Vancouver Bridge Centre Virtual Bridge Club Q&A

InformationResultsSummer IMP LeagueRecords & StatsOnline vs OfflineVBC Main Page
Last update: Wednesday, August 5, 2020.  Information on this page may change frequently.  Hit F5 to update; many browsers save copies of a page and miss checking for updates!
What is it?  It's the online version of VBC games, limited mostly to VBC players (others can be added, see #7 below).  With excellent support from local players we've establish a bunch of weekly games, including daily open games, and two limited weekly games — and we hope you will join us at some point.  You will find us at BBO, Virtual Games, ACBL Virtual Games, and look for VACB154971.  Registration will be available two hours before game time, game director McBruce (under the BBO name VACB154971) will log on soon after to answer questions (many of which are answered below; read on!).  Online bridge has some key differences from offline bridge that you'll want to brush up on at some point and I have summarized them here in a brand new page. McBruce watches a short club auction in progress...Director McBruce watches a Short Club "auction" go off the rails with growing horror...

Breaking News: (some of this news has been here awhile, but CNN has redefined the term 'Breaking News' and I'm just following along...)

Game Results
We have moved all of the results to a new results page: check it out!

Virtual VBC Weekly Schedule
Weekday Start Time Games So Far Total Tables Average Tables
Sunday Afternoon (open pairs) 1:15pm 17 303 17.8
Monday Afternoon (0-750 pairs) now 1:15pm 12 126 10.5
Monday Evening (open pairs) 7:15pm 5 28 5.6
Tuesday Afternoon (open pairs) now 1:15pm 16 177 11.1
Wednesday Morning (open pairs) 10:15am 18 236 13.1
Thursday Morning (0-300 pairs) 10:15am 16 250 15.6
Thursday Evening (open pairs) 7:15pm 16 172 10.8
Friday Afternoon (open pairs) now 1:15pm 15 182 12.1
Saturday Afternoon (open pairs)
Now every week!
MUG first Sat., next: September 5
1:15pm 7 111 15.9

For now, these nine games, with the Monthly Unit Game replacing our Saturday Afternoon game on the first Saturday of each month, will be our weekly schedule.

ALERT: The BBO site works differently from offline bridge for players who have not linked an ACBL number to their BBO account; it assumes such players are in Flight A with many masterpoints.  There is no way around this, sadly, so this means that for the limited games, all players need to be ACBL members and have linked numbers to be eligible.

What are the game details?  The games are 20-board (18 for limited games) matchpointed pairs tournaments, held on Bridge Base Online.  18-20 boards is longer than most tournaments on BBO, but 18 is the minimum needed to ensure full ACBL masterpoints can be won at the games.  The games take a bit longer than two hours, and that time might go lower as players get familiar with online bridge.  When the time in a round runs out, the system assigns a likely result based on the cards that were left and the Director can adjust this if necessary.  If the bidding is not completed on the last board, both sides will get average on the board unless it is clear that one side is headed for trouble.  All players play copies of the same boards at almost the same time, and players are automatically moved to the new table when a round ends.  Games are stratified into three approximately equal groups, with the top players in strat A, the middle group in B and the rest in C, based on pair average.  (UPDATE: BBO stratifies by the top pair, not by average, and assumes all BBO "star" players, and any player without an ACBL# attached to their BBO account, are in strat A.  The smaller games are not stratified.)

How much do the games cost?  We have set our entry fees at 5 BBO dollars per player, 10 for the pair.  BBO dollars are based on the US dollar and can be purchased securely from the BBO site using a credit card.  Careful!  If you purchase BBO dollars from an iOS or Android app on a phone or tablet, the app may grab some of the money you pay.  It is best to purchase BBO dollars from a computer and a web browser version of BBO.  Occasionally, a special game promising extra masterpoints will cause the entry fee to rise slightly, to cover the increase in sanction fees.

