The Wanganui Contract Bridge Club has had a shot in the arm, with 30 new learners picking up the basics of the popular card game.

The club holds learners' lessons each year with the aim of enabling participants to play socially with friends and/or join the club and play with junior members at the Wednesday night sessions.

Lessons are run over 12 evenings, and are followed by further practice sessions until the learners' group is integrated into the Wednesday play.

Tutors this year are club president Graham Wood and John Botting, assisted by their wives Libby and Marilyn, along with other club members.

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"We were really excited to have so many people come to the lessons this year, with the ages of participants ranging from their mid-20s to people in their 70s," Wood said.

"Although bridge can be a social game, many members go on to play competitively at tournaments around the country most weekends.

"Some will be going to the New Zealand bridge congress in Hamilton, in October."

He said many of the new learners had been encouraged to learn by friends who already played.

"Others are nearing retirement and are seeking leisure activities. But it is still a game for all ages — in fact, two members of the New Zealand bridge team which recently competed in China are still in their 20s."

Wood reckoned the game suited those with "a mathematical mind" or who had played other card games, especially 500, whist and euchre.

Bridge — believed to have begun in the 19th century in the Middle East — is a game played by millions around the world.

It has a number of high-rpofile aficionados from actor Omar Sharif to business billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

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Buffett, the third richest man in the world, was once quoted as saying: "Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day."