Bridge clubs and technology: a key aspect of your service to members

In membership development it is not only the journey but the destination that is important. Put another way, if we seek new members for our club, we need to make the club as attractive as possible to them.

Among the biggest areas of change in bridge clubs is in use of technology. Many of us recall when shuffling, dealing and scoring was all manual, and to learn the results at the end of a session you had to stay late, or be patient until they were posted on the noticeboard at the next session.

The advent of the web enabled clubs to post results for all to see, complete with extra information like the percentage score for each pair.

More technology followed, though not every club could take advantage. Wireless scoring devices at every table. Dealing machines for hands that are better randomised than human shuffling can easily achieve, along with the ability to publish the hands with the results. Sophisticated web results with colour coding, double-dummy analysis, and the ability to replay hands card by card to discover the optimum play or reveal why you had a disaster.

There is also club management software that can help with assembling teams, finding partners, managing subscriptions and other matters.

The EBU’s National Grading Scheme (NGS) is also worth a mention, providing players with an indication of their current performance and rank. After every session, you can see whether you achieved a better or worse score than would be predicted by your grade, after taking into account the abilities of the other players.

All this is great, but it comes at a price. Dealing machines are expensive, and operating them is a considerable commitment of time and effort. Because they are expensive they have to be kept secure. The same is true of wireless scoring devices. Further, you need some sort of computer and internet connection to run dealing and scoring software and upload results.

Some clubs struggle with these requirements, maybe with nowhere obvious to keep equipment between sessions, or lack of funds or human resources to manage them.

There may also be dissenting voices in the club. Dealing machines are more random, so hands are less balanced than with manually dealing. This does affect the odds and the play, and there will be members who are used to what they had before and prefer it.

Despite these issues, it is worth investing in dealing machines and scoring devices if you possibly can. Expectations have changed, and once players get used to features like instant results and the ability to inspect and play back hands on the web afterwards, they do not want to go back. Further, these facilities are great for learners (and experts for that matter) who want to improve their play.

Using Bridge Solver Online, accessible through Bridgewebs, to replay a board. The colour coding shows the best card to play and the small numbers how many tricks can be won if that card is played.

It is also worth noting that technology is not standing still. There are now options to use a mobile phone for scoring instead of a dedicated wireless device, reducing costs. There are even ways to have a robot pair to eliminate sit-outs. It is worth paying attention to see if you can use technology to make club sessions more enjoyable  – which is what bridge is all about.

Another excellent use of technology is to enable novices to practice their bidding and play in their own time. There are online bridge systems where you can play in your own time, taking hours to decide what to bid or what to play if you really want to, or completing a game at breakneck speed if that is what appeals. The standard of computer play is now high enough that it beats most humans. And if you score badly, you can try again and find out what would have worked. There is no substitute for a real game at a club, but online bridge is great for learning and more fun than solitaire!

Technology is not just about games and results. Many EBU clubs use Bridgewebs which is excellent for displaying results; but what about other aspects of club management like the ability to email your members, help them find a partner, and have a web site that looks good on every size of screen? If that appeals, Pianola may be worth a look. It is always worth paying attention to see if your club can improve its service to members via intelligent use of what is available.

Every bridge club is constrained by resources and full-scale adoption of the latest technology may not be possible. You can still run fantastic sessions without it. But it is at least something to aspire to, and will make it easier to attract and keep new members.

11 thoughts on “Bridge clubs and technology: a key aspect of your service to members”

    1. Hi Darren, I am the main developer at BriAn; you can use it with tablets, smartphones or a combination thereof. Please look at the website (click name above) if you want more information. There are other tablet-based systems out there including ArcScorer, BridgePal and BridgeTabs – I’ll let them speak for themselves, but as far as I know the people involved, you’ll be in excellent hands whichever you choose.

    2. Hi Darren,

      We are the authors of the BridgePal wireless scoring system. We originally developed it for our own local club but have made it freely available to others. It’s freeware and there are no licensing charges. The scoring units are android tablets or phones and we support all of the major scoring programs. There are currently around 60 clubs worldwide using the system – you can see a list and full details of the system on our website at which also links to our user forum.

      BridgePal has excellent hand record functionality. You can view hand records and makeable contracts on the phone/tablet after playing a hand, enter hands on the BridgePal if they were not predealt, and “play” hands on the BridgePal via a local implementation of Bridge Solver (similar interface to the online version described in the main blog post above).

      John & Mirna

  1. Hi Tim, My club Welwyn Garden City if all techied up – dealing machine, Brian, and Bridgewebs, but we still collect table money in cash. and would like to become “cashless”. I can work out exactly how often people have played using Bridgewebs but I need a banking system that people can pay into.

    E.g. I have a Dartford Crossing account. Every time I cross my account gets £2 debitted from it. When the amount in credit drops below £10 a direct debit is activated and my acount is topped up by £40.

    Do you know of any clubs that have done something like this – I don’t won’t to reinvent the wheel.

    Best Regards,

    1. Richmond BC have installed a machine enabling people to pay by credit card on arrival.
      They are trying to become cashless. Maybe worth contacting them.

  2. A couple of comments.

    Firstly from the Bridgemate point of view. Clubs who don’t have the funds to invest in a dealing machine, or even don’t like the concept of computer-generated hands, still have the option to enter hand-records via the Bridgemate after playing a hand. The result is the same: a fully-analysed pbn file for printing or uploading to the club’s website. And for the 50% of the time when the event includes a half-table, the sitting-out pair can undertake the entry task.
    Secondly, my club uses Bridgewebs, which provides comprehensive facilities for selective bulk emailing, mobile ‘phone support, and management of membership details – your blog gave the impression that these facilities were missing from this particular platform.

    1. Thanks for the helpful information Nigel. Regarding Bridgewebs, it offers an excellent service; I mentioned Pianola because it seems particularly strong for the points I noted.


  3. Funny enough, bridgewebs site went down just as it has been advertised here. It is no longer responding – and since it’s not really run by EBU, I am not sure what can be done about restoring its service.

    1. Yes I noticed that too. It is normally reliable though. There are updates on Twitter, look for the @bridgewebs tweets.


  4. I would like to present you with a new solution for the cashless payments and for the whole website for any bridge club. My company develops a platform for websites for bridge clubs, we are just officially launching – our product is called BridgeCloud. The clubs can post news, organise events, communicate with the membership via email system integrated into the Admin panel. Players can register for any type of event. We have integrated PayPal for cashless payments.

    The business model is that we put so moderate advertisement, mostly to cover our operational costs and then attach a bridge shop and bridge holidays to the club’s website. When anyone buys from the club’s website, that club receives a commission. For more details see

    Stefan from BridgeCloud
    P.S. I will be in London between the 28th of May and the 9th of June if anyone is interested in a demo in person.

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