I'd much rather play some other way, can we change it?  The current situation seems to be best considering the sharp rise in attendance we have seen.  For some it is a bit slow and they have time every round to make a gourmet meal.  Others seem to use every second on almost every round and when I visit I see all the usual signs of time loss: inattentiveness and confusion about who is on lead, overthinking of basic bids and plays and late hand discards that make no difference, and on and on.  From time to time the slower players do not get the result they think they deserve when time runs out, and there is little we can do about this.  Fourteen minutes is a long time for two boards.  If you are not finishing rounds more than one or two times a session, you are almost certainly part of the problem.  Stay alert!

What can I do if I don't have a partner?  Log on fairly early, perhaps thirty minutes before the game, and find the next VVBC tournament (VACB154971 will be the director you're looking for, and Vanc. Bridge Centre note the 're' spelling, will be in the title).  Each tournament has several tabs; when you click a tournament you are first taken to the Registration tab to sign in.  There is also a Details tab you can switch to, with tournament rules and details, and an Entries tab with a list of the people who have signed up so far.  And the last tab is the Partnership Desk tab, which is a list of the people looking for partners to play with in this tournament.  Add yourself to the list, or invite someone else on the list to play.  If you get an invite, you can check the person's profile to see if there is compatibility and accept or decline.

One final method: when the time gets down to two minutes before gametime and you are not matched up, add your name to the substitutes list.  This list is for all BBO tournaments, but you can decline invites from other tournaments in order to wait for a chance to get into the VVBC game.  Just before the game begins I will check the partnership desk for names.  If we have a half-table at gametime, my first job will be to fill that spot, and before I send out a general invite to all subs on the list, I will first check the substitutes list to see if there are any names I saw on the partnership desk, or other local names, and I will invite those people first.  The ones I will not invite are unknown people who send messages asking to sub, especially when we have a nice turnout.  These games are primarily for locals.  These mysterious messagers are looking for masterpoint opportunities and should be grateful I don't report them.vb

What do I need to do to play in the pairs games?  A number of things, many of which you may have already done if you play online (but check!):

  1. Get a free membership to BBO at this link — pick a screen name to go by, and create a password.
  2. Link your ACBL number to your BBO account.  I did this so long ago I forgot how, but finally figured it out.  Go to Featured Areas | ACBL World.  This will give you a list of tournaments for ACBL masterpoints, but below it there is a button that allows you to enter your ACBL#.  Three good reasons to do this: a) if you don't you cannot win masterpoints: we cannot enter them in later, b) you and your partner will be in strat A, no matter how many points you or partner have, and c) entering your ACBL number puts you on the list of pre-approved VBC players, assuming you have played and won masterpoints at the VBC at least once in the past year.

    We really cannot accentuate how important it is to do this, especially for the 0-300 games, and NOT on the day of the tournament, but before.  (If you do this on game day, you may be able to succeed for that game by logging off and on.)  We get an updated list of BBO names to include only once daily.  We can add people to this list, but if their ACBL#s are not linked, the system assumes they have 10000 points, making them ineligible for the 0-300 games.  So it really is important to get this done, and it only takes a few minutes at most.
  3. Set up a BBO dollar account to pay for the games.  (For those who feel strongly that the Internet charging for anything will set the destruction of the world in motion, there is the option to have your partner pay your entry fee...).  A BB$ button at the upper right of the main screen gives you several options for this.
  4. Familiarize yourself with online bridge.  There are lots of BBO places to play for free, and even a few free tournaments to play every day, but there are also tournaments which charge only a small amount for an entry.  BBO also has lots of help files to show you how to make bids, play cards, make a convention card, sign up for a tournament, get on a substitute list or a partnership desk for a tournament, send chat to table, to opponents only, to a single person, etc.  Remember that in a tournament you must be careful about the chat you send to the table and that there are options you should learn for sending chat messages only to both opponents.  We alert/announce our own bids in online bridge, not partner's: when you make a call there is a text box you can enter text in to alert or explain your call which will show up in the auction without being viewable by partner.  If you forget and alert partner's call, the opponents will be confused, or very amused.  For example: 1NT (Pass) 2; (Pass) 2.  The 2 bidder should alert 2 and write 'transfer' in the text box.  Partner will be blocked from seeing this until the end.  If you alert 2 and announce 'transfer' intending to explain partner's 2 call, the opponents will think that 2 is another transfer!

