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A 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.
But no. That afternoon, Mr. So does Justine Cushing, whose father was the developer of Squaw Valley. Of the 11 tables devoted to high-level play that afternoon, eight contained partnerships between a client and a pro. As the stakes get higher, so do the rates. Judi Radin, a four-time world champion, has made her living from bridge for more than 40 years, since she was It has been a jet-set lifestyle: She estimates that traveling to tournaments has taken her away from her Manhattan apartment for half of that time.
But she told me that, for a bridge pro, New York is the place to be. There are many more people here who want to hire people than anywhere else. Radin says. Like many pros, Ms. Radin considers herself close friends with some of her clients, with whom she regularly goes out to dinner and the theater. Melih Ozdil, a pro whose three regular clients include Ms. Cushing, gets his health insurance from one of his clients, though he declined to tell me which one.
For clients with a difficult-to-exhaust supply of money, paying a pro is considered money well spent. Cushing explained, adding that her partnership with Mr. Ozdil has raised her level from average to above-average. Because rates for weekday club tournaments are comparatively low, many elite pros save themselves for regional, national and international tournament play. Almost all top players play with sponsors.
The big sponsors in New York tend to also be big players in finance. The two highest-paying sponsors are Frank T. Martin Fleisher, owner of Dearborn Capital Partners, is another prominent bridge bankroller.