Million-Dollar Hobby


    NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S GAME; Inside the World of Big-Money Bridge by Greg Hanlon

    A 20-something man played bridge with three old ladies this past Columbus Day. They played at the Honors Bridge Club on East 58th Street, where the median player age is well north of 70 and the air smells of coffee and heavily applied makeup. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the young man was indulging his grandmother and her friends for an afternoon.

    John Kranyak
    John Kranyak

    But no. The young man was John Kranyak, a three-time junior world champion bridge player who now earns a living as a bridge “pro,” partnering with wealthy sponsors. That afternoon, Mr. Kranyak was working a shift in the employ of Melanie Tucker, a financier’s wife.

    Such partnerships are common here at the Honors, one of Manhattan’s three major bridge clubs and considered the most hoity-toity. Judy Wilpon, the wife of Mets owner Fred Wilpon, plays here. So does Justine Cushing, whose father was the developer of Squaw Valley.

    To this crowd, bridge isn’t just some time-passing activity for the idle elderly, but rather a serious competitive pursuit for people whose experiences in life have accustomed them to winning. Of the 11 tables devoted to high-level play that afternoon, eight contained partnerships between a client and a pro. The ubiquity of these pairings lends truth to the famous Mae West axiom that good bridge is like good sex: “If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.”

    The difference is that in bridge, it’s not considered untoward to pay for the privilege. For a weekday three-hour tournament at a club like the Honors, pros fetch anywhere from $150 to $225. As the stakes get higher, so do the rates. For regional tournaments, pros make in the neighborhood of $500 to $1,000 for a day, which consists of two three-hour tournaments. For larger national tournaments, pros make up to $3,000 per day, while the very best pros charge clients annual retainer fees of up to $200,000 and pull in seven-figure incomes.

    Judi Radin, a four-time world champion…Click here to continue reading.