These notes deal with BridgeBase Online (BBO) only.

How does online bridge work?

Pretty much like real bridge but online and you cannot see the others at the table, so there is generally less social interaction but you can “talk” to people at the table by sending them messages

There are some key differences between online and real bridge.

·         When you type in anything you want to say (on the Chat line) – just make sure that you are sending your message to the right person!  When you are at the table and once the cards have been dealt, you cannot talk privately to your partner, just to everyone at the table or to your opponents (or to anyone who isn’t at the table)

·         You announce and alert your own bids.  When you do this, the information you have provided is displayed to your opponents (only).  Your partner doesn’t even know that you have alerted/announced.  This takes some getting used to, but it has significant advantages.

·         You cannot revoke, lead out of turn or bid out of rotation.  The system will not let you!

·         You cannot drop a card on the floor, or try to play 2 cards at once.

·         When you are dummy, you can see declarer’s (your partner’s) cards as well as your own.  You can then shout encouragement (or dismay) to your heart’s content as they cannot hear you.  Alternatively you can nip away from the table to make tea, get a glass of wine or empty the washing machine (as the fancy takes you).

·         You can lose connection (this is not uncommon).  Depending on the type of event you are playing, you will either go straight back to the table when you log back on (in an organised event such as duplicate pairs or lockdown league) or have to hunt for your partner.

·         You cannot read anything in to hesitations – they may reflect connection problems just as much as deep thought.

·         If you make a misclick when bidding or playing, you may be able to ask for an UNDO – this is found in the menu (blue box with white horizontal lines).  It is up to your opponents whether or not they agree, and they may well not.  For many tournaments, the UNDO option is not available.  If you are having problems with misclicks, consider changing your Settings (in your Account) to “confirm cards” and/or “confirm bids”


How do I get started on BBO?

First, you set up an account (register) on or on the BBO app (via Google Play or the Apple Store).  Choose ‘become a member (free)’.  When you register, you will need to choose a username which is an alias or nickname.  It is a good idea to give some thought to this before registering – some people have an alias which is quite close to their real name, others have something completely different.  You may find that your chosen alias is not available (bear in mind that there are huge numbers of people using BBO) so perhaps prepare a list in advance (you can just add numbers on the end).  You will also need a password for logging into the site.

When you register, you will also decide how much information you want to make available about yourself.  The system will ask for your real name, but you can leave this blank or just put in (say) your first name.  The system will also ask for your country and it probably a good thing to put in Great Britain (or England) so that your opponents (if you plan to play people beyond club members and friends) know that you speak English!  It’s also a good idea to put your bridge level – most people choose Intermediate.  Ignore where it says ABCL number.

BBO will then send a confirmatory email to the email address you provided. Once you have clicked the link in the email, your account will be set up and you can then login again.  BBO will also send you a welcome email with more information.


What about playing bridge?

On BBO, you have lots of choices on the Home page

The best way to get started is in the Casual area. You can go there as an individual, as a pair or as a group of 4. 

If you go as an individual, you can play Solitaire (where you will play against robots) – this may sound like a good idea but, unless you are familiar with American bidding systems you may find it a bit difficult.  Alternatively, you can just ask the system to take you to a table.  Again, this is not recommended to start with – you could be paired up with anyone from anywhere and you may find they bid a totally different system and you cannot communicate.  On the other hand, once you have found your feet, you may like the variety and you could make new friends.

If you go with a partner, you can ask the system to take the pair of you to a table.  Your opponents may be Brits playing ACOL but they are more likely to be playing some variant of the American system.  If you play during the morning, you will find more Europeans, in the evening there will be many from North America.

The recommended approach to begin with is to go as a group of 4 and for one of you to set up a private table.  If doing this, whoever sets up the table should choose the option “permission required to play” under Privacy Options (this reduces the risk of someone jumping in when one of the 4 loses connection).

Kibitzers are spectators. You can choose whether to allow them or not. If you are setting up a table just for friends then you may wish to use the Invisible option, this will mean that other people will not see the table and so will not try and join.

You reserve seats (by typing in the BBO aliases of the 4 of you) – the system will then send out invitations which you pick up when logged into the Casual area. You can start either a Relaxed or Competitive game.

The Competitive area is where you will find organised events, such as the Lockdown League teams matches, EBU tournaments, Virtual Romsey (Hampshire/IoW county) and our own Virtual YD (Wednesday at 2pm and Thursday at 7pm).

How much does it cost?

Playing in the Casual area is free.  Teams matches such as our Lockdown League are also free, but there is usually a charge for tournaments and virtual clubs – typically 3 BB$ (but the 12-board EBU tournaments are 1.50 BB$). 1 BB$ is equivalent to 1 US Dollar.

How do I pay?

You need to put money on your account by buying BB$.  You should always do this by accessing BBO through the website (not the app).  This is because the app makes an extra charge.  You pay by credit/debit card or PayPal – if you have a card you use for foreign travel (remember that?) which gives low-cost foreign exchange (eg Halifax Clarity or Santander Zero credit card or Virgin Money debit card) it’s best to use that.  Alternatively, for most of the pay events, your partner can pay for both of you and you may find it easier to come to a private arrangement with your partner.

How do I find out more and see some screenshots?

There are some excellent YouTube videos made by Paul Gipson, a member of Berwick Bridge Club.  Look at - in particular the list of “Useful Videos”.

How do I get some support with actually getting started?

Contact Chrissy Thomas or Julia Wood.  We will talk you through any queries with registering and then get you started on a table of 4 – where you can not only play bridge but ask questions about anything that seems unclear or strange.

Lymington Bridge Club

June 2020

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