- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - From prominent billionaires to young children, Michael Hughes has observed a traditional card game bridge social gaps between many people.

“People enjoy meeting and interacting with people,” Hughes said.

As the manager of the Mid-Missouri Bridge Club, Hughes oversees numerous games of bridge at various venues in Central Missouri on a weekly basis.

The Mid-Missouri Bridge Club exists as a sub-unit of the American Contract Bridge League, which coordinates regional and national tournaments.

Hughes enjoys the “challenge of keeping it organized and running and the benefit of continuously meeting other people,” he said.

In his volunteer role, Hughes organizes the weekly games of duplicate bridge and uses a dealing machine to deal each hand of bridge, he said.

Duplicate bridge differs from party bridge in that players participating in duplicate bridge receive points for winning that increase their individual rank on a national scale with the ACBL.

Duplicate bridge players often aim to achieve the ranking of Life Master, which requires an accumulation of 500 points.

According to Hughes, bridge competitors number about 12-32 at each game and come from all over Mid-Missouri to play.

“They all enjoy playing bridge. They love the opportunity to get together to play,” he said.

With players of ages ranging from early 20s to mid-90s, Hughes touted the games as “one place where you meet people in all walks of life. It’s youth ranging from pre-teens to people 100 years old playing a common game with or against each other,” he said.

Though Hughes acknowledged finding new players can prove tough, he believes bridge benefits its players both mentally and socially, he said.

“It’s a challenging mental experience that is lost on the younger players.It’s good for your social skills, math and logic,” he said.

Hughes’ passion for bridge blossomed at a young age when he played as an occasional substitute for his father in family games of bridge.

“It was something the adults did so I got to feel like an adult,” he said.

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