The Ins, Outs, and In-Betweens of Alerting on BBO
The biggest difference in the rules for online bridge versus face-to-face bridge is that the alert etiquette is completely different. As you know, playing face-to-face, the partner of the person making the alertable bid is the one to say “Alert” and then explain the meaning of the bid to the opponents if they ask. Online, however, we “self-alert” which means we add the alert and the explanation when we’re making the bid. This is done by pushing the alert button and typing in the explanation before completing the bid:
Notice that I have typed in the information explaining Jacoby 2NT before clicking on “NT” to complete the bid. Once I click on “NT” the bid will appear to everyone at the table, but only the opponents will be able to see the alert and explanation. This is why alerts and explanations should never be made in the table chat, because everyone can see it and you’ll be telling your partner what your bid means. If you forget to add an explanation, don’t panic just click on your own bid and add the explanation as soon as possible.
If one of your opponents has made a bid that you feel needs an explanation or an alert, you can request that by clicking on the bid itself. That sends them a request to add an explanation, but their partner will not see the request or the explanation they provide in response.
So which bids need to be alerted? The good news is you won’t be giving your partner information by alerting a bid that should not be alerted; so if you think a bid might be alertable, go ahead and alert it.
An example of this in action is 3♣ as Puppet Stayman after an opening bid of 2NT. In face-to-face bridge the 3♣ bid is not alertable because that would be telling your partner what the bid you are about to make will mean, but in online bridge there’s no risk of waking your partner up to your response so you should go ahead and alert the bid with an explanation.
Another example is Roman Keycard Blackwood. In face-to-face bridge, this bid and the response are not alertable until the end of the auction (again because we don’t want to tell partner what our response is going to be), but in online bridge you should go ahead and alert the 4NT bid as “asking for keycards” and the response should also be alerted (for example, 5♠ would be alerted as “Shows 2 keycards w/ the Q♠).
Keep in mind that the correct form of an alert, just as in face-to-face bridge, is not to just name the convention. You may think everyone plays or at least knows that particular agreement, but it’s worth typing out an explanation just in case. So, for example, a correct explanation is not “DON’T”, but “shows diamonds and a major”.
Hopefully, this helps clarify a few points about alerting on BBO. If you have any questions about this or any other bridge topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling me at 561-712-5276.