How to Play Bridge Whenever You Want

For as Long as You Want

Thousands of people from around the world are online right now, playing bridge at their computers. If you'd like to join them, you have plenty of choices. There are more than twenty online bridge clubs that offer real-time play for players of every skill level. The bigger sites will have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of players online at all times of the day and night.

Choosing a Club

You can visit the Great Bridge Links site to read descriptions of all the online clubs.

Here's a quick look at the most popular sites:

  • Okbridge ($99 a year for unlimited play; 7-day free trial) -- This is the oldest and largest online bridge club, with more than 18,000 members from 100 countries. It uses a rating system to track your success and help you find compatible partners. Currently OKB has 12 non-ACBL sanctioned tournaments (12 hands each) every day of the week, as well as informal tables with your choice of IMP or MP scoring.

  • Bridgebase Online (free) -- Designed by Fred Gitelman, this site is growing rapidly in popularity. It's frequented by many expert-level players and offers lots of extra features, including partnership bidding rooms, teaching rooms, vugraph shows and bridge columns and lessons.  

  • Pogo (free, Java-based) -- Especially popular with beginners, this site has simple graphics and an easy-to-use game interface.

Getting Started

When you visit a club's home page, you'll be asked to create a login name and password. Some sites require a simple software download to begin playing. Others (the Java-based sites) use a web interface, which requires no download.

Each club's homepage has help files that will describe how to use the game interface, find partners, join tables, etc. Read up on the basics, then choose a room (or "lounge") matched to your skill level -- social, beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert. Some clubs also offer different types of scoring (matchpoints or IMPs).

Finding a Partner

You and your favorite partner can log on and play as a pair, but most of the online players are singles who form casual partnerships with each other. Each club has a lobby area where you'll see messages from people who are looking for partners. You can send a message to one of these potential partners and agree to start your own table.

You'll also see requests from people who have already started a table and need one or two more players. If you join one of these tables, it's polite to ask permission to "sit" before you start playing.



Before you actually begin playing, you might want to kibitz to familiarize yourself with the table layout and the ways the players interact. Just join a table that's already in play and ask the participants if you can watch. You'll find well-known experts playing on Okbridge and Bridgebase Online, and these tables will often have dozens of kibitzers. If there are already several "spectators" at a table, there's usually no need to ask permission to watch.

Online bridge players have developed their own in-group language, full of acronyms and abbreviations.  For a quick overview of some of these, click here.

Bidding Systems

Before you play, you and your partner will usually have a very short discussion of your bidding system. Many players in the beginner rooms use standard Goren bidding. In the intermediate and advanced rooms, you'll find partners who play 2-over-1, Precision, K-S and other systems.

The most popular system of all is SAYC (Standard American Yellow Card), which is a 5-card-major system with simple conventions (weak 2-bids, Jacoby transfers, negative doubles, etc.). If you're new to online bridge, it will be helpful to develop a working knowledge of SAYC, since it eliminates the need to discuss conventions and many of your "pick-up" partners will probably ask you to play it. Here are some helpful links for learning online systems:

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