    A new guide to the key differences between online and offline bridge has recently been added here.
  5. Watch for the next Virtual VBC game.  This can be confusing.  There are ACBL games open to all, but our games are at the Virtual Club section, recently set up so we can all play with other familiar players as we shelter in place.  McBruce's directing account name on BBO is VACB154971.  If you see this in the list of tournaments, that will be a VBC game.
  6. Click on the game.  This will give you many options.  You can log on and specify a partner (who will also need to be logged on to BBO).  You can join a partnership desk and send chat to others who may be interested to see if you are compatible.  You can read details for the tournament.  Games are added about two hours before they take place, but you need not sign up early.  Waiting until the last minute may keep you out though.
  7. If you are 'blocked,' send a chat or BBO mail message to me, VACB154971.  If you are not on the pre-approved list of VBC players, I can add you, but I need to know your BBO name and your real name.  You should be at least an occasional or potential player at the VBC (anyone in Unit 430 meets that rule easily).  I may not be able to add people in the last five minutes or so before the game, and I won't be there from the moment the game appears on the list two hours before, but I will check messages when I log on and get as many in as I can.  Remember though, you and your partner need to be online at the same time to register, both must have enough BBO$ to play, and to be on the list of VBC players you both need to have registered your ACBL#.  I can't investigate all of these for you and tell you what's missing.  It's up to you to do what is needed.
  8. Once you are signed up, you can do other things on BBO as you wait (joining another tournament is not reccommended unless you are sure it will end before ours starts).  The system will pluck you from wherever you are to the tournament when we begin.  (This has changed: many BBO activities in the Casual area are now on a different server, and the tournament area will show you as offline.  Be VERY sure that you are back on the tournament page at least a minute or two before the game begins.  The BBO clock is notoriously unreliable and 54 minutes to gametime may actually mean 52.)
  9. At the end of the game, there are several ways you can see the results: BBO will place a message in your box with a link to the results and hand records.  BBO also has a history page where you can look up results and hand records for every hand you have completed on BBO.  Our own results page posts the results a few minutes after the game and links to the ACBL Live for Clubs results when we get them.  And about 40-70 minutes after the game, the results will go to the VBC space on ACBL Live For Clubs (so far, alas, without hand records).  If your BBO name rather than your real name appears at ACBL Live For Clubs, it means you had not linked your ACBL number with BBO (see #2 above) when the game began.
  10. Be careful, but time aware!  There are no undos in a tournament setting, and if you make a mistake you should say nothing to the table in chat until the end of the hand, to avoid giving unfair hints to partner.  But it is important to avoid delays and finish the round on time, so learn how to claim when the last several tricks are irrelevant and the result is clear.  Recently I have seen several players who reject all claims as a sort of policy.  This wastes a lot of time and it is NOT your right to delay the game in hopes of a misclick.  If you encounter this, call the Director and I will deal with the players involved.

Still can't seem to get in!  I'm sorry to hear that several are having difficulty getting in, and I wish I had more answers.  Most of these problems are random glitches that result when the tournament traffic is suddenly 10-50x larger than BBO has ever experienced.  It's not easy for me to resolve these situations close to game time and almost impossible to figure out why afterwards.  I see only BBO names and I often do not know who they represent, because for whatever reason, very few of you put your full names in your profiles.  This means messages that say 'Bobby and I can't get in' require me to first find out what BBO name Bobby has, whether you're registered, and if not whether you are both online.  I do understand that BBO does not actually charge for a tournament until you complete your first board, so glitches that keep you out at gametime do not cost you money.  One remedy that might work if you find an event has started without you, is to sign up as a substitute and let me know you have done so in chat to VACB154971.  If an opening becomes available, you'll be my first choice.

