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6 days on -- Hosting our Club on BBO

Early on, we were denied the opportunity to participate in ACBL/TCG/BBO online black point initiative. Which is fine. Their choice. And far to our benefit in the long run. Well as much as a week can be a long run.

Seems pretty certain that we would have been unhappy with their restrictions arising out of their understandable need to create a plug and play solution that would serve clubs with management and staff that was . . . uh much less tech familiar than ours. We had had the accidental foresight to explore the possibility of an online/IRL (in real life) collaboration 3-4 years ago, due to the fact that LA traffic making our evening games totally unreachable.

So when the crisis hit, LA had so to speak an Ace in the hole with the long dormant BBO director's rights . . . which now cannot be obtained at any price.

Starting FR, one week ago today, the managers of our two local larger clubs and I started working to move our WestLA bridge community online. Temporarily. We started thinking that we were going we were going to be part of the large pilot program and told our players to be ready to play online Sunday at 1pm pacific. When we were dumped from that offering because BBO feared issues with volume surge (they were right), we decided to go ahead on our own anyway.

First mistake was aiming for a Sunday 1pm Pacific time slot.  BBO's system went into total meltdown as many people misunderstood and attempted to log into a game that was not open to them.  We ultimately did get a shortened version of a game going at 3pm and played our first 12 board mini tournament. Monday we tried 12:30 again, but melted down again. We ran a Monday 715 24 board, 5 tables I think, duplicate. Barometer scoring.

Monday night/Tuesday morning (I think) the server upgrade occurred and we went full bore with 24 Boards 1230 and 715. Same Wednesday. Also Wednesday we also added 299 pairs including a large contingent from outside the LA area. Wed night, 24 boards of open pairs. Th AFT Open and 299ers. Th Night we had a disasterous and aborted attempt at a team game. Fri AFT 8 tables of pairs, 3 board rounds and it went, despite our director being dumped and having to log back in to flash to come back after the tournament had started without him.

Miraculously, he had guessed at around 1145 am that the 1230 game would be large enough to support 3 board rounds (8 rounds, 24 boards). And that is exactly what happened. Director forced his way on with the flash version and discovered that he loved flash much better than the newer version. The 299ers managed 4 tables despite the meltdown of volume on BBO's servers and away we went.

FRI nite pairs coming at 715.  Lots of interest already.

We are still working on payment systems. For now, we solicit donations. And we are doing OK. We are willing to pay BBO for using their servers but they haven't contacted us. We are willing to pay ACBL to allow us to award even clear MasterPoints, but they haven't contacted us yet. Our director is being paid although he started out on spec. Our director has enough time to write BW articles although yesterday he thought he wouldn't be able to breathe one more breath.

Most of all . . . our online bridge club looks almost exactly like our IRL club save for some of our more constant and consistent players being not compputer people. The people that are running it are the same people that were running our clubs. We have afternoon games, evening games and 299er games. It's a program that works, it really does (if you catch that reference, Hi Bill).

The most important thing is that we started it on the Zuckerberg model. Build it first. Monetize it later. Also, we are not trying to get rich here. Just trying to keep the IRL doors open and give a very anxious grooup of players relief from their worries for 4-5 hours a day in the midst of this crisis. We commit to IRL length games. We provide known partners and OPPs just like IRL. This has been one of the biggest headaches (controlling access to the club . . . for quality control purposes, not to make money) but we have resolved it. Our director was, for a time, sifting through 200 emails a day, each requiring individual attention and processing. 

The operation is starting to calm down a bit and look more like a typical IRL day at  the club.  Next up this weekend? Playing director. Haven't PLAYED bridge in 10 days now, save 3 hands (2 slams) filling in in the WED night pairs.

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