CeePrompt! Computer Connection
June 24, 2002 

What a deal -- a card partner from Istanbul

On behalf of summer, let's set aside work and productivity tools for a moment and have some good, old-fashioned fun on the Internet. There are literally hundreds of sites offering free games and activities that are welcomed by those of us who've grown weary of Solitaire and Free Cell.

Cards are my favorite source of online entertainment, and Yahoo! provides one of the best game servers around. Here you can choose from bridge, canasta, cribbage, euchre, gin, hearts, poker, pinochle and even go fish!

I've played bridge and gin online at Yahoo!, MSN Gaming Zone and also at Pogo.com and find Yahoo! to be my first choice overall.

At Yahoo! your bridge foursome or gin partner consists of real people playing from various time zones all over the world. There are, of course, some kooks online as you'd find in the real world, but for the most part everyone is there to fine-tune their card skills and have fun. In the early morning I routinely play with a woman from Istanbul who's killing time waiting for her husband to come home for dinner.

At MSN's Gaming Zone and Pogo, you can be seated with either warm bodies or autobots to fill out a table. The bots are OK for practice play, but it's not as enjoyable or challenging as playing with real people of similar skill levels. The bots also make obvious errors from time to time, reminding you that you're playing with a machine. There's more advertising on Pogo and MSN, but the graphics and multimedia effects are superior to Yahoo! so there's always a trade-off somewhere.

With all game servers, you elect to join a room with people of similar skill levels or interests. Most are categorized beginner, intermediate or advanced. Some are listed as social, meaning that more online chat usually takes place.

In any of the rooms, you can join a game in progress or create your own table. You can choose to make your table public, allowing anyone to join, or you can restrict the game to players of your choice. This way, you can create card night with your buddies without ever leaving the house. If you have Yahoo! Messenger or MSN Messenger, you can see when your pals are online and dash off for an impromptu hand.

Game servers have limits as to the number of players in any room, usually around 175. If you find your favorite room is full, there's a workaround at shove-it.com. Shove-it is the back door to the most popular game servers, giving you access to otherwise closed doors. Simply click the link to the closed game room, and voilą! -- you're there.

These games are all free but not free of advertising. Have your shortcut keystrokes ALT+F4 primed and ready to close those ubiquitous pop-up windows. Also, never give out your primary e-mail address when registering online for the free games, as it will immediately be added to a junk-mail database.

Everyone should have a secondary e-mail account through one of the free Web-based services, such as Yahoo! or HotMail, so you can keep your primary e-mail account more private for business and truly personal use. Give your primary
e-mail address only to those you truly want to hear from; otherwise use the secondary account. Periodically check your HotMail or Yahoo! accounts, and you'll find plenty of spam awaiting.

If cards aren't to your liking, you'll find plenty of alternate games at Yahoo, Pogo or MSN Gaming Zone. If you're a Slingo fan, you'll find this classic at Electronic Arts.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.  


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