Online Bridge

"At an online bridge club, individuals are able to play bridge against others from around the world. Usually the rooms are open 24/7, with bridge players of all levels and experience enjoying each other's company over a game of cards."

-- Great Bridge Links

Playing bridge on the Internet is very different from playing in a room full of people.  For a start it is silent, save for the whirr of the computer. Your opponents, and partner, can be from different continents and may not have a common language. You can play for minutes or hours (or days!) at your own convenience - there are always tables in play!

There are a diverse range of sites providing online bridge and they vary in cost and the audience they are trying to address. My opinion is that the subscription-based sites, together with Bridge Base Online, are the ones with the best standards of play and best ethics; whereas the most popular site, MSN Zone, together with Yahoo!, suffer from the greatest number of non-bridge players purporting to be experts.

Most sites support the different forms of the game - rubber, matchpoints, IMPs and aggregate scoring. The subscription-based sites, and the free Bridge Base Online, also offer tournaments (MPs, IMPs, Total Points, Point-a-Board) and team matches. Leagues are supported by, or have developed for, the MSN Zone, Bridge Base, OKbridge, Bridge Club Live and Swan Games and probably will develop for the other sites too.

Sites provide different areas, or sets of tables, by ability although these are dependent on what you believe, or say, your ability is! One person's expert is another's novice! OKbridge has a ratings system although whether this really provides an objective ability rating is subject to continuous debate - especially from those who only have an average rating and think it should be higher. Most club players will rank themselves Intermediate or Advanced, so take it from there.

It's important to remember that you are playing real people online, and that the online people are for real!

-- Anne Lucy

The most popular bidding system online is Standard American Yellow Card, also known as SAYC, and it is worth understanding the basics of this system as most pickup pairs will play it. The advantage of SAYC is that it is a well-defined standard, based on 5-card majors and a strong NT, that is close to many countries' standard - see the Useful links for a definition. Of course, it is not close to Acol and if you are wedded to this then EBU Online should definitely be investigated.

The North Americans are the biggest community in online bridge, probably followed by the UK. There is a large European community, especially from France and Poland, on Bridge Base Online. The biggest Junior community is probably on OKbridge, although costs may drive them to Bridge Base Online. The biggest Acol community is on EBU Online.

Finally, a number of the sites broadcast vugraph of important national and international tournaments - in particular, Bridge Base Online, Bridge Club Live and OKbridge. Bridge Base Online maintains an impressive schedule of vugraph events that includes many of the top world events, for example, the Las Vegas Cavendish, Lederer Memorial Trophy (London), Bermuda Bowl, European Championships, NABCs in the USA, top Polish events, Hecht Cup and many other top Scandinavian events

I, along with over 3000 others on Bridge Base Online, watched perhaps the most dramatic finish in Bermuda Bowl history, when USA I gained 12 IMPs on the last board of the 2003 event to emerge with an amazing 304-303 victory over Italy.

If you have the time, perhaps the occasional Sunday evening, then I advise you to give it a try. Test the sites and see which suits you best. Feel free to send me an email to discuss, so I hope to see you online soon :-).

Any husband who says. "My wife and I are completely equal partners," is talking about either a law firm or a hand of bridge.

-- Bill Cosby

Disclaimer

Personally the only site I use now is Bridge Base Online, although I was an OKbridge subscriber for over four years. I have not used any of the other sites for a significant period.

Pro's of online bridge

Con's of online bridge

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

Differences playing online

The principal difference playing online is that you "self alert", that is you alert your own conventional bids rather than your partner’s.  This allows you to explain what is happening in the auction without the problem of partner hearing the explanations. This means that problems associated with unauthorised information and misinformation rarely occur.

There are more reasons for variations in tempo online, and therefore it is not necessarily the player thinking about his bid; not only are traffic jams on the information superhighway regular and computers unreliable, but there are all the problems associated with being at home.  For instance, a telephone ringing, doorbells chiming, kids wanting the computer, kids in general, just getting a coffee and Man Utd scoring are just some of the excuses that I’ve seen for delays.

Online bridge prevents some of the mechanical errors that can occur at the table - there will be no insufficient bids, nor revokes. Inadvertent mouse clicks will occur, resulting in the wrong bid being made or card play error. All the sites support an "undo" feature, although this can be a source of controversy too and many prefer to play with a "no undos" understanding.

One of the dubious benefits of playing online is that, as dummy, you see the entire hand and can watch partner butcher the contract!

Personal computer requirements

The system requirements are modest and most modern personal computers will be capable of playing bridge online. Of course, you need a reliable Internet connection but there is no need for it to be superfast as the sites are designed to work with 9.6Kb modems - all modern modems run 3-8 times faster than this and broadband is typically 50 times faster.

Most sites run best if your system supports 800x600 resolution or higher.

