I think most people normally use the Windows client to access BBO, but there is another client, known as the web-based client, that is better if you want to practise your bidding in the partnership bidding area. It is better because (1) it is (currently) FREE to use the robots to bid the east/west hands (2) you can control the hands better if you are a skilled programmer.
General information on the web-based client is available at http://forums.bridgebase.com/index.php?showtopic=30789 (but in summary, in order to access BBO through the web-client, go to the home page: http://www.bridgebase.com and click on the yellow link near the top of the page. You can log in with the same user ID and password that you normally use when you log in using the Windows client program.)
Using the web-based client, there is no specific partnership bidding area. The process to open a bidding table is:
- Click on Show All Tables
- Click on Main Bridge Club
- Click on Start Table (top left corner)
- Select Bidding and reserve the seats for your partner and yourself
When at the table, sit in your assigned seat and you can click on the Robot button on the East and West seats to use the robots. They play 2/1 and will only understand your bids if you are playing 2/1, but don't worry about that too much!
There is a Deal Source button that allows you to control the hands that are dealt. You can control the number of points your partnership has and/or the hands for each player. There is also an advanced tab that I suggest you use for practising competitive bidding.
- Click on the Deal Source button
- Click on the Advanced tab
- Enter the following text into the window (use cut and paste)
points = (hcp(south)+hcp(north)>20)
spadefit = spades(west)+spades(east)>=10
diamondfit = diamonds(west)+diamonds(east)>=10
heartfit = hearts(west)+hearts(east)>=10
clubfit = clubs(west)+clubs(east)>=10
points and (spadefit or heartfit or diamondfit or clubfit)
- Click the checkbox for Use this input for Dealer program
- Close the box
Now just hit Redeal and you will get the next hand.
I've used this setting and it provides a very good competitive work out, mostly featuring high-level decisions.
And with the robots you can actually practise alone, with a robot as your partner. This may, or may not, be advisable depending on (1) if you play a similar system to the robot and (2) if the robot does better than your partner.
Update: I should have added that only the player setting up the partnership bidding needs to use the web client. The other player can use the Windows client.
The robots are currently free in the partnership bidding tables when used through the web client. BBO policy is subject to change in this area.