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Cheating In bridge: your view

Poll: Cheating in bridge (9 member(s) have cast votes)

cheating players should be banned...

  1. all over the world. cannot play any where. (8 votes [88.89%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 88.89%

  2. continent level - Americas, Europe, Asia, etc (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. at country level only. USA, Sweden, Italy, etc (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  4. none of these answers. please explain in comments (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

how long should cheating players be banned?...

  1. for life (3 votes [33.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 33.33%

  2. 10+ years (2 votes [22.22%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 22.22%

  3. 5-10 years (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  4. 2-5 years (2 votes [22.22%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 22.22%

  5. none of these answers. please explain in comments (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

if a team of bridge experts find cheating...

  1. should cheating players be allowed a world appeal?... (6 votes [66.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 66.67%

  2. an appeal in their country of birth only or where they play (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  3. no appeal. the bridge experts decision is finalised (2 votes [22.22%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 22.22%

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#1 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-September-06, 04:42

I have made this post a 'public poll' as I hope it will make discussion. since bridge, and any other card game, was invented there have been cheating players. I do not like players who cheat. period. they win, I lose. that is not fair. it happen in many sports also. the honest player is at a dis-advantage. methods to find cheating players, in bridge, soccer, athletics, any sport have improved over time. now methods to find cheating players are better than in the past. what do you think? I have made first answers on the poll. that is my view. yes, no appeal can be wrong but it is not in court. if many bridge experts have noticed cheating then it is not one view, but view of many.
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#2 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-September-06, 06:07

Do you not think the nature of any cheating should have a bearing on the punishment? If a player knowingly uses UI or a pair agree to some (illegal due to regulations) system over an IB, I doubt you will get too much support for a lifetime international ban. But a pair that actively set up some kind of covert code and used it in international competition over many years, somewhat different.

For your final question, there are legal restrictions as to what is possible. Applicable Law clauses, while popular, are unenforceable. You cannot block a court just by including such a clause in the playing conditions. So the answer to #3 is A regardless of what anyone might think is fair. The only way around it would be for bridge to distance itself from other sports and activities and regulate itself as a private engagement.
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#3 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-September-06, 15:49

Can't answer without a definition of cheating. Can't answer even with one, because there's a difference between the pencil game/the board placement game and 2 "Alert, Flannery"-p-2NT-AP, the second time (to the director's knowledge) this happens in 6 months, because of course, 2 was mini-Roman (2 is Flannery). Or that, and the "only use the Stop card with preempts" people who don't know better, or the "please don't Alert" people who do know better (but are hoping to distract and throw off their opponents' game anyway. Their "reason" for asking for no Alerts is also somewhat - uncomfortable). Oh, but they're not wrong - what about the people who do rely on their partners' explanations to stay on track?

And "how long has this been going on?" and "what did the person do after the accusation/proof?" and "what is that player's history?" and "what level of game was the person/pair cheating in?" and "is the suspicious player from the U.S.A.?" (okay, that last is less accurate than I thought it was last year. But I bet it makes a difference...)

But the worst part of this is that because of professionalism, any accusation needs to be backed with much evidence, and any conviction has to survive lawyers, because you're taking away their living, not just their enjoyment. And lawyers are expensive - even when you win - and courts are stupid (okay, no. But their ability to understand bridge is even worse than mine; even "sport courts"). So the penalty has to be massive if you can get a conviction; so people will try even harder to overturn convictions, so...

Having said that, let's see what the WBF does with l'affare Fantoni. And possibly equivalently the "I've done my time, for something I didn't do, you'd better treat me right when I come back" play that [other suspended player] is trying.
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#4 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-September-06, 23:32

View Postmycroft, on 2021-September-06, 15:49, said:

Can't answer without a definition of cheating. Can't answer even with one, because there's a difference between the pencil game/the board placement game and 2 "Alert, Flannery"-p-2NT-AP, the second time (to the director's knowledge) this happens in 6 months, because of course, 2 was mini-Roman (2 is Flannery). Or that, and the "only use the Stop card with preempts" people who don't know better, or the "please don't Alert" people who do know better (but are hoping to distract and throw off their opponents' game anyway. Their "reason" for asking for no Alerts is also somewhat - uncomfortable). Oh, but they're not wrong - what about the people who do rely on their partners' explanations to stay on track?

