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High Profile: 2013 U.S. Bridge King

John Altman doesn’t wear a crown. His kingdom is both virtual and physical, and in it he is widely known as a man of skill—a teenaged master of numbers and logic, proclaimed Bridge King by the American Contract Bridge League. Recently, the Mariemont native moved his throne to The Ohio State University. Still, we had to ask: Why bridge?

Every time I was with my grandmother, we would play cards. That’s how I learned to count when I was a little boy.

You’re never done learning it. It’s always building on itself. It’s challenging. It’s different every time and it’s something I was drawn to because of that.

I’m a math, logic, science person. Engineering student, you know? So, most people, when they find out I’m a bridge player, they’re like, “Oh, OK, that makes sense.”

You always have something in common with the people across the table from you. Bridge players have a kind of connection.

I got a phone call from the American Contract Bridge League when I was practicing the piano. They were asking to do a little article on their website about the award I won. And I had no idea I won it. It just came as a complete surprise. It’s still surprising.

I think people would call me a slightly competitive person in an extremely competitive game. I do it more for fun, but bridge has definitely brought out the competitiveness in me.

At the national tournament, they have games starting at either 9 or 10 a.m. and ending at like 1 a.m. You can play an entire day for two weeks. And I’m always the person playing the entire day for two weeks straight. It’s what I like to do and [I want to] see how well I can do in each one of the games.

Not a lot of families grow up playing cards. It’s kind of cool because we can all be competitive with each other and it’s still friendly and fun, it’s not cutthroat—we’re not throwing the Monopoly money in the fireplace or anything like that.

None of the guys up here in college will play poker with me for money.

Originally published in December 2013 issue.