Players think – that's life! The trouble is, partners often realise there is doubt because a player has thought. That is unauthorised information to partner, and he should do his best to take no advantage.
When you play bridge face-to-face there are often arguments over whether a player has thought, and the Director has to decide from what he is told what happened. Online it is usually different: the Director can consult his records, and know exactly how long the player took. In a recent appeal, a player told the appeals committee that his partner took no more than five seconds. No doubt he believed it, but the records show it was actually 22 seconds.
However, it is not always clear whether a player is thinking, because sometimes it is connection problems, or sometimes it is other problems, like getting a drink or letting the cat out! So when playing online you should get in the habit of letting people know if there has been some reason why you appear to have been thinking, especially if something happens when it is your turn to call or play. Just type “Letting the cat out” or “Lousy connection” or “Just kissing the wife” or whatever.
If a player appears to think, and does not make such a disclaimer, it is reasonable to assume he was thinking, and his partner, his opponents, and the Director will usually assume so. This constrains his partner's actions and may lead to a ruling and adjustment if it is felt he has misjudged. So it is your responsibility if you appear to be thinking but did not let the table know.
I have explained in an earlier article the importance to the game of not taking advantage of unauthorised information. It is not good for the game if people also claim afterwards that they were not thinking: the question then arises: Why did they not say so at the time?
Please remember to write to me with your problems. I am afraid I will not guarantee to answer each query personally, but I shall look at everything sent, and will write about some subjects submitted this way.