And "how long has this been going on?" and "what did the person do after the accusation/proof?" and "what is that player's history?" and "what level of game was the person/pair cheating in?" and "is the suspicious player from the U.S.A.?" (okay, that last is less accurate than I thought it was last year. But I bet it makes a difference...)

But the worst part of this is that because of professionalism, any accusation needs to be backed with much evidence, and any conviction has to survive lawyers, because you're taking away their living, not just their enjoyment. And lawyers are expensive - even when you win - and courts are stupid (okay, no. But their ability to understand bridge is even worse than mine; even "sport courts"). So the penalty has to be massive if you can get a conviction; so people will try even harder to overturn convictions, so...

Having said that, let's see what the WBF does with l'affare Fantoni. And possibly equivalently the "I've done my time, for something I didn't do, you'd better treat me right when I come back" play that [other suspended player] is trying.


that is a good reply, mycroft. perhaps my question was very general without going into specific areas where cheating occur at the bridge table. I think we can all forgive a personal error now and again. I have been guilty of thinking far longer than normal over a bid or a play, but that does happen not often: bridge is a game where sometimes you need to think and work out what is going on.

what I was interpreting here was cheating over a long time, systematic cheating, using a code on a regular basis. The sort of cheating that Boye Brogeland and other honest players found with a small number of players on the bridge circuit. there is a big difference between cheating in a club to cheating at national and international level, though cheating at any level is cheating. period.

as for lawyers and attorneys, lol! they might be intelligent, but if they have no idea of bridge then they have little knowledge of what is happening. it is for fellow players of many countries, so no bias, to watch players 'habits' and what they are doing at the bridge table and determine whether unlawful.
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#5 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 00:06

I suspect that many Bridge players are lawyers or doctors. Another large group is mathematicians or engineers (software on this forum).
A doctor, a lawyer, a mathematician and a software engineer sit down to play bridge - what do they agree on?
The first three agree that it's the engineer's fault and go out for a beer while the engineer talks to the support desk.

The structure of the game is unique in that it promotes cheating because of its social nature.
There are ways around this, but nobody wants them.

I like the idea of preventing cheating pairs from playing together permanently.
Proving it beyond a reasonable doubt is another problem.

If an offender continues their behaviour after being discovered, that may be cause for permanent disbarment.
Good luck keeping them away from anonymous sites.

I didn't answer the poll because I think the problem is more nuanced than the answers permit, but I agree with the sentiment.
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#6 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 03:30

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-06, 23:32, said:

I have been guilty of thinking far longer than normal over a bid or a play, but that does happen not often: bridge is a game where sometimes you need to think and work out what is going on.

Giving UI (by thinking) is usually not against the rules, with the exception of pausing for deceptive purposes. It is the use of UI that is against the rules. This is a bit like comparing cold-blooded murder with consensual masochism. Are you a masochist?


View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-06, 23:32, said:

The sort of cheating that Boye Brogeland and other honest players found with a small number of players on the bridge circuit.

A long time ago, the clean face of cycling was a recovered cancer patient known as Lance Armstrong. And then he wasn't. In athletics, the clean face of the sport is Usain Bolt even though there are plenty of inferences that might lead a person to doubt that narrative. In bridge, the face of a clean game is Boye. Is he clean? Probably...but personally I have no idea. I have as much evidence for that as for Usain Bolt, or indeed for Lance before it all came out. Bottom line, it is wise to be careful about raising sports personalities to demigod status.

But let's put that to one side and assume he has never once in his life knowingly broken a bridge rule. We can instead look at the work being done. The team tell us that they have a mathematical model that has located a large number of potential cheats. Well some GOP supporters have a mathematical model that says Donald Trump got over 8 million more votes than were recorded. When asked to show the model, they refuse of course, and we intrinsically understand that that is evidence that the model is unreliable. But Boye's team equally refuse to publicise anything about their model. Why should we give it any more weight than the model from the GOP?