More advice:
The ten original points below worked to help a lot of people get online and started quickly.  Here is some extra advice added more recently to help you out:

  1. BBO basic skills are covered on a help page here.  Some of the things that everyone should know:
    It is important to note that some features of BBO have been removed to reduce the bandwidth during the current rush of people sheltered in place.  Also, these help pages focus on the current computer/browser version of BBO, not the previous Flash version (which someone who does not upgrade their browser may still have), or the tablet app versions, where touching replaces clicking.  But there is a lot of help here and many of us could use it.
  2. Another few words on disclosure are needed based on a few recent incidents.  It is important to understand that we alert and explain our own bids, not partner's, in online play (just like the best players do when playing high-level events behind screens).  Even more important is to use private, not "to table" chat, to request more information from opponents.  Doing so prevents the passing of unauthorized information to partner about bids you are interested in and the specific questions you are asking.  This also applies to misclicks: alerting partner that you have misclicked in a live auction is a sure way to get any good score you achieve adjusted.
  3. The correction period for BBO tournaments expires 20 minutes after the game and there is absolutely no way to correct, or even to check, a mistake after that time period runs out.  At the end of the game I stay online for that 20 minute period and as I post the provisional results I will hear if someone sends me a chat message in BBO.  I also check my BBO mail and my e-mail during this period.  But that is as far as I will go.  This will surprise many, but having started surprisingly late, I have no aptitude and not a lot of love for cellphones, and I usually keep mine squelched.  I don't often check the messages that are there: if you choose that route, you will be sending your complaints into a deep hole that will only be checked long after the correction period expires.  When a board is adjusted after time runs out, you get a message at that point and you can check it in your history when you have a spare moment, even in the 20 minutes after the game.  If you resort to a cellphone message because you haven't learned how to send a private chat or a BBO e-mail, or check board adjustments when you get the message that they were made, I can't help you.
  4. Seeing a lot of players logging in a few seconds before gametime.  This is dangerous, because while the system waits for missing players before starting, we cannot wait for you forever, and many games begin at times when BBO is busy.  Try to log on at least a few minutes before the scheduled start.  Nobody wants to arrange a game and then have to play with a random sub.
  5. Misclicks are part of the online game and we have been very strongly advised that allowing 'undo' when you misclick can lead to many many problems with unauthorized information.  This runs afoul of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge, which sometimes provide some relief when an unintended action happens, but online it is much more difficult to determine a player's intent and make the right ruling, as well as being difficult-to-impossible to adjust later if needed.  In the vast majority of cases, a bid made as the result of a misclick will have to stand, but this creates problems of its own.  It is OK, but not required, to let the opponents know, either in private chat, or publicly once partner becomes dummy and cannot be affected by the disclosure, what went wrong.  Partner, however, has to remain in the dark, and if the mistake creates a strange auction, he cannot be allowed to make an unusual but successful decision if the mistake-maker has let it slip that something is up.  If you are careful to say nothing publicly, partner may decide that the most likely reason for the strange auction is a misclick and get it right.  As an opponent of a player who has, or may have, misclicked, you may call the Director if the misclick is likely to cause an unusual result.  In rare cases, the Director may be able to get creative and find an interesting solution.  But most of the time, you'll just have to roll with the weird bid and accept the result if the opponents land on their feet without help.
  6. The results that BBO produces have percentage scores, but the ACBL Live scores have the BBO percentages and total matchpoints.  We have discovered an anomaly here, when artificial averages are given on a board, ACBL does not compute the matchpoints properly.  Sometimes two pairs with 111 matchpoints have different percentages!  In one game the 2nd place pair in C was listed below the 3rd place pair in C!  The BBO percentages appear to be more correct.  By the way, the ACBL Live results list players by real name, not by BBO name.  If your BBO name appears, it is a sure sign that you have NOT successfully linked your ACBL# to your BBO account, as described above.  This means you are ineligible for masterpoint awards and have to play in strat A, so please go to ACBL World and link your ACBL number.

Have fun playing!  Stay healthy and safe.

InformationResultsSummer IMP LeagueRecords & StatsOnline vs OfflineVBC Main Page
Last update: Wednesday, August 5, 2020.   Information on this page may change frequently.  Hit F5 to update; many browsers save copies of a page and miss checking for updates!