Bobbie Gomer Bobbie Gomer

Interview by Eric Emin Wood

Tell us about yourself. How did you become a bridge teacher?

I had been playing bridge for 39 years. Some (my family) might call my bridge playing an obsession. When I was at a career crossroad, I wondered what I would do to occupy my time. I thought about how I could turn my bridge playing passion into a profession. Fortuitously, someone suggested that I place a flyer for an advanced beginner class at the bridge club. It is with no exaggeration when I say that the twenty new students who immediately signed up managed to change my life. Soon after, I was teaching at a bridge club, several adult evening schools, synagogues, country clubs, and requested for private lessons at students’ homes. I am sincerely living my dream.

What did you do before becoming a bridge teacher?

I was a full time mom. When my children were school-age, I became a business manager for a famous artist. I was fortunate enough to meet and conduct business with many celebrities, royalty, world reknowned political figures and well known business personalities. After ten years, I wanted a new challenge and greater fulfillent.

What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy is that I am fully dedicated to my students. I spend hours preparing for classes, creating worksheets to reinforce the day’s lesson, and creating the hands. Students have found that I am always available to answer questions. I am thrilled when students contact me after a game – in person, by phone, or through e-mail – to ask how they should have played a hand or what they should have done differently. I am consistently and continuously striving to meet students at the level that they enter, and to develop them into the players that they hope to be. My proudest achievement is that virtually every student with the exception of my beginner class entered the duplicate arena, and twenty have already become life masters with several others on the cusp.

What advice do you have for other teachers?

I can only speak to the parts of my teaching that students love. They tend to respond very well to the homework/worksheets I give them after every class. It shows the time I’ve invested in their lesson, and it gives us a starting point for the next week. Equally as important, I value each person who invests time in the game of bridge. I am delighted to be a bridge matchmaker – introducing students with compatible personalities, skill levels, and interests. I am inspired by the friendships and bridge partnerships that have developed from my matchmaking endeavors.

Your students speak highly of your “matchmaking” skills. How do you go about matching them?

I know the skill level, personalities, charactertics, assets, liabilities and history of most all my students. When I hear that a partnership is not working, I immediately suggest a name or two. I always tell my students never to get married. Only a date and perhaps an engagement. I tell them it is too difficult and costly to get married.

Are you married?

Yes, I am married. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary. We have two wonderful children and four treasured grandchildren.

What are your favorite bridge books?

My favorite author is Eddie Kantar. I love his Introductory to Declarer Play and Introductory to Defense. I also recommend Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basic Series from Introduction to Competitive bidding. For my beginners, I suggest they use the cards as well as the book. It is a great tool which they can work on by themselves or with a practice group.

Is there a teaching method you prefer?

My favorite method is to lecture for an hour, field questions, give handouts and have homework. The second hour is made up of four prepared hands which are duplicated at each table. I like to first work on the bidding, have the students play the hand and then discuss the hand which is placed on the table so that everyone can learn from the example.

I always make each player a declarer once.

Which conventions do you teach? Which do your students respond best to?

I have tried to keep my convention teaching to a minimum.

In my intermediate class, I do teach New Minor Forcing because I think it is essential. I try to reinforce that you cannot rebid a five card suit, therefore it helps when I introduce this concept.

In my most advanced class, I always give my students a choice and ask their preference of what they’d like to focus on. When I receive special requests, I advertise a specific class on a particular convention. An example of recent class is 1NT forcing along with Jacoby 2NT.

I also have written a book with all the Advanced conventions. As a player, I play them all and certainly do not shy away from any but I feel it is important to learn good solid bidding and defense before conventions are added.

I personally love Hamilton Cappelletti, Puppet Stayman, Lebensohl, Four Way Transfers, “Deas” Raises over a double, Minorwood.

One of your students told us about a “shuffle and deal” you hold Wednesday mornings that is particularly effective at pulling in new players. How does that work?

Every Wednesday morning, with no advanced sign up, every student is invited to come with or without a partner where I match them up according to skill level. Once they enter the room, within a minute or two, I have them seated and playing hands. Whereupon, I critque their bidding, the opponent’s bidding and perhaps the opening lead. After the hand is over, if they have questions they call me back to their table and ask if they can indeed make the hands which were played. I pride myself in never standing over any student and allowing the time and effort to declare a hand. Certainly, some do it correctly, while others ask for help.

The object of this Shuffle and Deal is all levels get to play at once and sit at a comfortable table. I can always tell from the look on their faces if it is too easy or too hard for them. After a while, I speak to them privately and ask the pertinent questions: Were you comfortable? Did you learn anything in the session? Would you like to sit another table next time?

How many students does it attract?

When I first held the Shuffle and Deal, I had three students. Now on any given Wednesday, I can have 48 people.

Wow. Where is most of your teaching done?

I primarily teach at Yorktown Bridge Club, where I teach six to eight classes per week. I also have a country club where I am the coach and the lessons are extremely large, from 50-80 students.

I also teach bimonthy at a golf club.

In addition, I have private lessons.

Any favourite anecdotes of partners you’ve matched up?

Matching up students is fun for me as I pride myself on matching levels and personalities.

I get as much joy and happiness when I make a good match and see the partnership playing again. To me, that is a successful experience.

Probably the most rewarding part of my matchmaking is the tremedous friendships that have developed both at and away from the bridge table. I’ve seen a partnership which became so close that one person comforted and supported another through a terminal illness.

What was your reaction to being nominated for the ABTA award?

It was remarkably flattering. The fact that a teacher nominated me makes it even more special knowing that it has been her profession for many years. Being the “new” kid on the block and being able to teach my peers is incredibly fulfiling.