And the issue here is that people are giving it more weight. Players are receiving soft bans from tournaments based only on the word of Boye's team, with no actual evidence being presented. Is that right? If the question is whether bans should be given out based on private "evidence" coming from a group of self-appointed vigilantes, then the answer should be an easy one for everyone. And even if their model is accurate, do we actually know that it is being used uniformly? The last I checked, no US or Norwegian players had been accused of cheating. Are they being given special treatment? Who can say when the data and model are not available for checking?

Yes, everyone wants high-level bridge to be played fairly and it is good that the issue has received more attention in the last years. There is still a lot that the WBF, ACBL, etc can do to make play in professional tournaments more secure. But I do not think the current anti-cheating methods in place are good, suffering from a catastrophic lack of transparency and very much a "he says, she says" culture. So are you talking about accusations by Boye and his team? Or are you meaning an open and transparent investigation by a recognised bridge authority? These are not the same thing.

Finally, the internationally recognised standard for systemic cheating is a 2 year ban. Many people, my self included, think that this penalty is ridiculously light but it is what it is. I suspect any lifetime ban would be knocked down by courts, so the reality is that the maximum enforceable ban is probably 2-4 years. I do think sports in general should increase these penalties (at least doubling if not more) but there does not seem to be any motivation to do so and many countries will only ever impose the minimum possible penalty on their elite athletes, down to as little as 3 months in some cases.

So bridge is not alone in having a cheating problem. I strongly suspect cheating is much more rife in elite sports than the vast majority could ever imagine. Unfortunately I also doubt there is enough money and will in the game to police it properly. The answer is surely to use low-cost measures to create an environment that restricts the opportunities for cheating much more than the current one. It is impossible to remove cheating completely but we can do better; and we can do it in a way that is clear and transparent. If Boye's efforts eventually lead to that then I can only applaud him.
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#7 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 10:27

I very carefully did not put in my lists of c-word examples anything that was not deliberate. There are hundreds of violations of the Laws of Bridge every day (frankly, if you're willing to absolutely SB it, hundreds of violations of the Laws every session in every club), but they aren't cheating. Even WeaSeL, if not played deliberately, is not cheating. It's illegal, and will be ruled against if caught and proven, but bridge is a game of mistakes, and some of those mistakes are against the Laws, not against Good Bridge. It happens, we deal with it, we go on.

BUT. That's the slope. Where do we put my Usual Suspect from years ago who very carefully didn't learn the proprieties so that he could "not deliberately" do things that were imProper and get away with them until someone who did know called him on it? And then switched to the next one? His partners *had to have known*, and went along with it (even if they didn't do it themselves, even if they didn't realize the sheer scale of his shenanigans.) The person who "always" asks about unAlerted 2 openers, at least that's what she tells everyone including the TD. But the time she has a flat 4...? And there's all the rest.

And if "cheating" is going to be a multi-year, multi-country ban, for anything defined as such, we have to be equally careful not to ZT the bloody thing, because that way lies madness, and ridicule, and actual cheaters getting away with things because we don't actually ZT the dumb things and they use that in their defence.

And yes, generating UI is part of bridge, it happens, it happens all the time, and it's not a violation of the rules if you try not to do it. Failing to *carefully avoid using* UI generated (by partner) is the violation. When you do it, and you pooch your partner, apologize to them, not to the game of bridge. It happens.
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#8 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 14:26

View Postmycroft, on 2021-September-06, 15:49, said:

Can't answer without a definition of cheating.


My definition of cheating would be a deliberate breaking of the rules of the game in an attempt to gain an advantage over the opposition. Ignorance of the rules is not cheating IMO, intent has to be there, like the distinction between murder and manslaughter.
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#9 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 15:16

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-07, 14:26, said:

My definition of cheating would be a deliberate breaking of the rules of the game in an attempt to gain an advantage over the opposition. Ignorance of the rules is not cheating IMO, intent has to be there, like the distinction between murder and manslaughter.

