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Random Update February 8, 2012

Posted by justinlall in Blog, Tournament Report.

I haven’t blogged in a while, just going to update random aspects of my life recently.

Fall Nationals

After winning the first pair game, we had a disaster and failed to qualify for the 2nd day of the BAM. Maybe it’s true that it’s hard to play well after winning the previous event. We did end up making the final day of the Reisinger, but ended up 7th or something. It’s still a good result to make the final 10 teams of that event, but it’s disappointing to do poorly once you get there. I have no doubt that day 3 of the Reisinger is the hardest day of bridge there is.

New York Regional

After the nationals I got to go home for 2 weeks before going to the NY regional. Two weeks at home is beginning to feel like a lot! Despite winning only 50 points or so, my team won the most points at the NY regional. I think NY regionals are small because of the cost of hotels/travel, especially over christmas/new years, and it’s also hard to win points because there aren’t a lot of knockouts. On top of that, they’re tough fields, which contributes to low point totals. I had a blast spending christmas and new years with my friends, and especially meeting Kevin Bathurst’s then 2 month old for the first time. I love the city and always will. It was also nice that my dad was on my team (along with Judy Bianco and Win Allagaert), and I got to see him over the holidays.

Orlando Regional

After a day of recovering from the New Year’s party, I went to Orlando for another regional, this time playing with Kevin and Win and Judy. Though it didn’t feel like a particularly successful week, we did win 100 points. The Florida regionals have become insanely tough, feeling like the Spingold. At one point, our team with 45,000 points was almost in bracket 2, but we became the last team in bracket 1.


I had a week and a half before my next tournament, and went to see my sister in LA. One of my favorite things about living in Vegas is being so close to my sister, it’s a far cry from when I lived in New York. We had an awesome time partying and catching up as always. Then I had to do a bunch of errands in Vegas, ostensibly in preparation for my move (still in Vegas, just on the southwest side) but I didn’t get everything done and had to extend my lease a month. Oops. I was too busy playing poker!


I then went to Australia for the Canberra bridge festival with Joe. I have good memories of Australia, winning my first World Junior Teams there, but I never forgot how friendly the people were, and they didn’t disappoint this time. Joe and I were asked to give the prizes and join a barbecue for a youth congress that happened the week before Canberra, and we were warmly received by everyone. We even played crazy bridge, which could be it’s own blog post. It was really great to see that the ABF supported their juniors so strongly, and how many there were. The rest of the world could learn something from that.

Before the teams was a pair game, and since Joe and I figured we would be sick of each other by the end of the trip we played with different partners; he played with Ashley Bach, one of the top players in that area and also our teammate, and I played with an inexperienced junior from New Zealand who played very well. Out of 204 pairs Joe ended 7th and I ended 25th, and had a great time.

The team game was the main event, first a 160 team swiss that our team (Ish Delmonte, Ashley Bach, Joe Grue, me, George Bilski, Barry Noble) won. Then there was a knockout for the top 8 teams, 64 boards a match, and we lost in the semis. We were down 35ish at half, picked up 60 in the third, and our opponents came back at us with a lot of heart and played great in the 4th to win, and later win the event. I did not know them at the time but they were very good players, and deserved their win.

Overall the tournament was extremely well run, and again everyone was very friendly, and patient of the fact that Joe and I were not completely familiar with the alert rules there. I’m not sure how many times we started to say “transfer” and had to stop ourselves, but it was a lot.


From Australia I flew to Houston to play in the regional. Since Houston is where I grew up, it’s the regional I have played the most, and I feel like I know everyone there. It’s nice to see people who knew my parents before they were even married, and knew me when I was 10. Somehow no one lets me forget what a jerk I was then though! Just kidding, I deserve it. I lost in the finals of the first event with Reese Milner, Pepsi, and Russ Ekeblad. I played with Russ for the first time, and we got along well. We beat a very strong team that included Meckwell and Balicki-Zmudzinski, arguably the best 2 pairs in the world, but lost to a very strong O Rourke team in the finals.

I had a day off and then played with Bob Hamman, Petra Hamman, and Peggy Sutherlin in a knockout. We were breezing through, and in the finals played the same Meckwell team. I could not stop from being humbled playing with Bob against Meckstroth and Rodwell. Between the three of them, they have over 150 national titles. A zillion world championships. Probably over 180,000 masterpoints. I am not a humble guy, but that was amazing to me. And as a fan of bridge, watching Bob declare a tough 3NT, playing for a suicide squeeze, and watching Rodwell decide whether to cash his winners or not, and then watching Meck decide what to pitch was really amazing to me. For all the bad rap regionals get as beating up on easy teams, it doesn’t get much better than that. We lost a hard fought battle, but it was extremely fun for me.

