By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Those who enjoy playing the card game of contract bridge are flocking to Philadelphia this week for the North American Bridge Championships, now underway at the Philadelphia Marriott and the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

“Probably about 5,000 people will be in Philadelphia over the next ten days,” notes Jeff Johnston, senior director of the American Contract Bridge League.

What makes bridge so appealing to some people?

(Jeff Johnston. Credit: Hadas Kuznits)

“It’s a competitive thing,” Johnston (right) thinks.  “A lot of the people are slightly older and maybe they were the country club golf champion and the knees are starting to go or whatever, so they switched to bridge.  It’s a social game.”

And, he says, the competitiveness is obvious.

“You walk into one of these rooms five minutes before the game starts and it looks like total, utter chaos.  And then it’s time to sit down and now it’s silent — you can hear a pin drop — and they’re concentrating, focused.  They play about 25 hands during a session.  It’s intense!”

He says players have come here from all over the world but adds that you don’t need to pre-register to participate, nor do you need a lot of money.

“You can play for less than $20 a day.”

And Johnston invites folks to check out the free bridge lessons being given throughout the event.

“Yeah, we have free lessons Saturday and Sunday for brand-new players, (and) we have lectures for fairly new players almost every day.”

Johnston says the tournament requires about 21 tons of equipment — cards, card tables, bidding boxes, electronics, and more — and will run through July 22nd.