We all know a pair at the local club that fall into this definition. A lifetime international ban for all of these players?
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#10 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 17:54

View PostGilithin, on 2021-September-07, 15:16, said:

We all know a pair at the local club that fall into this definition. A lifetime international ban for all of these players?


No a sense of proportionality and a bit of initiative, recognising that cheating in a meaningless club game is not on the same level of seriousness as cheating in an international event where there are significant sums of prize money at stake (assuming there are such international competitions), so in the former case, a warning from the committee followed by expulsion from the club for repeat offences, and a lifetime international ban is more appropriate in the latter. There is a pair at my club that got found out for cheating online and were suspended from the EBU for three years. There is a list of EBU sanctioned members here which shows the penalty for unfair/dishonest play tends to be temporary suspension of EBU membership.
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#11 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 18:56

It’s hard to know which is worse - cheating or an unsubstantiated rumor of cheating, Both are grossly unfair.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter.
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#12 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 19:23

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-07, 17:54, said:

No a sense of proportionality and a bit of initiative, recognising that cheating in a meaningless club game is not on the same level of seriousness as cheating in an international event where there are significant sums of prize money at stake (assuming there are such international competitions), so in the former case, a warning from the committee followed by expulsion from the club for repeat offences, and a lifetime international ban is more appropriate in the latter. There is a pair at my club that got found out for cheating online and were suspended from the EBU for three years. There is a list of EBU sanctioned members here which shows the penalty for unfair/dishonest play tends to be temporary suspension of EBU membership.

Sad to see that biggest suspension on that list comes from a former BBF poster. He was fairly toxic whilst he was posting here though so perhaps less of a surprise than it would be for most others. The issue of proportionality is essentially what makes the OP questions meaningless as originally presented. When a married pair at my local club got caught cheating, they just got banned from virtual club tournaments without it going further. My guess would be that there are some additional cases of that nature that did not make it as far as the EBU sanctioned list.
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#13 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 19:34

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-07, 17:54, said:

No a sense of proportionality and a bit of initiative, recognising that cheating in a meaningless club game is not on the same level of seriousness as cheating in an international event where there are significant sums of prize money at stake (assuming there are such international competitions), so in the former case, a warning from the committee followed by expulsion from the club for repeat offences, and a lifetime international ban is more appropriate in the latter. There is a pair at my club that got found out for cheating online and were suspended from the EBU for three years. There is a list of EBU sanctioned members here which shows the penalty for unfair/dishonest play tends to be temporary suspension of EBU membership.


that is interesting, AL78. can the players locate or play in another part of England using a different name (using a different BBO name) and still play? who checks the credentials? I understand that English members get points to build bridge status similar to USA. so they can not get these during the ban? but could they still play without anyone knowing at a club or online? does anyone ask for passports or driving license to check names/addresses of club members. I was surprised so many in England have cheated! wow! if this many players cheat in England, then how many around the world??? the problem of cheating is more worldwide than I thought. was cheating less of problem before online bridge? it would be interesting to see comparison before the world virus...
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#14 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-07, 22:22

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-07, 17:54, said:

There is a list of EBU sanctioned members here which shows the penalty for unfair/dishonest play tends to be temporary suspension of EBU membership.


The only name I recognized on the suspension list was Andrew Sobell. Somebody on the Bridgewinners site posted a long article detailing some his worst offenses fairly early in the Covid pandemic. He had no filter when it came to cheating by self-kibitzing. One hand that stuck out was where he took a backwards finesse instead of a simple finesse with no clues about the opponents cards in the suit. Basically a backwards finesse is successful 25% (actually needs 2 finesses) compared to 50% for a simple finesse.
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#15 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 01:30

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-07, 19:34, said:

that is interesting, AL78. can the players locate or play in another part of England using a different name (using a different BBO name) and still play? who checks the credentials? I understand that English members get points to build bridge status similar to USA. so they can not get these during the ban? but could they still play without anyone knowing at a club or online? does anyone ask for passports or driving license to check names/addresses of club members. I was surprised so many in England have cheated! wow! if this many players cheat in England, then how many around the world??? the problem of cheating is more worldwide than I thought. was cheating less of problem before online bridge? it would be interesting to see comparison before the world virus...

