~ Live Playing Sites

These are online clubs where you can play in real time against real people – strangers or friends (or a mixture of both). Click on the highlighted titles to go to their sites.

If you are playing in any of these clubs please let me know your username on the site. I can then compile a list of CBC members and put you in touch with each other. Then we will have a large online group who play the same systems. My username on all sites is cbcjoe. If you want a game let me know!

Bridge Base Online
BBO is based in the US and has been running since 2001.
§ It has many different game types – you can practice against robots, test yourself in tournaments, rent a robot partner etc. The game type that will be of most interest to CBC members is playing at a table with three other friends.
§ You can also ‘kibitz’ (watch) other people playing games on BBO. You can kibitz ordinary people or you can watch some of the world’s top players. There will currently be many more of the top players on there – most of the international F2F tournaments have obviously been cancelled. And some may well end up being run on BBO.
§ Registration is free and for that you get most game types. You pay to enter tournaments using BB$ (Bridge Base Dollars) which you can purchase in batches from the site. One BB$ costs one US$. Tournaments are very reasonable, from BB$0.30 to BB$1.50.
The robots on BBO all play the 2-over-1 system which is based around 5 card majors and a strong notrump (15-17) so is not ideal for Acol players. If you play against three robots everything (including your bids) is based on 2-over-1. The AI (called GIB) uses analysis based on the auction and on probabilities so may not always play in the way a human would (they might not lead your suit back for instance). AI’s lack the quality of human ‘intuition’. When you play against robots on BBO the play is a bit clunky and it does odd things (like not always putting trumps on dummy’s right).
For these reasons I don’t recommend using BBO as a practice site (against robots).
However, as a place to meet up with three other friends who are all in isolation it is great. You can start a private table which only invited friends can join and you can choose to not allow kibitzers or have kibitzers by invitation only (recommended).
§ If you want to venture into the world of playing online against strangers (and having the chance to make online friends from all over the world) there is a new membership option called BBO Prime ($4.99 per month) free for the first 30 days. This is a club within the club, supposedly more friendly than the general club, where rude people are banned (rudeness is a problem in online clubs – people feel they can behave in a way that they wouldn’t if they were playing F2F). You can use the more advanced robots for free (usually you have to hire them). For people who are nervous about venturing into the online bridge world and are worried about upsetting more experienced players BBO Prime might be a good option.
§ Once you have registered you can set your convention card (Acol), then you can tweak that card to suit. Your playing system is visible to other players so if you want to play against strangers you and they know if your systems are going to match. Warning: don’t overstate your abilities. “Intermediate” is an extremely vague category that covers an awful lot of ground. If you are in any doubt you will do best to understate – you will have a better time and you can always upgrade yourself later.
§ You will see an awful lot going on when you access the BBO screen via your desktop computer, but the interface is generally good and clear. On a phone things are much simpler although it can feel a bit crowded.

There are some useful videos on how to register, start a table etc. etc. on Youtube

Please let me know your experiences with BBO. Thanks

Bridge Club Live
BCL is long-established and based in the UK which makes it one of the best choices for Acol players. It also prides itself on being very friendly with directors ‘patrolling’ the club keeping an eye on things.
§ It’s not as big as BBO, but it has a lot going on and you can play on a table of four friends (as long as you are all members). You can also take supervised practice sessions on Mondays, play in lots of different tournament types, be a spectator (‘kibitzer’), etc.
§ They are currently doing a deal where your first 30 days of membership costs £1.20 (inc vat), which allows you full access to the site. After that it is £72 per year (or £5.99 per month / £21 per quarter – all prices ex-vat).
There is also social membership (£36 per year) which allows you all the social play and coaching, but you can’t play in any of the competitions.
§ The interface is good, although not as slick as BBO and with the huge increase in traffic and membership of the last week they are encountering some buffering problems during the busiest times (UK evenings). However, it’s a lot better than when I first used it over 20 years ago on a dial-up connection!
§ You can choose from around half a dozen basic bidding systems including Basic Acol. Then you fill out a card with a brief summary of your systems e.g. Weak NT (12-14), Stayman, Blackwood, Transfers, Weak 2’s etc. This card is them visible to other players who might want to play with you (and theirs is visible to you) so you can decide if your systems are going to roughly match before you start playing. As with BBO it is best to undervalue your skills at first. You can always upgrade, but if you start out by calling yourself an expert you are likely to encounter some rudeness if you don’t live up to your billing.

Here is a Youtube video on registering with BCL

I’d be very pleased to hear about your experience of Bridge Club Live