When her dad asked her if she wanted to go with him to a national bridge tournament, Allison Hunt, then a seventh-grader, had only one concern.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Dad, what if they’re all nerds?’ ” Allison recalls. “He told me, ‘Assume they’re all nerds. Either you’ll be right or you’ll be pleasantly surprised.’ ”
Allison was pleasantly surprised, and four years later, she’s continued to play the card game competitively.
She’s now a life master in bridge. In the bridge world, that means she has more than 300 master points, which are earned only at American Contract Bridge League-sponsored games. The ACBL sponsors games at the club, sectional, regional and national level. Players are awarded different colored masterpoints, and a certain amount of each color are needed to achieve certain rankings. The highest rank, grand life master, has to earn 10,000 master points.
This week, Allison will play in an international youth tournament and a national competition in Atlanta.
Now a junior at Providence Day, she also started a bridge club at school this year.
“The average age of a bridge player has to be in the 60s, and it’s such a great game and such a good pastime,” she said. “I think it’s way more valuable than playing video games. I thought, what better place to do it than Providence Day?”
Bridge is a game played by two pairs of partners with a 52-card deck. The players try to win tricks, which are a round of four cards from each player, and also bid on how many tricks they aim to win.
The club has about 14 active members.
Rhea Caldwell, Allison’s math teacher and club supervisor, said she was surprised at how good Allison is at teaching bridge.
“She challenges them to think on their own. She asks good questions rather than giving answers,” Caldwell said.
Allison said she hopes to grow the club next year.
“It makes me really happy with this club that I’m able to spread something I love to the kids at school, and hopefully the bridge club won’t die when I graduate,” she said.
Allison grew up playing bridge, and she has her father, Tom, to thank for that.
She said he married her mother on one condition: that she learn how to play bridge. When Allison was little, he taught classes on bridge and would host games at their house.
By the age of 6, Allison would occasionally substitute for missing players at the bridge tables in her parents’ living room.
Allison is the youngest of four girls, and her dad said she’s the one who became the most enthusiastic about bridge. Some of Allison’s favorite memories are having dinner with her entire family talking about different bridge hands after they had watched her and her dad play in tournaments.
Tom Hunt took her to compete in a national championship in Washington, D.C., when she was 13 – despite the threat of too many nerds – and he was glad she went.
“One morning after she’d taken a shower, I went to the bathroom, and she’d written ‘I (heart) bridge” on the steamed-up mirror,” he said. “My job was done.”
Allison said at that tournament she “got killed but had so much fun.”
Since then, Allison has placed second in the teams event and sixth in pairs at Youth North American Bridge championships. She said she attends an average of 20 tournaments a year, and she’s made friends from all around the country and even as far away as Italy and Venezuela.
Bridge is a game of strategy, quick thinking and calculation. Allison has sharpened those skills over the years, and she’s made many friends from the game. But the biggest takeaway from bridge, she said, revolves around her dad.
“I think what I’ve learned the most is about my relationship with my father,” she said. “Now we both respect each other as bridge players.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; On Twitter: @YoungAchCLT
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