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Bridge player demographics

Posted By: Daniel Murphy
Date: Sunday, 1 August 2010, at 6:57 p.m.

In Response To: Bridge player demographics (Perry Gartner)

If the next time we played I said "Lok'tar ogar!" instead of "Good match!" I wonder how many of y'all would smile, and how many would say "English only, please"? I've been wondering when and why do we learn the games we play, and when do we start playing them? How important is exposure at home and in school, and at what age?

My parents played non-ACBL bridge when I was a kid -- they hosted the occasional bridge party or foursome, but they didn't teach us kids and I didn't learn the game until my late 20s. My dad did teach me chess when I was 10 or so, but backgammon was only the game on the flip side of the cardboard chess table. And my decidedly non-gambling parents must have also taught me something about poker, although we more often played "Tripoli," not poker for matchsticks. There was a small chess club at my high school, and they played only chess in the club, as far as I know. I wasn't a member and did not play chess; I played Diplomacy, and Avalon Hill games, the play-by-mail Nuclear Destruction," and had a subscription to Strategy & Tactics!

I've been wondering some more, too, about the demographics of poker, bridge, backgammon and other games, how they overlap, and what they say about how to make backgammon a more popular mind sport.

Bridge, for instance -- ok, the ACBL has a very well funded program for youth bridge, but youthful players seem to be a miniscule part of their membership. On the ACBL site is a 2007 survey of about 2,000 of their 165,000 membership. I have no idea if the survey is representative, but would think that if ACBL thought it was not, they might have said so. In any case, ACBL members answering the survey are ... old! According to the survey:

  • 16% were over age 75
  • 62% were between the ages of 60 and 75
  • 20% were between the ages of 40 and 59 ...

which left just 2% for the under-40's.

Backgammon must, by comparison, have a wider appeal to a younger median crowd. I'd be interested to know the age breakdown of, say, the DBgF membership, or this forum's readership, or the participants at the Michigan Summer Championship.

I imagine the poker demographic has skewed much younger than it used to be in recent years with the growth of online poker and the WSOP. And it seems that many players pick up the game at age 18-25, often at college. Quantcast.com has "estimated" demographics (I don't know how they estimate them) for visitors to pokerstars.com and its play-money sister pokerstars.net (of course website visitors aren't the same as players):

Pokerstars.net visitors

  • 25% were over age 50
  • 29% were between the ages of 35 and 49
  • 30% were between the ages of 18 and 34
  • 16% were under 18

Pokerstars.com visitors

  • 22% were over age 50
  • 33% were between the ages of 35 and 49
  • 34% were between the ages of 18 and 34
  • 10% were under 18

Reliable data on poker player demographics seems hard to come by. But would it be surprising if the median age of online poker players today was well under 30? I have seen estimates that some 20% of under-30 Americans have played poker of some sort in the past year, in contrast to less than 10% of over-50's.

But bridge, backgammon and even poker have other serious competitors for the attention of the more youthful of youthful players. I've read that the popular MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) World of Warcraft has some ten million subscribers (one quarter each in North America and Europe, and half in Asia). Not that all subscribers are exclusively teenagers and 20-somethings. Does popularity like that suggest that making backgammon more appealing to younger players might include adding, somehow, a bit more "Lok'tar ogar!" to the game?

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