Equally individual are the experts' playing styles. Some, like B. Jay Becker, never move a muscle. "Mr. Becker plays like a wooden Indian," says Oswald Jacoby, adding: "a very intelligent wooden Indian." George Rapee is fond of stimulants, and proclaims: "An Equanil, two Dexies, and I'm ready to swing. Deal the cards. I can play all night." Goren seems determined to show every other player the entire contents of his hand, practically laying it on the table in front of him. John Crawford is fond of violently irregular play, just to throw the opponents off stride. Howard Schenken appears to be exactly the opposite, but this can be deceptive. The difference, according to Lee Hazen, is that Schenken "is always doing something irregular without appearing irregular. Johnny Crawford is irregular, but you know it. If you were walking down Fifth Avenue someday and saw Schenken and Crawford coming along walking on their hands, you'd say to Johnny, 'What are you doing walking on your hands?' But you wouldn't even notice Schenken. On him it would look good."
Oswald Jacoby's ploy is busyness. He is forever jumping up from the table to answer the phone, talk to a friend, consolidate a business deal or go to the bathroom. George S. Kaufman once wrote:
"It is estimated by experts that Oswald Jacoby is away from the table 73.6 per cent of the playing time of any given rubber. Even the experts have been accustomed to waiting this time—as a rule they simply sit at the table and say, 'Where is that b——?' The time, however, can be used in playing other games, reading the papers, going to the theater, making trips out of town, etc. In one case, during one of Mr. Jacoby's most extended absences, one of the women at the table had a baby. Under the rules, of course, the cards had to be dealt over again."
Riposted Jacoby: "If only he had written on what to do when Jacoby is at the table!"
At the table, the experts have an endless variety of wild mannerisms. Schenken revolves his head to loosen an imaginary crick. Stone adjusts his glasses and his tie, a mannerism which Rapee unconsciously imitated so often that he fell into the habit himself. Helen Sobel is a wiggler. Harry Fishbein shows up at every tournament in a beret, and once took 29 different berets to Los Angeles for a tournament. He changes to a different color when his luck sours.
Jacoby likes to gorge himself between hands, and once won a bet that he could eat $5 worth of food at the automat in a single sitting. After winning the bet he ordered a piece of apple pie. He also likes to showboat but, unlike many duffers, he has the intellectual qualifications to bring his act off. Playing against the vice-president of the University of Notre Dame, Father Edmund Joyce, Jacoby picked up his hand, glanced at it and stuffed it into his pocket without arranging the cards. When each of his turns came, he dipped into the pocket and pulled out the right card.
Once a rival expert decided to test Jacoby's mettle, and evolved a ridiculous system under which he would discard one way on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and another way on the other days. After playing with him a few times, Jacoby said: "You'll have to give up your system on discards. I figure you drop the high card on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the low the rest of the time." If Jacoby had rattled off every thought in his rival's head, described the color of the man's underwear and announced what time he arose that morning, no one would have been surprised. After all, Jacoby is a bridge expert.
Another bridge expert once said: "Play every hand as part of a lifetime bridge career. The result is more slams, less sets and a fine average record." The author of those lines is a man who has played bridge in battlefield command posts and who uses the game as a relaxant from the extraordinary tensions of statesmanship. He is, in a word, a bridge nut, and his name is Dwight David Eisenhower. Almost every Saturday afternoon at 5, the game begins in the White House solarium. Like all bridge nuts, the President is loth to quit for dinner, settles instead for a snack and then resumes the contest in his second-floor study. Ely Culbertson once described the President's game:
"You can always judge a man's character by the way he plays cards. Eisenhower is a calm and collected player and never whines at his losses. He is brilliant in victory but never commits the bridge player's worst crime of gloating when he wins. He believes in systems, which he calls 'canned strategy.' He is not of the class of perpetual bridge losers who proclaim their only system is not to have any system." Culbertson carefully avoided mentioning that Ike uses the Goren system.
Jacoby has said of the Eisenhower game: "The President plays better bridge than he does golf. He tries to break 90 at golf; at bridge you would say he plays in the 70s." Ike's play, Jacoby explained, is not wooden; "he thinks about what he does and what he does is done with good reason." Albert Morehead estimates that Eisenhower would be on a par with the best bridge-club players excepting the pros, and that he would be a senior master if he played tournament bridge.