The Rule of 10,000, or how to become an expert bridge player

by Red Jack

Yet another rule-of-thumb? !?

I know, there are already so many numeric rules in Bridge, all stated to help to improve your performance in a certain aspect of the auction, in attack as in defense, in the play of the declarer as well as the defenders.

The rule of 11 to count the distribution of the suit lead, the rule of 2-3 (Culbertson) in preempting, the rule of 15 to open in the fourth seat, the rule of 8 (ever) and 9 (never) to finesse a missing  Queen, to name just a few of them.

But the Rule of 10,000 does not apply to a specific peculiarity of Bridge, it is quite general.

How many times have you asked yourself how long it would take to become, if not really an expert, at least a good advanced bridge player?

This rule will tell you.

According to Malcom Gladwell,  a journalist and sociologist, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any discipline, from music to sport to business.

Does it also apply to Bridge? If so, how many tournaments would it take? Considering that each session involves approximately 3 hours, including discussions and post-mortem analysis, it would take about 3,333 tournaments.

If you are a workaholic and can play 3 tournaments a day, morning, afternoon and evening, it takes you 1,111 days, a little more than 3 years, playing every day.

If you most humanly play a tournament per day it takes about 10 years, which becomes just over 64 years with a weekly tournament.

But is all that true?

From the legendary Beatles to Bill Gates, a great bridge enthusiast, Gladwell has reported examples of famous people who have achieved success through a time commitment of this magnitude.

Are you not willing to sacrifice or wait so long? Do not despair.

Gladwell drew inspiration for his bestseller “Outliers: The Story of Success” from a research by Anders Ericsson, a Swedish professor of psychology at Florida State University, who conducted a study on Berlin violin students. Ericsson reported only an average value and an impressive number easy to remember, but that actually would have no real scientific foundation, as he himself stressed.

We are not all the same, fortunately!

In other words, there are those who, thanks to natural talent, circumstances and environment, can take much less time to achieve results as an expert, and who, due to as much natural aversion and collateral conditions, may never succeed in becoming an expert in spite of the time spent.

It’s the quality of the commitment not its duration that counts, as Tim Ferriss says and as any good trainer can confirm.

Ferris, an American entrepreneur and lifestyle guru, is sure that with an appropriate training it takes about 6 months to reach a World-class level in any field.

In addition, according to others, practice contributes a maximum of 25% in achieving the highest levels of experience.

And so also in Bridge, as in other disciplines, it is more important to have a well-prepared and effective guide, such as an experienced friend, a mentor or a coach, in order to follow a path programmed for the acquisition of skills and experiences.

Rules are always rules

Continue to trust the numerical rules that are proven and approved by experience and consider the rule of 10,000 as a limit to beat or rather as a spur to strive to improve.

After all, the fun, maybe, is greater just when you are not expert. In addition, having fun you learn much better and much faster.

To make mistakes is part of the game and fun and no game or sport is able to confirm it as Bridge.

Andrew Chen

And if it really takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, in the attempt you’ll be able to enjoy playing bridge all your life.

Still a little bit skeptical? Don’t worry!

Think that Andrew Chen (pictured) became Life Master in 2020 at only 8 years old and in these days, thanks to online playing, you can legally become Life Master in only one day! (

Keep bridge alive…and us.

Don’t forget to follow us @