game promotes focus and clear thinking, helps alleviate stress, boosts self-esteem, cognitive and social skills, potentially helping to ward off dementia.
A University of California Berkeley study even found that playing bridge increased the level of T cells in the blood, raising immunity.
Not bad for a game dating back to the 17th century which non-players find hard to grasp - there are four players in teams of two (who aren't allowed to speak to each other), who place bets based on the suits of a deck of cards, right?
Julie said it was the game's intricacies, strategies and problem-solving challenges that kept it interesting.
Even after six years, she said she and Jeff were "still very much novices", and happy to accept that as they currently sat at about 70 points, they were unlikely to ever make the 1000-point title of Grand Master.
"There are multiple layers - it's like peeling an onion, there's always something more, but the key is to develop good communication with your partner, that's critical," Julie said.
And the combination of cards and socialising - with drinks and nibbles after play on Friday and Saturday afternoons and celebrations to mark public holidays and events like State of Origin - means the Gold Coast club is booming, with 370 members (mostly seniors) and up to 100 people attending any given session.
The club offers beginner classes four times a year, with the first six-week course for this year running from 9-11am from Wednesday, January 22 to February 26.
Other courses will be staged on Wednesdays from April 1 and September 16, and Saturdays from July 4.
Classes cost $85, including the text book and refreshments, but ongoing costs are minimal.
One session - which lasts about 3.5 hours and involves 25-35 boards (or hands), depending on your experience level - costs members just $7.
You don't need a partner to learn and, by the end of the six weeks, you can expect to have a good basic knowledge with which to start playing.
Help to Play sessions are also held regularly for players of all standards who need support or a refresher.
The club is at 2883 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise and has sessions six days a week and two nights a week.
To find out more, go to goldcoastbridgeclub.com or phone the club on 07 5538 2905.