Apply online methods to face-to-face bridge sessions

The surge in online bridge and the Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted some points: -
1. Playing cards are inherently unhygienic as they are subject to the hygiene standards of individuals and are passed from player to player.
2. Using playing cards requires the dealing of hands either manually or with dealing machines.
3. Preparing duplicated hands with dealing machines requires considerable time, organisation and resources.
4. Bidding boxes have to be put out for each player.
5. Playing cards, duplicate boards and bidding boxes are bulky and heavy and present transport problems.
6. Software has been developed for setting up bridge sessions, preparing randomly dealt hands, receiving and scoring the results of hands played.
7. Software using different operating platforms has been connected to allow a wide base of equipment.
8. Online systems provide clear computer graphical representation of the game to the players.

I am not a fan of online bridge, though I recognise that for many it provides an opportunity to play and enjoy the game. When it is realised that proper human contact must resume, the playing in face-to-face clubs and tournaments and on bridge holidays/breaks will resume also.

If the points outlined above apply, why do we have to continue with playing cards, duplicate boards and dealing machines? Android tablets of suitable size are now available at comparatively cheap prices (less than £50 for 7” or 10” screen). Each player could have their own tablet either purchased individually, using one already owned or by clubs in whole/part requirements.

Suggested process: -
1. Players arrive bringing their own tablet and/or using a club provided tablet (allowing for the forgetful perhaps). Tablets are set up to receive only the club/tournament WiFi link and all interfering software deactivated/removed.
2. WiFi unit activated
3. Movement assessed and set up on the computer together with random dealt hands.
4. Players take up their starting positions and enter this information and names/numbers into the tablet.
5. The system collects the starting positions and player names.
6. Each tablet now displays the table information as it relates to each player.
7. Play commences and the display shows each player their hand for their first board together with a bidding ‘box’. The display would presumably emulate the same or similar methods employed for online sessions.
8. Dummy hand appears after opening lead.
9. The touch screen facility would be used for information entry, bids and card selection, again similar to current online or card-game methods.
10. Played cards are displayed as selected and played.
11. Results recorded as hands completed
12. Play progresses around the tables as at present with each player taking their tablet.
13. Final results and publishing of results as at present.

There will be steps that I may have overlooked or falsely included that the system captures. Clearly wide use of such a system would have a profound effect on the production and use of playing cards, bidding boxes and dealing machines, though I suspect that is already taking place to some degree in the current climate. It would though provide significant benefits in the running of clubs, tournaments and holidays/breaks by eliminating much of the associated physical baggage and support work. For the individual player, everything is to hand and handling of cards and bidding boxes is obviated.

The major con – any major system/organisational failure which means those running the operation need to be efficient, able and informed.

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