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There's no shortage of very, very rich people with a taste for bridge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are both avid bridge players, for instance. And many wealthy players around the world will pay to sponsor professionals to get them on their teams to win tournaments or simply to enjoy a game with them.

Janet de Botton, the widow of a Swiss financier estimated to be worth more than $457-million, is perhaps the most well known sponsor in Britain, says Michael Gold, online manager of Bridge4Money.com, a British-based website.

"She plays bridge virtually every day of her life and she sponsors her own team," Mr. Gold says. "She will hire the best players whatever it costs."

In 2007, Ms. de Botton led England's bridge team to victory in the Chairman's Cup, a prestigious tournament held in Sweden.

In Italy, Maria Teresa Lavazza, wife of the owner of the Lavazza coffee company, pays salaries to top bridge players on her team, Mr. Gold says. In 2005 she sponsored a team that won the Cavendish Invitational, a high-profile tournament in Las Vegas.

Wealthy sponsors may be looking to win bragging rights, but they are also likely after the thrill of competition.

"It's impossible to describe to a non-bridge player how awesome it is to compete at the top level of bridge," says Gavin Wolpert, a Florida-based bridge professional.