Why Masterpoints Deserve Care (you are here)

Principles of Masterpoint Administration

Teams Versus Pairs
Changing the massive discrepancy between team and pair events

Building a Better Formula
Criteria for a good formula, problems with the current formulas, and a better formula.

What You Can Do

Other Information

Messageboard, email

Why Masterpoint Reform?

Question: What does the ACBL call a bridge player who doesn't care about masterpoints?

Answer: A nonmember.

My mother doesn't care about masterpoints. She plays duplicate, but she plays at non-ACBL clubs. Non-ACBL clubs are cheaper because they do not have to pay any fees to the ACBL.

Bottom line, there is not much reason to pay dues to the ACBL or attend ACBL clubs except to collect masterpoints. Almost all ACBL members care about masterpoints; some care a lot. Bottom line, the ACBL exists as an organization primarily because it manages masterpoints. It should be very concerned with the problem of managing masterpoints wisely.

The Function of Masterpoints

The purpose of masterpoints is not to measure ability. Masterpoints are awards. As awards, they add interest and enjoyment to playing bridge. Most players are happy when they win masterpoints. They can appropriately take pride in what they have won. (Heartwarming Story)

Other awards are based on masterpoints. Many players try to earn Life Master, but the other rankings also are pursued. Many players notice their rankings in various races, from everything to the Barry Crane 500 to the Unit Mini-McKinney to the monthly posting at their bridge club. In many ways the ACBL does an excellent job of making masterpoints interesting.


Ideally, masterpoint awards would be proportional to merit. This is impossible to get perfectly right, and it does not have to be perfect. But the ACBL's current has gross discrepancies between awards and merit. These discrepancies create two problems.

Distorting Participation

First, to the extent that players care about masterpoints (and they do), they will not always attend the events and clubs that they most enjoy. In other words, discrepancies between merit and award distort player's activities in an undesirable way. See the essay on distorting Participation.

Disillusionment, Disenchantment, and Disengagement

Masterpoints acquire value by being associated with merit. They then lose value to the extent that they can be earned without merit. Thus, the discrepancies between awards and merit create disillusionment. Players are unhappy when they do not win enough points (given their merit), and masterpoints lose value when a player receives too many.

The logical response to this is to say that masterpoints are unimportant and have no value. In short, players become disillusioned.

When players become disillusioned with masterpoints, they become disenchanted with the activities associated with winning masterpoints. In other words, winning masterpoints isn't as much fun.

And when they become disenchanted with masterpoints, they become disengaged with those activities. In other words, they don't play bridge as often for masterpoints.

I see widespread caring for masterpoints, but I see widespread disillusionment too. It is impossible to know how much disillusionment there is with masterpoints. To take a guess, I estimate the disillusionment with masterpoints to be around 33%. In other words, I imagine the enthusiasm for masterpoints that would occur if awards were equitable, and I estimate that currently players on the average are at about 67% of that level.

(See also the Letters to the ACBL Bulletin.)

Distorting Participation
See also The Law of Distorting Participation