Behind the scenes of playing online


It is a phenomenon that has not been left unnoticed: online bridge platforms have experienced a dazzling and spectacular success since the health crisis. But how do you explain this craze for this card game that you know so well?

500 000 players welcomed daily on the two biggest bridge platforms

A big boom

video game

It is one of the big winners of the coronavirus crisis: the online gaming market had exceptional years and some digital bridge modules came through this difficult situation with success.

To better understand how they work and to measure their recent developments a little more closely, we visited two major players in the sector. In the middle of the walls of the orange-red briquettes of Villeneuve-d’Ascq (close to Lille), three buildings all made of wood and glass stand out of the greynes. In an area where many office buildings are flourishing, wedged between two of the city’s pavilion districts, these large floor-to-ceiling windows hide a spacious and bright interior. This is where those who work behind their screens on the reflection, evolution or maintenance of FunBridge and Bridge Bridge Base Online (BBO).

Ten countries, ten nationalities

The other parts of the teams are dispatched to the four corners of France and the rest of the world: Paris and the South of France for FunBridge, and the United States, India, Canada, Bulgaria and Romania for BBO.

“Our employees live in ten countries and there are as many nationalities on the surface of the globe,” says FunBridge boss Pierre Dreulle

sharewood office building

The boss of Funbridge adds that the famous online bridge game works thanks to a team composed of with IT engineers, a marketing department, product managers, project managers, a customer service, designer, support functions and of course people for finance and accounting.

The number of employees of the French developer has doubled between 2018 and 2020. “We have seen a gradual growth in attendance for several years and it became exponential,” explains winner of the 2016 European Bridge Championships, Jérôme Rombaut, deputy director, who has been present since the start of 52 Entertainment.

The multiple countries in which the teams of 52 Entertainment’s two bridge software programs are located is partly explained by their staffing needs. Technical Director Boris Plays said he had to recruit via video conference during the lockdown to best meet the players’ demand for quality. “We had the necessary equipment delivered to their homes and then had them sign their contracts remotely,” said Boris Plays. He does not hide the fact that he had very busy days during this particular spring. “Between the permanent surveillance, the relations with the outside world and the on-call duty, it was 8am-11pm,” he summarized.

New challenges for online bridge

Team Funbridge

While the number of players during the Covid period was steadily increasing, behind the scenes, preparations were already underway for the aftermath. What would be the best way to retain these new users once the health situation returns to normal and indoor tournaments resume?

Whether it is BBO or Funbridge, each application has managed to find solutions to these new questions. While some Chinese online bridge platforms have chosen to offer online courses but do not disclose the modalities of their operation, their British counterparts have also worked on an online course system where, for a fee, players have access to an unlimited number of teachers.

Going on a cheat hunt…

Going on a cheat hunt

Since the crisis, fraud on online bridge sites has exploded in proportion to the rate of use of gaming platforms. Jérôme Rombaut stated that since 2019, they had spotted just over a hundred cheaters on Funbridge and BBO and that more than thirty investigations were launched during the first fifteen days of October.

The most ludicrous anecdotes are legion:

“One day, a player who went online from the hospital he was in defended himself against any dishonesty by claiming that the morphine that was given to him simply allowed him to see through the back of the cards…” remembers Jérôme Rombaut.

Jérôme Rombaut

On FunBridge, the most recurrent cheating cases are those related to those players who, when they play a tournament, play on multiple accounts to manage to play each time the same deals against three other “players” – animated by artificial intelligence – and know the distribution in advance.

For BBO – since the four players around the table are real and not virtual – it is not uncommon to find that two of them communicate by phone or other means.

voting by a jury

While 52 Entertainment is studying this process, the hunt for cheats is not done through algorithms, as on online poker sites, but through reports from other players. Once received, they are then forwarded to an ethics committee composed of bridge specialists, who study – for both companies – the data of the suspected player. “It is up to us to provide them with all the data corresponding to a particular player on a particular tournament; and up to them, – depending on how the person played, their known level or the way they bid – to find out where something is odd” describes Boris Plays, technical director of the FunBridge Platform.

Two investigators then separately prepare their reports and give independent opinions. Three comments can then be written on the file: “Cheating” “No cheating” and “No opinion given”. “Sometimes we detect a player’s questionable behavior without having enough evidence to suspend them” admits Boris Plays. We then put them under surveillance for several months and, if their behaviour is reprehensible and their member number is available, we send a file to the federation, which then chooses whether or not to suspend them. The reciprocity agreement with several federations is such that, if the player is suspended for 3 years, he is also suspended with us.

Some figures to finish…

number of visitors

More of 100 000

number of visitors per day on Funbridge

years of players

65 years old

average age of players on 52 Entertainment platforms



number of countries where our players are

What did you think of this article?

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    • Tony W.P.
      15 FEBRUARY 2023 / 15 H 51 MIN
      FUNBRIDGE er et fantastisk godt og underholdende kortspil, i særdeleshed for ældre og enlige. Det er med til hjernecellerne i sving.
      Venlig hilsen Tony W.P.

  1. Thanks for this article. Always wondered how you dealt with cheaters. So sad that people need to cheat to gain a few master points. I love my Bridge, and have encouraged my students to play online to gain experience and confidence. Being able to look at hands which players have scored better than I have, has also been a great learning opportunity. Keep up the good work!!

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