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A Good Deal

  by Ann Meyer

Miami Herald — April 18, 1983

Bridge spans the ages for this family

For the Pavlicek family of Fort Lauderdale, bridge isn’t just a game to play when they get bored. It determines their daily lives.

Richard and Mabel Pavlicek met while playing bridge. Their 13-year-old son Rich went to his first tournament when he was three weeks old.

Rich learned the basics from books his father wrote: Four players, each dealt 13 cards, earn points by taking tricks to win bids. He played his first game when he was 10, and is now the youngest Life Master in the nation.

The number of master points players have determines their rankings. Life Master status comes after a player earns 300 points, of which at least 50 must be won at regional and national competition.

Richard, Rich’s father, holds almost 8,000 points; and Mabel has about 2,800.

With his partner Bill Root of Boca Raton, Richard won the prestigious Vanderbilt Trophy at the American Contract Bridge League’s Spring Nationals in Honolulu last month. The two will compete this summer in the Memphis Team Trials, the tournament that determines who will represent the United States in the World Bridge Olympiad in 1984.

Richard won first prize at the Grand National Tournament in 1973.

For Richard and Mabel, bridge is a living.

Richard is coauthor of a best-selling book, Modern Bridge Conventions. He also publishes a magazine and instruction booklets for bridge players. He teaches advanced students and plays professionally.

Mabel teaches full-time and is involved in what she calls bridge politics. She sits on the board of the Florida district of the ACBL and organizes tournaments in South Florida.

For young Rich, bridge is only a hobby; it’s a means of traveling and meeting people. At a tournament last summer, he visited Carlsbad Caverns and went white-water rafting.

Sometimes bridge gets in the way, his father said. “Sometimes his mother will make him a date to play bridge, and then he has to choose between that and watching his favorite TV show.”

Rich is not allowed to play bridge on school nights. But he occasionally misses a day of school to attend a tournament. Still, he’s a grade ahead of his age at Nova Middle School.

“He doesn’t have a child’s normal life,” his mother acknowledged. “He plays the game mostly with adults; but bridge is good for young people,” she said. “It teaches them to concentrate and the ability to reason.”

Rich has no plans for a professional bridge career. He wants to be a computer engineer. He does his homework on his father’s word processor.

At one time, Richard had no plans to be a professional bridge player, either. A regular at cards, he learned bridge in 1964 while he was stationed with the U.S. Army in West Germany.

“I decided I liked bridge better than the other games,” Richard said. “There are many facets that make it interesting — the bidding, declarer play, defense. You never have the same hand twice.”

Mabel, who learned bridge from friends when she was 19, shared Richard’s enthusiasm. “It’s a game of skill, a challenge,” she said. “You can get bored with canasta or chess, but you never get bored with bridge.”

Richard and Mabel met at a bridge club and were married in 1969. By 1971, Richard was doing well in tournaments and decided to leave the sheet-metal business to start teaching bridge locally.

Mabel started teaching in 1976. The two of them teach over a thousand students each season, Richard said.

Both became interested in duplicate bridge, the form of contract bridge that is played at all tournaments. Deals are randomly selected by computer. Many tables play identical hands, so the scores can be fairly compared.

“Instead of playing by the luck of what you are dealt, you are playing the same hand as everyone else,” Richard said.

Richard admitted that luck is still a factor. “A part of everyone’s success is luck,” he said. “But the better players come to the top more often.”

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© 1983 Ann Meyer