Blurring the Boundaries between Leisure and Work: Professionals as Devotees in the Mind-Sport Bridge



Russell Z, Punch S & McIntosh I (2022) Blurring the Boundaries between Leisure and Work: Professionals as Devotees in the Mind-Sport Bridge. International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure, 5 (1), pp. 13-32.

Bridge is a partnership card game that has increasingly professionalized in recent years, particularly at ‘elite’ level. ‘Elite’ bridge players participate in a unique leisure world which hitherto has been understood as a form of serious leisure. However, due to professionalization there is the possibility to work as a professional bridge player thus blurring the boundaries between leisure and work. The paper is based on the lived experiences of professional bridge players and how they understand the, often ongoing, transition from playing bridge as a hobby to playing bridge for a job. Being a professional bridge player raises issues about moral evaluations of work, a work ethic and concerns over what a ‘proper job’ is. This paper explores these dynamics in relation to Stebbins concept of ‘devotee work’ and ideas of liminality, unpacking the tensions and ambiguities involved through the perspective of 52 elite bridge players. Findings from the qualitative interviews illustrate how playing bridge professionally is often experienced as being hugely positive, because of being paid to do something one is devoted to, but ambivalences and anxieties also emerge. In addition, the paper draws on the reflections of one author who is a bridge player and blurs the boundaries between work and leisure through the academic study of bridge. The findings show the contested nature of bridge as a profession set within broader notions of work, with positive and negative perceptions of the blurring of work-leisure boundaries.

Bridge; Devotee work; Leisure; Mind-sport; Profession

International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure: Volume 5, Issue 1

FundersDonors (O.S)
Publication date31/03/2022
Publication date online19/11/2021
Date accepted by journal26/10/2021

People (2)


Dr Ian McIntosh

Dr Ian McIntosh

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Professor Samantha Punch

Professor Samantha Punch

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Projects (1)

Bridge: A MindSport for All