How Low Can you Go?

Richard Troxel is on the lookout for low LM numbers

In the 80-year history of the ACBL, more than 109,000 members have achieved the rank of Life Master, beginning in 1936 with Hall of Famer David Bruce, Life Master No. 1.
Richard Troxel of Hendersonville NC is ACBL Life Master No. 823. The 85-year-old earned his Life Master gold card in 1955 at age 23. Recently, however, Troxel has been on the hunt
for living players who made LM before he did.
“Is there anyone out there with a lower Life Master number and is still ‘vertical’?” he asks.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the ACBL itself would know the answer to that question, but it does not. In its early days, the League kept a card catalogue of Life Masters, a paper
record of each member’s achievement. These records contained many pieces of information, including players’ Life Master numbers. When player records began to be digitized in the early
1990s, however, this particular piece of information was not part of the update.
The paper records were placed on microfiche, so the information is not completely lost, but the time and effort involved in researching and keying in thousands of older LM numbers into
digital format means it’s unlikely to happen.
Everyone who earns the rank of Life Master receives a gold card from the ACBL. Years ago, these cards were engraved with the player’s name, the year the rank was achieved, and the
Life Master number. Today, the LM number has been replaced with the ACBL player number (with the first digit “promoted” to a letter to signify the honor), and players learn of their LM number with a congratulatory letter that accompanies the card.
Troxel’s name appeared in the Life Master list of the March 1955 issue of The Bulletin. (Note it was not a new LM list, but rather the entire list of all LMs. In 1955, the list was short enough that it could be published in a single issue.) As a fresh graduate of Ohio State University, Troxel said he spent his time as a young man playing as much bridge as possible.
“I was working just to get enough money to go to tournaments. Mynatural calling was being a bridge bum.”
Troxel soon got his first “real” job as a controller for a manufacturing company. The job required a knowledge of accounting, which Troxel – who had earned a degree in general business – didn’t quite possess.
“I had to learn accounting by reading at night to get myself up to speed,” he said.
So why had the owner of the company hired Troxel when the young man was not entirely qualified for the position?
“He actually hired me to play bridge with him,” Troxel confessed.
Troxel’s career in accounting took a giant step forward in 1959 when he was hired by Pillsbury to be a division accounting manager. And as his work demanded more and more of his time, bridge began to take a back seat.
“My career made playing difficult, but I tried to keep up with the game by reading bridge magazines. And I kept my membership current in the ACBL. But there was a 30-year gap when I just
didn’t play.”
In 2016, however, Troxel attended a birthday party for bridge-playing friend Patricia Mills, in Hendersonville, where he and his wife had moved two decades previously. (“But not to
retire,” said Troxel. “I’m still working as a consultant.”) The party had a bridge theme, so Troxel found his LM gold card and wore it around his neck in a plastic holder. Mills was fascinated
with the card because she had never seen one. That got Troxel to wonder if there are any active members of the ACBL who became Life Master before 1955.
So how about it, readers? Does anyone have a lower LM number than Mr. Troxel? Let us know at