Poker may be all the rage with junior high school kids, but the two richest men in the country are betting a million dollars they have a better card game to offer young people: bridge.
That's contract bridge, the four-player card game whose popularity peaked a half-century ago and is now played largely by senior citizens, country clubbers, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett.
The two billionaires are passionate bridge players who compete in tournaments and online under the names "Chalengr" for Gates and "T-Bone" for Buffett. Now they want to fund a program to teach bridge in schools.
Pastimes of the 1950s are already being revived among kids: Poker is popular, and schools have turned to ballroom dancing to teach teamwork.
Now Gates and Buffett have hired Buffett's bridge partner, Sharon Osberg, to start a program to teach contract bridge in junior high schools. They've anted up $1 million to fund it.
"Bill Gates and I kind of cooked it up together," says Buffett, who thinks bridge would teach kids math skills, logical thinking and how to work with others. "We hope we could get a school program someplace, where the kids were taught the game and ... develop a lot of competition between schools."
And unlike poker, there's no money involved. "We play only for glory," says Linda Granell, marketing director for the bridge league.
What bridge has over chess and poker is that it requires players to learn to work with someone else, Buffett says.
"You have to learn to understand your partner, to be tolerant, sympathetic, encouraging," he says. "Those are skills that are not bad to have in life."
If a program gets going, Buffett and Gates have promised to take on the winners of a school tournament.
"We'd go down and play the best team," Buffett says. "It would be fun for me and Bill to play the champions. And it might spur them on some."