The last day we added my dad for Peggy and got another second in the swiss. That gave me 90 points for the week but no wins. We got out in time to watch the Superbowl in Huntsville, known mainly for having a large jail. I will say that I love these middle-of-nowhere places in Texas, somehow they have the most attractive girls in the world.


2011 was a great year for me. I survived a year in Vegas, made some great friendships, had one of my best poker years, and obviously my best bridge year. I won the trials, 2nd in the Bermuda Bowl, won a national pair game, and did something in all 4 of the major team games. I won 1550 points, (~1200 counting for the Mckinney, the trials and bermuda bowl points did not), was 33rd in the Barry Crane race and 54th in player of the year. Unfortunately I could not win the junior race, I still have one more shot, but Kevin Dwyer is tough to beat! Most importantly I was happy and enjoyed life. I got to see Portugal and the Netherlands, and hope to do more world travelling next year.

New Partner

Most people have heard that starting in the summer of 2012 I will be playing with Bob Hamman. Our team will be Johnny Hurd, Joel Wooldridge, Shane Blanchard, and Bob Blanchard. For starters, I am really excited about this team, and I think it can be great. Joel and Johnny are extremely hot right now, Joel winning player of the year, and we have incredible chemistry which I believe matters a lot. Bob Blanchard has been a great player forever, and Shane is constantly improving, already having won an open national title.

Of course, I am most excited about having the opportunity to play with Bob. He is the most successful player in history, and has always been my idol. I believe I will learn a lot about the intangibles of the game by playing with him, I am going to learn how to be a winner from the greatest ever. And of course, I will learn a lot about the game itself, technique and judgement.

Some people have questioned whether I will still play *my* game or if I will be intimidated playing with Bob. It’s a reasonable question, but I posted in a blog post long ago that you have to be true to your game, even if you are on a big stage playing for big stakes, your game is what got you there. The reason someone great asks you to play is because they are impressed by your game. That is not the time to try and change completely. So while I think I will grow and evolve as a player with Bob, I definitely know that it’s my game that got me here and I will continue to play it and not be scared. I have played with Bob several times before, and this was never a factor.

The other common question is what system will we be playing. We are still undecided, though it will definitely be five card major based. We are going to practice in the Platinum Pairs in Memphis so presumably we’ll have it decided by then.

The most important thing to remember is I’m not just viewing this as a learning opportunity, I am ready to win now and I think our team is good enough to do it. I am really optimistic that we can put up some big results.

Youngest Grand Life Master

I’m about 220 points away from Grand Life Master. I have to make it in about 8 months to become the youngest one ever. I am excited about it because I think it is a cool achievement to tell non bridge players that they will understand, and because Joe was the former holder of this record and I cannot let him have any records! I will probably make it in Memphis.

New Living Situation

I am going to be moving into a 3 bedroom house with Josh Donn (aka Jdonn). I honestly thought I would never not live alone again, especially in a housing market as cheap as Vegas, but if there is one person I would live with it’s Josh. He is completely laid back and cool with non stop partying when I’m in town. I enjoy his company a lot and since he has a real job I don’t get to see him that often so I am excited about this. Overall I love living in Vegas, I have never lived anywhere more than three years in my life, but I’m pretty sure Vegas is where I’ll end up. I’ve only been here a year though, so I’ll give it some more time before buying a place rather than renting.

Josh has been joking that with the amount of travelling I’ve been doing, he’ll basically be living alone but paying half the rent! Such is the life of a bridge pro.


1. Mark McEnearney - February 11, 2012

Has anyone ever told you that you are a hell of a writer? Hunter Thompson’s got nothing on you man. Very best wishes to you and your team mates in 2012.

2. carol - March 8, 2012

Congratulations on a great 2011! Who tells you that you were a jerk once upon a time? Not true!

3. Ana Roth - March 19, 2012

Justin…CONGRATULATIONS!!!…the younger GLM…WOW…I am very happy for you…and I know I’ll continue writing this kind of comments for long…wish you the best for the rest of MemNABC.

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