You have to think that this list from the EBU, and the similar one from the ACBL, shows the most blatant cheating pairs where the proof was overwhelming. So I expect that there are a lot more players and pairs who are cheating that have not risen to this level.

Generally master points won over the cheating period are removed from a pair's record (and in the ACBL they may remove a percentage of all your points) and you cannot win master points during the ban as you are not permitted to play. At least one EBU pair had their ban extended as they played while suspended.

The perceived anonymity of the Internet and the fact you are not directly observed makes cheating online easier that face-to-face bridge. This is the case for all online games compared to their face-to-face variants. It also seems a lot easier for a single player to cheat, rather than collusive cheating between a partnership.
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#16 User is online   Douglas43 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 02:18

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-07, 19:34, said:

that is interesting, AL78. can the players locate or play in another part of England using a different name (using a different BBO name) and still play? who checks the credentials? I understand that English members get points to build bridge status similar to USA. so they can not get these during the ban? but could they still play without anyone knowing at a club or online? does anyone ask for passports or driving license to check names/addresses of club members. I was surprised so many in England have cheated! wow! if this many players cheat in England, then how many around the world??? the problem of cheating is more worldwide than I thought. was cheating less of problem before online bridge? it would be interesting to see comparison before the world virus...


To play in an EBU-affiliated club you need to provide your personal EBU membership number, and most club events are for members only, and are local, so people know each other. For a congress you must supply your name and membership number, so a ban would be pretty close to 100% effective as far as officially sanctioned events go. There are unaffiliated clubs though.
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#17 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 03:03

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-07, 19:34, said:

I was surprised so many in England have cheated! wow! if this many players cheat in England, then how many around the world??? the problem of cheating is more worldwide than I thought. was cheating less of problem before online bridge? it would be interesting to see comparison before the world virus...

The only credible investigation I have seen on the incidence of doping suggested that about 6% of amateurs in all sports in Italy were doping. That fits my own observations on doping and cheating in general, about 5-8% of people will do it even if they are not under pressure to do so (like many professionals are). I doubt bridge is much different, even if you need to be in two for the worst kind of cheating.
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#18 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 03:04

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-07, 19:34, said:

I was surprised so many in England have cheated! wow!


I'm not, at least when it comes to online bridge. The anonymity of online interaction, the moral code of some that anything goes that has no consequence for them (i.e. what they can get away with), and how easy it is to cheat in online bridge mean there are going to be a fair few who try it on. One couple in my club is on that EBU list, there are two more married couples in my club that others have suspected of cheating but no-one has reported. One hand from one such couple I have recently posted on here, but it isn't just one hand that arouses suspicion, it is repeated unusual situations where they gain, such as when the best pairs in the club are getting in the low 50's% whilst they with far less talent are coming back with 65% regularly. It is similar to social interaction through F2F and online. People often bring out their worst characteristics on online forums because there is no risk of having their face smashed in.
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#19 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 03:24

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-08, 03:04, said:

I'm not, at least when it comes to online bridge. The anonymity of online interaction, the moral code of some that anything goes that has no consequence for them (i.e. what they can get away with), and how easy it is to cheat in online bridge mean there are going to be a fair few who try it on. One couple in my club is on that EBU list, there are two more married couples in my club that others have suspected of cheating but no-one has reported. One hand from one such couple I have recently posted on here, but it isn't just one hand that arouses suspicion, it is repeated unusual situations where they gain, such as when the best pairs in the club are getting in the low 50's% whilst they with far less talent are coming back with 65% regularly. It is similar to social interaction through F2F and online. People often bring out their worst characteristics on online forums because there is no risk of having their face smashed in.


Are there many Bridge clubs where getting your face smashed in is a major risk?
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#20 User is online   Douglas43 

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Posted 2021-September-08, 03:38

Credit to the EBU for setting up and applying what appears to be a credible and effective process.
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