Warning: Salt to taste
To play online bridge, just follow these easy steps:
1. Locate a table to play at and join it.
Examine the long list of tables (at 8pm Eastern) or the short list (at 5am Eastern), then determine which tables are missing players, appear to be at about the same level you are, and offer the best opportunity to extract the great results from. Then join the table you want. Now if you see some world class expert just sitting at a table without a partner, don’t assume this is your lucky day. The chance that Soloway is waiting at a table to play with you is the same chance that Cindy Crawford is now waiting in your bed (or Mel Gibson as your tastes go; if you prefer Soloway in your bed and Mel/Cindy at the table considering giving the bridge a bit of a break).
What is the number one lobby message?
“Hi, need 1?” (last year’s number one was “Did the tourney crash?”).
So when you arrive at a table make sure you actually arrive before you starting chatting.
Don’t just snatch the first open seat you see; you should ask if you can sit (“hi, can I sit”) or if they even need a player (“hi, need 1?”). You might also take some care to check out who will be your partner.
Some partners have “Hidden Stats”, which means you can’t see their ratings. Results playing with these players will vary; they may be good or bad, tending to bad (a priori, bad players are more likely to hide their ratings). Sometimes players have ratings but no name on their profile; you can see what results you might expect but you could be playing with a barnyard animal for all you know. Some players have hidden stats and no name; playing with these players is like walking into a dark bear cave after applying “eau-de-steak” after-shave or perfume.
2. If unable to locate a suitable table, serve your own table.
If you can’t find the opponents you want to play against (maybe everyone is too good), you can serve up your own table. In table preference put a little note as to the type of people you want to play against (the easiest are OkBridge “experts”, then novices are next). Select from matchpoints or IMPs, and select “Competitive” because everyone cares about ratings that nobody cares about.
As server you should send messages to the Lobby when you need players. Remember the other players can see your messages, so say nothing like “(Lobby) the idiot on my right needs a partner”. Instead try to have an upbeat message that gets lobbylanders to take notice. Common approaches:
a) pretend you can give them something: “Need 1 @stoned, high priced drugs being served”.
b) pretend you are nice: “happy smiley people need friendly kind gentle peaceful players”.
c) pretend you are serious: “World Class Top Notch Super Experts required now to get their butts kicked!!!!!”
d) reveal you are drunk: “Drunk players giving away imps @easygirl”.
To any message you can add symbols to attract attention “>>>>NEED *1* NOW!!!<<<<<”. However the technique of repeating your lobby commercial 100 times a minute will only irritate people trying to hold a long discussion of the fall of the Roman Empire in the lobby, so try to keep it to 1 every 30 seconds or so.
Remember when you serve a table, you are “DA MAN”, even if you are a woman. You have to like DISCO (“That’s the way I like it”, “Ain’t no stopping us now”, “I will survive”). If someone shows up who won’t dance to your beat, type /DISCO <name>. They will dance into the lobby and hopefully find another table to continue dancing at.
3. Agree on system with your new partner.
Usually this involves just a suggestion or two of systems, but sometimes it can be difficult:
Noitall: SAYC pd?
BigChese: Don’t know it.
BigChese: Never played it.
Noitall: Blue Club?
BigChese: Couldn’t read the Italian.
BigChese: Lost the notes.
BigChese: Too complicated for a new partnership.
BigChese: Only read selected parts of the book.
BigChese: Played it as a kid, but don’t remember it.
Noitall: Polish Club?
BigChese: Too many variations.
BigChese: Swore I never play it again.
BigChese: Never heard of it.
Sometimes players will have a list of conventions they want to use in their profile (or “stats”), all condensed to become meaningless: “4sFWf1XYZ1430GSTPJSBRUvUMQG3NT”. At best, if you can understand their list, you can agree on one or more of these conventions, remembering Candice’s Law: “Any convention you agree on playing won’t come up or you’ll get it wrong; any convention you don’t play will have been essential to getting a good result”. For extra fun agree to play all your partner’s favorite conventions, then, after each hand, at random ask how one of the conventions works.
Before online bridge when it came time to bid one would glance at the cards, consider the various options, and then make the worse bid possible. Now with online bridge, one can peruse the cards, consult various handy bidding books, use a cell phone to obtain opinions from friends and relatives, chat with online experts, test out theories with computer dealing programs, and then from the selections of bids presented, double click on the worse bid possible.
Self-Alerting, the standard in OkBridge, is easy: if your bid is special in some way just type an explanation of your bid in the space provided at the top of the bidding box, click on the bid you want, and then click on the part marked “Alert”. Now most people hate Self-Alerting because it lets your opponents know what you have, but NOT your partner. Why the hell self-alert then, you might ask. To which I reply, stopping swearing.
To play a card simply double click on the card you want to play at your turn. If, as declarer, you find the cards you are playing are not the ones you are clicking on, check to make sure you are not really dummy. If you are declarer and are still having problems, check to make sure your cat is not playing with your mouse. If you don’t have a cat, make sure you have a mouse with a clean ball (if you can’t catch your mouse to give it a bath, get a cat).
When you will be taking some time before you make your next play (or bid) if helps to say something to the rest of players. If something really interesting is on TV, type “thk”. If you want to watch a whole 30 minute sitcom, type “brb”.
