Ray Cole wrote this blog post to help anyone new to BBO. It is especially helpful for alerting, chatting, and using the history features.
The first thing I recommend you do: explore those tabs on the right. For instance, under the “account” tab, click on the header titled “settings.” Here you can adjust settings to your liking. Don’t like the sound or animations? There’s an option for that. Tired of clicking on singletons? There’s an option for that. Worried about misclicks? There are options for those too. Also under the “account” tab you can view your profile and edit it, adding in your real name (if you wish), what you prefer to play (useful if you play with a lot of pickup partners), and more.
~ When At A Table ~
Unlike in face-to-face bridge, when playing online, you alert your own calls (bids). NEVER USE CHAT TO ALERT YOUR CALLS IN A TOURNAMENT, AS DOING SO CONSTITUTES INFORMATION THAT COULD BE USED AGAINST YOU. Instead, use the little “Explain” line to explain your calls. A call won’t be made for you just by clicking the “Alert” button. That will only highlight your call with a red ring once you’ve decided on a call.
During the auction, you can also click on any call to ask for an opponent’s explanation of it. DO NOT ASK WHAT A BID MEANS IN CHAT, AND IF AN OPPONENT ASKS YOU, CLICK ON YOUR OWN BID TO CLARIFY. The robots will always describe their bids and doubles.
When at a table, depending on where you’re playing, you can right-click on any bar for options if you’re the table host (indicated with a little crown). If you left-click on the bar, that’ll bring up the person’s profile (unless of course it’s a robot).
Below are the features present when at a table:
Menu. Depending on where you’re playing (or even kibitzing), this contains various options. Note that in a tournament you can call the director from here.
Scoring Format. This will display as MP (matchpoints), IMP (international matchpoints), or TP (total points — basically Chicago scoring). In a game with comparisons, such as a tournament, the running score will be shown, and your rank as well in an individual game (e.g. Robot Duplicate).
Basic Board Information. Dealer (marked with a little D), vulnerability (white = non-vul, red = vul), and board number are all shown here. As an aid, vulnerability is also shown on the headers of the auction (so that you might not forget to take vulnerability into account when you bid).
Final Contract. Click on this for a recap of the auction at any time.
Tricks Won/Lost. Click on this to see the last trick. If you are dummy or a kibitzer, you can also access trick history as well.
Claim/Concede Button. Click on this to make a claim, even as a defender. Like with bids, you can briefly explain your claims. You will need acceptance from both your opponents (or from declarer) in order for a claim to be accepted. Don’t be discouraged if your claim gets rejected. Play a few more tricks out and try again. Also, don’t be afraid to claim! Note that when playing with robots, you can only claim when you’ve won a trick.
Game Information. This includes information such as: what kind of game it is, the title of the game, and which table and section you’re currently seated at.
~ Viewing Results ~
To access boards you’ve just played, click on the “History Tab” and click the “My Table” header. When you click on a board, you can see the full auction and sequence of play (up to the point of an accepted claim, unless of course the hand has been passed out). If you click on the little menu box, there are a few options available. The most valuable one is “Show Double Dummy,” which will tell you the optimal outcome assuming best defense and declarer play. Green means overtricks while red means undertricks (and “=” means the contract is making exactly). To get the most out of this tool, I recommend advancing card by card instead of trick by trick, as frequently mistakes are made in the middle of a trick and not just during a lead. No longer will you wonder where errors were made, nor whom by.
When in a tournament or other game with comparisons, this tab will also show the running score. To update it, click the “refresh” button (NB the score shown on the left side of the table will automatically update itself).
Here you can also access the traveler, which records what other players did with your cards. To do so, click on the “Other Tables” header. Unlike in face-to-face bridge, you can see the full details of their auction and sequence of play. Therefore, whenever you get a bad result and wonder why, clicking here will likely answer your questions.
Also, as before, you can click on the final contract and trick counter to see the auction and current trick, respectively.
~ Chatting on BBO ~
Unlike many chat rooms, where either the default one-on-one or group chat will work 99% of the time, this is not the case with BBO. You can choose where to send your chat! The default is context-dependent — for example, when you just log in, the default is to send messages to the lobby (everyone on BBO); when you’re seated at a table, the default is to send chat to the players at your table; when you’re kibitzing, chat goes to any other kibitzers by default, etc. If you want to message someone privately (provided they’re not your partner at the bridge table!), you can do so by clicking on their profile in the “People” tab (on the right), where just below you will find a space to chat one-on-one with that person. Note that while at a table with humans, you can chat privately to both opponents at once —IF YOUR MIND INEVITABLY THINKS “CHAT” WHEN DESCRIBING A BID, MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE FIRST SENDING CHAT TO THE OPPONENTS, AND NOT TO THE WHOLE TABLE. Better yet, don’t even use chat in the first place for this purpose!
Did you know you can use suit symbols in chat? It’s true! By typing in “!” followed by a C, D, H, or S, you can access the four suit symbols. For example, “We should be in 5!C” would display as “We should be in 5♣.” Remember that when referring to a bid the suit symbol comes after the number, but when referring to a specific card, the suit symbol conventionally comes before the number. For example, “4♥” refers to a bid whereas “♥4” refers to a card.
Other common jargon on BBO (as well as much of the rest of the internet):
afaik: “as far as I know”
afk: “away from (the) keyboard”
brb: “be right back” (NB you can also set a “be right back” status from your profile, via the “account” tab)
ftw: “for the win” (e.g. “endplays ftw”)
glp: “good luck partner” (sometimes shortened to just “gl”)
idk: “I don’t know”
iirc: “if I recall correctly”
ikr: “I know, right?” (NB confusingly, this acronym asks a question, but it’s rhetorical and is meant to express agreement, so it’s always “ikr” and never “ikr?”)
irl: “in real life” (e.g. “bridge irl”)
jk: “just kidding”
lol: “laughing out loud” (NB there are stronger variants of this: rofl: “rolling on (the) floor laughing” and lmao: “laughing my ass off”)
smh: “shaking my head” (for when you witness an insane amount of idiocy at the bridge table)
tyo: “thank you opponent(s)”
typ: “thank you partner” (sometimes shortened to just “ty”)
wdo: “well done opponent(s)”
wdp: “well done partner”
wpp: “well played partner”
/s: For when you want (or need) to clarify that you’re being sarcastic.
:), ;), :P, etc.: Some of these expressions will automatically be converted to emojis.
There are tons more acronym explanations at urbandictionary.com, lest someone uses an internet acronym you don’t quite know. If you want to appear civilized to your fellow bridge players, you will refrain from ALL CAPS, which, even in acronyms, constitutes a degree of shouting! And not to worry, you needn’t be up-to-date on your knowledge of memes — there are resources for that too, but for our purposes, they’re irrelevant.