Bill Segraves: Helping Others on the Path to Playing Bridge
Bill Segraves has been playing bridge for over 40 years but only recently launched his latest bridge outreach endeavor after “the light bulb came on” and inspiration struck, he says.
Bill will be offering free instructional programs to bridge newbies and newer players at local libraries. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Bill, a Guilford resident, will offer his very first library program, “Introduction to Bridge, the Greatest Partnership Game in the World,” at Guilford Free Library from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
“It was just in October that the light bulb came on,” says Bill, a tournament game player, teacher, and club director (including Branford-Madison Bridge Club).
“I was talking with some other people about how we could get the word out about bridge. Peter Marcus, the new president of Connecticut Bridge Association, basically said, ‘Any idea is a good idea, let’s just try everything!’ And I thought, ‘Well, why not go to libraries, and why not start in my hometown?’”
It may be that his neighbors recognize Bill’s name, or some see his membership with the American Bridge Contract League (ABCL) and tourney play with ABCL’s North American Bridge Championships (NABC), or it may be that bridge is the kind of game more people want to learn; but program registration has been filling up. Bill welcomes more. Register at guilfordfreelibrary.org.
“The more the merrier,” says Bill. “I will be ready to handle how ever many people show up. If, by some chance, there’s so many people that I can’t do certain things I would like to do, I’ll offer a follow-up session.”
Bill’s also planning to continue his more than 20 years of teaching small groups and individuals. Coming up, he’s running Bridge Beginner Class on Tuesday, March 14, at Madison Senior Center.
Knowing there are people who are playing bridge currently and might be interested in the style called Duplicate Bridge (typically played in bridge clubs), Bill is also offering upcoming Introduction to Duplicate Bridge classes in Branford and Guilford.
“I’m going to give some one-hour, hands-on presentation/experience, where they’ll play a few boards to see how the logistics of the game work and how the scoring works — so they could be ready to go to a club or their home games in that same way if they want to,” says Bill.
Bill has one Introduction to Duplicate Bridge presentation set for Monday, March 6, at Branford Community House and another set for Friday, March 10, at Guilford Community Center. To learn more and find all upcoming events, visit Bill’s website bridgewebs.com/withbill
Bill says there are plenty of great reasons to get involved with bridge, which he notes is played by “...hundreds of millions of people worldwide, online and in-person.”
For one thing – make that three things — bridge hits on three key factors supporting brain health, he says: mental challenges, rich social interaction, and physical exercise. In fact, Bill, who started playing bridge in the early 1980s, was mentored by an 82-year-old player.
A Guilford resident of 31 years, Bill and his wife, Carol Dorfman, moved to Connecticut from San Diego for career reasons. Bill says the game helped introduce him to new friends and acquaintances here.
“I started playing pretty soon after I arrived here,” says Bill.
Bill’s enjoying having even more time to play since being “mostly retired” from teaching as a faculty member with Yale University’s Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department, which he joined in 1992. In 2004, Bill was named Yale’s associate dean of science education. He retired from the post in January 2015.
Among the friends Bill has made through bridge is Guilford resident Paul Proulx, with whom Bill continues to partner. They recently won the team event at the Connecticut Bridge Association sectional tournament in October 2022.
Paul is one of three main partners with whom Bill has continued to play for many years. Thanks to online play, Bill continues partnering with a close friend who lives in Toronto, Canada, and, for more than 30 years, a friend in Montana.
“It’s partnership that makes bridge really unique,” says Bill. “And the bond that I find in partnership is one of the deepest sources of satisfaction that I find in bridge.”
It’s also a game with its own language.
“The language of bidding makes it really special,” Bill explains. “The cool thing is that the two partners get to construct that language themselves. You can make your bids mean anything you want them to mean. You have to tell the opponents what they mean, too; but you can make them mean anything you want. So communication is really an essential part of partnership, but it all has to come through legal bids and plays.”
Bridge can be played online or face-to-face.
“Online can be the best way people can dive into bridge, and if that’s the best way, I encourage them to do that. I hope they’ll also go and play face-to-face too, and experience that.”
Bill’s often playing online – including practicing with a newer partner, Jordan, a 14-year-old player from Boston. They will be entering an upcoming NABC (New Orleans) in March.
Bill and his online partners play against friends who live in Europe, Asia, and around the United States.
“We have a blast,” says Bill. “The jokes are flying as fast as the cards. But it gets us a lot of good practice, so we’re ready for the tournament like the one we’re going to attend in March in New Orleans.”
During the pandemic, online bridge “thrived” — and the players were pretty impressive, too, says Bill.
“It kept that community vibrant and ready to return to face-to-face bridge when we came out on the other side from COVID. We played against some great players online — world champions and also icons like Warren Buffet.”
“We used to play against Warren Buffet pretty regularly,” Bill continues. “He’s a very fine player, and his partner Sharon Osberg now also plays with Bill Gates; and is a top player. And we’d play sometimes against Martin Seligman, a name probably few people know, but he’s generally thought of as the father of positive psychology.”
In Dr. Seligman’s book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (2012), “...he talks about how players play to improve, to solve problems and to be in a mental state he calls ‘flow.’ And if they win, it’s great; and if they don’t, it’s almost as great,” says Bill. “I’m very competitive, but that’s the way I like to play any game or sport that I love. There’s a beauty in being totally in the moment and playing well that transcends winning or losing.”
In addition to his passion for Bridge, Bill’s an avid backpacker and has spent plenty of time exploring and enjoying Guilford’s wealth of trails.
Now, he’s looking forward to putting others on the path to the benefits of playing bridge.
“The day the light bulb came on, I realized if I could help others along that path of the enjoyment of playing bridge and enjoying its social and mental acuity benefits, I would be doing something that tapped into my love of teaching and connected to my values,” says Bill. “It’s my desire to do something that’s making a difference in other people’s lives and to do something positive in the community.”