For Michael Bambang Hartono, a professional bridge player, the risk-taking and quick decision-making skills required in the game were instrumental in gathering his $11.5 billion (RM47 billion) fortune.
Now the 78-year-old tycoon, whose family fortune spans from tobacco to banking and telecom, aims to become Indonesia’s oldest Asian Games medal winner.
He’s paired with 65-year-old Bert Toar Polii as bridge makes its debut in the ongoing Asian Games in Jakarta.
“Bridge is how you train yourself in making good decisions and risk-taking,” Hartono said. “You know what percent is the risk you take and the strategy. Bridge is a team game, you cannot depend on yourself alone. I work always in a team and am used to it.”
Hartono worked with his younger brother Robert Budi Hartono and grew their empire, the Djarum Group.
The conglomerate is among the top cigarette makers in Indonesia and also owns majority stakes in PT Bank Central Asia and PT Sarana Menara Nusantara.
The younger Hartono is ranked as the richest Indonesian with a net worth of $12.2 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Though Hartono’s passion for bridge has taken him to several international competitions, winning a medal at Asia’s biggest sporting event is more prestigious than any other as Indonesia is hosting the event, Hartono said.
“There are 45 countries competing now and the game is held every four years,” said Hartono, who is part of Indonesia’s super-mixed bridge team. “If every country wants to be a host, it will take 180 years for the game to return to Indonesia. That’s how important winning is.”
“It was during Japanese occupation, in 1944 or 1945. I would watch my uncle play bridge after school. He lived next door,’’ Hartono said. “One day, one of the uncle’s friends could not come. So my uncle told me, ‘Sit down and play.’ That’s how it all began.’’
For the time being, the billionaire is focused on winning the Asian Games medal and has sworn to stay off alcohol during the competition after a glass of wine before the final at this year’s Summer North American Bridge Championships in Atlanta cost him the gold medal.
“I drank wine during dinner just before the final, then fell asleep. My partner was mad. He woke me up 10 times, I think, and also my opponent,’’ Hartono said. “I lost a gold medal because of that! In the final! So no more wine.’’