Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are bridge aficionados, competing at large tournaments throughout the U.S.

They would find equally avid players in Park Rapids, where about 24 people regularly gather three days a week at the Park Rapids Senior Center to play what's called "the ultimate partnership card game."

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Bridge is a game of skill, logic, concentration and memory, says Sheila Tuhy, director of the Park Rapids Duplicate Bridge Club, which meets Thursdays. The Headwaters Ladies Bridge Club meets Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The local clubs are hosting their first annual bridge tournament Monday, Aug. 29 at Blueberry Pines Golf Course. It's a fundraiser for the senior center.

"We've invited people from a 100-mile radius-Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, St. Cloud, Brainerd," Tuhy said. "It's a new venture for us. We hope to learn from it and make it an annual thing."

Bridge is played using a standard deck of 52 cards dealt equally among four players. Players form partnerships by sitting across from each other, north-south and east-west.

The players bid in a coded language to describe their hands to their partners and then play to make their contract. A number and suit comprises a "bid." Each partnership tries to win or "take" as many "tricks" as possible. Generally, one suit is determined as "trump," leading to the expression "play your trump card."

In duplicate bridge, each team plays identical hands under similar conditions.

"It's not an easy game to learn," admits Tuhy, a retired geriatric nurse. "You have to play several weeks to pick it up."

Bridge has its own language, she said. "All you can legally say is the number, suit, pass, double or alert. It's not legal to use intonations or hesitations. You have to be poker face to be legal."

Tuhy's primary doctor told her he has observed that "bridge players age well."

Three local bridge players are in their 90s, but the game can be played at any age.

"You must remember the cards played, the bids made," she said. "Bridge helps keep logic and memory alive. It helps your concentration, judgement skills and social life. You need sociability to age well."

Tuhy has spent 23 summers in Park Rapids. A majority of her friends are from bridge club.

"The social aspect is just as important to me as winning, or more so," she said.

Raised in Park Rapids, Wayne Reynolds has been playing bridge for a decade. While attending St. Cloud College, he and some friends got a library book about it and skipped school for a week to learn. When he married, he taught his wife to play.

Always a card player, Reynolds finds "bridge is most challenging." And that's its appeal.

He and his brother, Charles, were partners Thursday.

Phyllis Barth's daughter, a neurologist, urges her to continue playing bridge.

"It's very good for your head," Barth said. "I like the sociability of it. This is a really nice duplicate group." She and her husband are bridge partners.

"I love it," said Sharon Jesperson, a 20-year bridge player. "You have to concentrate on every card." She plays in Park Rapids and her winter home in Texas.

The senior center is a place "to just drop in and find a friendly face and cup of coffee," Tuhy said. "We're also promoting other games people want to play."

Efforts are currently underway to establish a whist club, the forerunner of bridge.