How did you get started in bridge? At what age? Who from?
I learnt bridge around the age of 15 at Wellington College in New Zealand. I was very lucky to be at school during a period of enthusiasm for teaching bridge at school in New Zealand, and I couldn’t have had better teachers – Alan Grant, one of New Zealand’s frequent Open team representatives, and Fraser Rew, another well-known Kiwi now living in Sydney.
What do (did) you do professionally?
Over the years I have been a professional poker player, bridge player, bridge teacher, sports punter and bridge club manager.
Who is your partner and for how long? Longest partnership?
My partner on the Australian team is James Coutts, another Kiwi living in Australia that I first played with (for New Zealand) in 2010 before either of us had ‘jumped the ditch’. We restarted our partnership in 2018 and have had a good amount of success in our first three years together. We also get along really well away from the table which is a big plus.
My two other longest partnerships over the years have been with Michael Whibley (roughly 2008-2013) and Nye Griffiths (2014-2017). I learnt a lot about the game from both Michael and Nye and count myself very fortunate in terms of partners over my bridge career.
If you had a choice who would you like to play with? Australia and Internationally- living or dead?
Geir Helgemo and Sabine Auken.
In your playing career, what is the bridge success that has the most meaning for you?
Success on the international stage has always been really important to me, and a few highlights that come to mind are winning the Asia-Pacific Open Pairs in Kuala Lumpur in 2011 (with Michael Whibley while we were both still juniors) and coming 9th in the World Open Pairs in 2014 (with Nye Griffiths). Most recently I had a very successful 2019 Fall Nationals in San Francisco with Andy Hung on a team with Bob Hamman where we won one event (the Mitchell BAM) and came third in the Reisinger. I look back on the week very fondly!
And your worst moment in bridge?
Any time I get a big hand wrong near the end and it costs the match falls into that category. There have been a lot of them over the years. Finals matches are often close and when you lose it’s not hard to find one big swing where you could have done something different. I’m learning to get over those but it still hurts each time.
What do you do you do between sessions to put you in the best frame of mind for the following session?
Simply try to relax and focus on the positives. Coming to terms with the negatives is part of that process for me so that I don’t dwell on them.
Do you have a favourite and least favourite convention?
Currently a pet favourite is Flannery (a 2D opening showing 4 spades, 5+ hearts and opening values). It’s something I picked up in the US and is virtually unheard of in Australia, but it allows you take those ‘difficult rebid’ hands out of your one-level openings and simplifies a lot of options.
My least favourite convention is probably ‘all jumps are mini-splinters’ including by opener, as it means simple auctions like 1D-1H-2C are now forcing and overloaded (because 3C is a splinter). This has way too much popularity in our part of the world and no one plays it internationally for obvious (to me) reasons.
Would you prefer to have more system or less?
Less. Agreements with your partner are important, but gadgets don’t help you win for the most part. When I play with someone as an occasional partnership, I try to keep things very simple and focus on taking all our tricks.
What do you do to improve your game?
I try to keep an introspective mindset about my own game and discuss all the hands with my partner that we play. It helps to keep a notebook with the things you learn so that you can revise them in future. This can include technical or mental improvements.
Favourite bridge book?
Master of Bridge Psychology: Inside the Remarkable Mind of Peter Fredin by Jeppe Juhl. A recent effort, Juhl’s book will show you a way of playing bridge that you have probably never seen or thought about. And Fredin is a fascinating character in his own right.
What interests or hobbies do you have besides bridge?
Hiking, skiing and board games.
What is the number one thing that bridge has done for you as a person and for your life?
Provided me with a very strong network of friends and a partner in life.
Bridge Results and Awards
Aside from success at the table, I have managed to win a few bridge journalism prizes, all as the author writing up my friends’ exploits:
2017 Richard Freeman Junior Deal of the Year (Nabil Edgtton)
2018 Gidwani Family Trust Defence of the Year (GeO Tislevoll)
2019 Keri Klinger Memorial Declarer Play of the Year (Michael Whibley)
Australia Open: 2015, 2019, 2022
Australia U25: 2011, 2012, 2016 (as NPC), 2017 (as coach)
New Zealand U25: 2008-2010
New South Wales U25: 2012
Victoria U25: 2011
Somewhere between 15 and 25 national titles in Australia, including the Open Playoff, the National Open Teams, and the Gold Coast Open Teams (3x).