We are delighted that BAMSA’s fourth academic paper has recently been published about professional bridge. The peer reviewed journal article contributes to the growing evidence base about the social world of bridge. In particular, it reveals a side of the game that most people outside of the bridge community are not aware of – that bridge can be a full-time job.
Bridge has become increasingly professionalised in recent years, blurring the boundaries between leisure and work. The paper explores how professional bridge players understand the transition from playing bridge as a hobby to playing bridge for a job.
Being a professional bridge player raises issues about moral evaluations of work, a work ethic and concerns over what a ‘proper job’ is. The paper considers pro bridge as a form of ‘devotee work’ through the perspective of 52 top players from the US and Europe.
The professional players talk about taking up bridge as a leisure pursuit and falling in love with the game. The blurring of leisure into work has allowed them to reject a 9-5 work routine and have opportunities to travel the world as part of the job. However, for many professional bridge players there is some ambivalence about whether they have a ‘proper’ job, in the traditional sense.
It is generally thought that bridge professionals have a responsibility to properly represent the game and set a high ethical example, and to present themselves well. Negative perceptions of bridge as a form of work relate partly to its unusual working patterns and it being a card game. Some may consider professional players as undisciplined, wasting their intelligence, and not making a useful contribution to society.
There are positive and negative perceptions of the blurring of work-leisure boundaries. Playing bridge professionally is often experienced as being hugely positive, because of being paid to do something one is devoted to, but ambivalences and anxieties also emerge. The paper contains many quotes from professionals, amateurs and sponsors on various aspects of professionalism within bridge. It can be freely accessed in the links below:
Russell, Z., Punch, S. and McIntosh, I. (2022) ‘Blurring the Boundaries Between Leisure and Work: Professionals as Devotees in the Mind-Sport Bridge,’ International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure.
A two-page summary of the paper can be read here.