There are several free and some subscription-based servers available for playing bridge on the Internet. OKBridge is the oldest of the still-running Internet Bridge services; players of all standards, from beginners to world champions may be found playing there. SWAN Games is a more recent competitor. Bridge Base Online is mostly free, and now has a much larger membership base than either of the above. Some National Contract Bridge Organizations now offer online bridge play to their members including the English Bridge Union, the Dutch Bridge Union and the Australian Bridge Federation. MSN and Yahoo! Games have several online Rubber Bridge rooms.
There are many advantages to playing Bridge online:
- The ability to choose when you play.
- The ability to choose your opponents. In a club game, you may be forced to play against pairs that are much weaker, rude, or much stronger. Playing online, you can play against opponents of nearly equal ability.
- Most servers offer an accurate player rating system. The ACBL and EBU masterpoints systems give credit for how much one has played rather than how well; most online systems have a rating system which attempts to measure one’s ability without regard to the number of games played.
- There are fewer restrictions on which conventions one is allowed to use.
- You can not make inferences from partner’s tone of voice or other cues available in real life. However, intentional cheating, such as instant messaging your partner, is easier.
- A detailed record of every hand may be kept, to help resolve complaints.
- It is impossible to make an illegal play by accident, as the software won’t accept a play or call which does not conform to the rules.
The main disadvantage to playing online is that bridge is a social game, and many people play because they enjoy the social atmosphere of the bridge club.
After many years of little progress, at the end of the twentieth century computer bridge made big strides forward. In 1996 the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) initiated official World Championships Computer Bridge, to be held annually along with a major bridge event. The first Computer Bridge Championship took place in 1997 at the North American Bridge Championships in Albuquerque.
Video: Why People Play Bridge