‘The king of card games’ — Bridge tournament attracts thousands to Hilton Head

Sue Gilbreath was having a little lunch before the afternoon bridge session was to start at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa on Saturday.

Gilbreath and her partner Charlie Brown had made the trip from Arlington, Texas, earlier in the week to attend the “Low Country Classic Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference” and were planning to spend another day of — you guessed it — playing bridge.

“We had heard this is one of the best tournaments,” Gilbreath said, as she sat at one of the tables in the hotel’s grand ballroom. “I believe that’s true.”

The couple and other longtime bridge players were among the more than 2,000 to attend the week-long event, tournament officials estimated.

“Hotels are full. ... Restaurants are packed,” said Kathie Walsh, who is a member of the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club that hosts the biannual event. “To have all these people going to Hilton Head businesses at this time of year is a big boon for our economy.”

But for many who were on hand Saturday, including Walsh, bridge is much more than an economic boon or even a pastime. The game, they said, is good for the brain and could become a “fun obsession.”

“It’s a game you never learn,” Walsh said. “I have played for years, and I still take lessons. It’s just an incredible game.”

Gilbreath and Brown agreed.

The couple, who actually met over a bridge game nearly 40 years ago, enjoy playing competitively and frequently travel to tournaments around the country.

And bridge, they said, is the only game for them.

“Once you get started on it, it’s hard to play anything else,” Gilbreath said.

Across the table from her Brown nodded.

“It’s the king of card games,” he said.