All sites support personal computers running Windows, and some have a dedicated Windows client that has to be downloaded before you can play. If you have a Macintosh, or a system running Linux or Unix, then you will be limited to those sites which support web browsers (unless you have a suitable Windows emulator package) - note that these also require Java to be installed on your system.

Where to play - the online sites

Online Sites
Online Site Web site Platform Costs Tournaments My Comments Site's comments
OKbridge http://www.okbridge.com Web Browser or Windows, Mac or Linux $99/year with Free 7-day trial Tournaments - no extra charge
Team play - no extra charge
OKbridge is where many experts play and probably has the highest quality pickup games. Join the friendliest, best run online bridge club in the world.
* Pay bridge anytime, anywhere.
* Have fun playing with members of all levels.
* Play where the experts play and kibitz the pros to improve your game.
* Enjoy playing in tournaments run by our team of professional Tournament Directors.
* Experience the most interactive bridge game you have ever played online with OKplus.
* Increase your skill from articles by leading bridge experts.
Bridge Base Online http://online.bridgebase.com Windows Free Tournaments - some free, some pay tournaments available
Team play - free
Excellent mechanics for free online play and the best site for Bridge news and Vugraph coverage of championship events. Bridge Base Online is a free service offered to bridge players everywhere by Fred Gitelman, Sheri Winestock, and Uday Ivatury.
We offer duplicate matchpoints, duplicate IMPs, rubber bridge, duplicate tournaments and team matches.
Our frequent "Vugraph" broadcasts present live matches from around the world and are enhanced by expert commentary.
Our member community is large (100,000+), active (thousands of people online) and multilingual.
BBO is a business and offers ACBL-sanctioned club games as well as the occasional advertisement.
Nevertheless, BBO is primarily a labor of love. Our hope is to keep BBO free "forever". As long as we can afford it, BBO will remain free.
Swan Games http://www.swangames.com Windows Play unlimited for FREE in the players room
Tournament play - $79.95/year Join the friendliest club with duplicate games, free lessons, expert exhibition matches and tournaments. Friendly helpful atmosphere for players of all levels. Easy to use interface for play 24 hours a day with people from all over the world
MSN Zone http://zone.msn.com/en/bridge/default Internet Explorer on Windows 98 or later Free     The biggest play site on the web! (Software designed by Fred Gitelman of BridgeBase.com)
Yahoo! http://games.yahoo.com/br Web Browser Free      
Bridge Club Live http://www.bridgeclublive.com/ Web Browser, Java (Windows, Mac and Linux) 30-day free trial £69/year, £49/year (EBU members) EBU masterpoints Tournaments - no extra charge   The International On-Line Bridge Club was formed in 1994 as a dedicated consortium focused on providing a high quality, Windows based on line bridge system and the bridge club is called Bridge Club Live.
We have been in continuous operation and we have developed a sophisticated n line playing software system that includes a Java Web based program.
Bridge Club Live is an EBU affiliated club and we offer EBU Online Master Points and work closely with the EBU in a number of other areas such as online minibridge, bridge for all classes.
We currently have over 5000 active members of all categories at any one time and most nights there are over 300 players on line in the club. We are unique in being able to cater for both SAYC and ACOL players.
BridgePerfect http://www.bridgeperfect.com Windows Unlimited guest play - FREE
Premium rooms - $70/year
    A program that challenges the best players. BridgePerfect is unlike OKbridge, Yahoo! Bridge or any other form of online playing forum. Known to many Bridge enthusiasts as the "Driving Range" of Bridge, BridgePerfect is what the serious Bridge player is missing.
AOL - Bridge http://aol.pogo.com/games/bridge AOL Free      
JBridge.Net http://www.jbridge.net/ Java-based interface Free     A new site.

Acronyms you'll need to know

wlc welcome (to the table)
gla good luck all
tfg thanks for the game
typ thank you partner (typically as declarer to dummy)
glp good luck partner (typically dummy to declarer)
wdp well done partner
vwdp very well done partner
wdo well done opps
gto good try opps
brb be right back
b back
re rehi - hello again (typically after reconnection)
lol laughing out loud (typically not "little old lady"!)
rofl rolling on the floor laughing
f2f face-to-face (real bridge!)
tourney tournament
sayc Standard American Yellow Card bidding system
2/1 2/1 bidding system
fwiw for what it's worth
imho in my humble opinion
imnsho in my not so humble opinion

An example

Here is a screenshot of a real match on Bridge Base Online. You may feel that East did not bid his hand to the full in this room, whereas the result from the other room showed how far Anne was prepared to go.

The greyed-out bids illustrate alerts - moving your mouse over the bid would show the explanation.

You can see the result of this match on the Funky Gibbons web site.

BBO screenshot

Most of the sites provide a standard convention card and links to a description of a working system.

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Version: 3.3 - AOL link updated
Version: 3.2 - added Jbridge.net
Version: 3.1 - references to e-bridge removed
Version: 3.0 - all links refreshed

Date: January 10, 2008

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