As an accountant, Steve Drumhiller knew he wasn’t going to get rich running a center for people who play bridge.
But a modest profit is sufficient if it allows him to promote and play the card game he has been addicted to for more than 30 years.
“You never master it completely,” said Drumhiller, who owns Wichita Duplicate Bridge Center.
Drumhiller took over the center in 2010 and moved it from a spot on South Hydraulic to a space on the lower level of Parklane Shopping Center three years later.
“We basically took that concept and moved it to a better location,” he said.
With space for 22 four-person tables, it’s the largest bridge center in Wichita, Drumhiller said.
Players pay a fee of $7 per game. About 180 people play each week, many more than once. Each game lasts about 3 1/2 hours and consists of about 25 hands.
“You’re supposed to be able to play two hands in 15 minutes,” he said. “We don’t go quite that fast, but it’s close.”
Players don’t compete for cash prizes. Instead, they’re playing for points awarded by the game’s national sanctioning body, the American Contract Bridge League.
“People have no concept how important points are to bridge people,” Drumhiller said. “Points feed the biggest appetite of all – the human ego.”
They’re not easy to get. The winner of a regular weekday game usually gets one or two. Drumhiller has amassed about 2,400 through the years.
The games typically attract about 50 people. Drumhiller collects their fee for playing, sets up a table with potato chips and other snacks, and acts as the “director” – a sort of referee – making any rulings needed during games.
A sign on the wall urges participants to “play nice.” The center’s 3,200 square feet includes a room for lessons, a kitchen and an office.
In addition to his own games, Drumhiller rents the center to two other people who are authorized to operate games by the ACBL.
Most players are between 60 and 85 years old, although Drumhiller says three regulars are in their 90s.
Drumhiller has also invested in new technology since moving the center, including an electronic card dealer and scorekeepers, monitors and more. Drumhiller spends about 20 hours a week at the center, which also hosts evening games.
He said he receives a lot of help from volunteers such as Charles Wiggins, who heads up a local duplicate bridge club.
“It takes a village,” Wiggins said, prompting Drumhiller to correct him.
“It takes a city,” Drumhiller said.
Now you know
Wichita Duplicate Bridge Center
Address: 1209 S. Glendale
Owner: Steve Drumhiller