6. Handling Irregularity
There is nothing like the voice-accentuated call of “DIRECTOR!!!!” but sadly OkBridge hasn’t added that sound effect yet and even if there was one, there is no director available for regular games (however for the missed atmosphere of the club game, OkBridge provides tourneys complete with director calls and slow moving rounds). There are three techniques available to handle irregularity:
1) Rewind to before the problem;
2) Fast forward to the next hand;
3) Pause to argue.
Number 3 is by far the most popular, with arguments often extending into the lobby when everyone realizes that arguing is too much fun so there is no need to play bridge anymore. Really good arguments last for days, producing email artillery battles and flaming postings on the OkBridge discuss newsgroup (see the movie “Saving Private Ryan” for visuals). The classic arguments seem to involve the words “cheating” and “unethical”.
To rewind the play or bidding, the player on the left of the last bid or play must type “/UNDO” to remove that bid or play; this is then repeated until the bidding or play is restored to that before the problem occurred. This seems to be more difficult to co-ordinate than a team of rabid monkeys directing a regional pairs game; the best approach is for everyone to keep typing “/UNDO” like mad until it works. Every time undo is selected by a player who can’t undo the last bid or play, a message automatically comes up, something like “Sorry, that was intentional but I beg you PLEASE UNDO!”; just ignore this message and keep typing ”/UNDO” until it works. The Undo feature may seem like an ideal method for never taking a losing two-way finesse, but unfortunately bridge players catch on to these tricks pretty quickly so don’t bother trying.
The easiest solution to most problems is to skip the problem board, but bridge players hate to miss a bridge hand (it could be that one in a million that they will play like Zia). So a negotiation starts:
“I think we should skip this board”
“I really think we should skip this board”
“No, we shouldn’t miss a board”
“IT WOULD BE BEST IF WE SKIP THIS BOARD”
“NO IT WOULDN”T”
“SKIP THE BOARD NOW!!!!!!”
“GO PLAY WITH YOURSELF!!!!!!” (or some version of that).
The table server, who is the only one that can do the skip, always wins the negotiation, but the argument that follows is a free-for-all.
You can’t do an undo in the bidding after four initial passes, or three final passes; since players (except opening leader) can already see dummy you have to do a skip to resolve the problem. Usually declarer, after seeing dummy, starts to plead for a skip at the same time thanking partner for dummy. The bottom line to all this is you have to decide whether you want to give up a real good argument just to play bridge.
7. How to avoid bad results.
The time proven method for never getting bad results is this:
If you are about to have a bad result – exit the table before the hand is over.
Now there is a good way and bad way of going about this.
Leave the table and join another one. Problem: opponents pursue you and ask why you are a “bad result runaway”.
Signoff for 10 minutes, and then log back on.
Disconnect phone, computer, and go live in a bomb shelter for 24 hours.
The Good way:
First, if declarer, make sure partner is in spec so can’t play the hand (“partner take a look at why 7 spades redoubled is not the best place to be”).
Next play a few cards, then cut off your internet connection.
Return after a minute, say “Re”, play a few more cards, not too fast, then pull the plug again.
Return, say “Re and sorry”, and play a few more cards, then pull the plug again.
Return once more, say “Re, sorry, need to get a new internet service provider” and pull the plug once more.
If this seems far too much trouble (as it should), just suffer the bad result and continue to play bridge.
8. How to keep your good results
If about to get a very good result, claim as fast as possible to avoid the runaways.
“Hey, lets settle out of court for +2300 for us, ok?”
9. How to dump your partner
Sometimes your pickup partner is less perfect than you are. First, remember he or she can’t see or hear you. So, if acceptable to the rest of your household, swear and throw things (not computer, keyboard, or monitor though), to your heart’s content.
Next skip the inquisition. Questions like “What possessed you to find the trump lead from Kx against a grand?” just never seems to get a believable answer (“they paid me $50”). Instead you get something that just increases your blood pressure (“you didn’t make a lead directional double, so you had to want a trump lead”).
Finally you will sometimes need to leave before you start throwing your keyboard, monitor, or computer. Now you can’t just say “Last for me” without providing some excuse for leaving. Saying “Last for me” without any reason sounds just like “Last hand for me playing with this #!&*%#!$*# moron”. You may want to say this, but be kind instead since you want to play against them next time!
Try to make the excuse a good one.
“volcano just erupted, have to leave house”
“new Sienfield episode on, want to watch it”
“Monica’s too distracting here”
“have to go to my bridge lessons”
“my boss just noticed I am not doing any work here”
“our guests downstairs are starting to wonder why they haven’t seen me for two hours”.
10. Leaving the table
When leaving the table say thank you to all, but don’t use an Academy Award ™ type speech:
“Thank you opponents, thank you partner, thank you to my agent for finding this table, hi Mom & Dad, little Billy, everyone at the Capital Bridge Club” is a bit too long.
You can say you enjoyed it, but only if you didn’t enjoy the results. If you enjoyed the results, and took them for 200 imps, it is not nice to say “Thanks, wow, haven’t ENJOYED a session this much before, when can you play next?” However if they just performed a series of root canals on you, and you want a re-match against the lucky SOBs, then by all means say you enjoyed it.
11. The Key Decision
Once you leave a table you have two options:
1) you can return to the cruel real world;
2) you can seek out fun at another online bridge table.
So proceed back to the start of this guide.