31 July 2012
Having been in the backgammon world for a mere 6+ years I can only speculate on how things were in the heyday of backgammon. One thing I feel pretty strong about is how bots have affected the game. I think they have driven the popularity of the game way down and killed a great deal of the action I hear about that was floating around in the 70s, 80s, and maybe into the early 90s. Before they came along and demonstrated they could whip any and every opponent people could always blame their misfortune on bad luck. There was no final say on what was the best play, only heated arguments and short term results. Even if people still argued with the bots and their results once they came out, they could no longer lie to themselves when they lost or made poor plays. They knew their game wasn't up to snuff and not many people like giving away their money when they know that's all they're doing. Denial can only be taken so far.
Even with the bots being in existence for around 20 years now and getting stronger and stronger with every new one there is one area in which the bots are still of little help and we can freely argue about without have a final word on the matter. That area is how to adjust to your opponent. I have spent what I consider significant time performing thought experiments when it comes to playing the weaker player. As you all know, like any good backgammon player, I am delusional enough to consider nearly everyone I play a weaker player. The only questions that remain are how much weaker are they and how can I exploit those weaknesses to improve my winning chances?
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Excellent article on an under-discussed subject. The only decision that I'm not sure I agree with you about is the final one, where your take looks O.K. to me. Did your opponent in fact make any further errors in this game? It's still quite possible for him to make a pay-now-or-later error when the opportunity comes up to clear the midpoint. He might even make a mistake on this very next roll, with some of the rolls that don't allow him to clean up his blot.
You have to go even deeper to heart of darkness, if you want to understand, why backgammon popularity went down. If gambling is a zero-sum situation, there is no market nor profit. If you want to have a profit, there must be a constant flow from one side to the other (or there is enough added in the pot). So the incentive for the winner is clear: money. But what is the incentive for the loser? What is his secondary gain (he will loose his money for sure)? The answer for backgammon in the bot ages in general: there is no more morbid gain anymore. There aren?t absolutely no more polite words for pigeons anymore. PR 10, weak as fish. In the old days, a pigeon could say: I am biased, I have not a strong arm and so on. He stayed longer in the loss and desolation zone. And the live situation in this time gave him an added morbid gain (very instructive Danny Kleinman in ?Vision laughs about counting?: Do you know a polite word to say pigeon?). Nowadays it is absolutely clear, that the fish is the raison d?etre of the game. Poker has still the illusion, that even the customers could win. You have to understand the concept of secondary (morbid) gain and the steps of a gambling career: winning zone, loss zone and desolation zone. One third of the prisoners in the united states have problems with compulsive gambling (Abstract: "A review of problem gambling in forensic populations suggests that one third of criminal offenders meet criteria for problem or pathological gambling. This is the highest rate yet found in any population. Approximately 50% of crime by incarcerated problem and pathological gamblers is reportedly committed to support gambling. The prevalence of gambling within correctional facilities (40%) appears lower than in the general population. However, inmates who do gamble tend to do so regularly, and problem and pathological gamblers are disproportionately represented among this group. ..." Williams, Royston, Hagan. Gambling and Problem Gambling Within Forensic Populations: A Review of the Literature. Criminal Justice and Behavior December 2005 vol. 32 no. 6 665-689). But if compulsive gambling is such a problem, where are the gamlers? As an sophisticated entrance watch the film 'california split' from Robert Altman.
And my analysis is under this pow: the customers, not only the pros (Gus Hansen, Eric Seidel, François Tardieu, Bill Robertie etc. pp.) turned from Backgammon to Poker. It is definitely much harder for a fish to enjoy backgammon (and having fun/morbid gain) in the bot times. Do you think, a compulsive gamer enjoys a situation in the long run, where he easy can see, how bad he gambles? Thanks to Stick for a clear word out of the mouth of a pro.
Very interesting article that helps us intermediates "protect" ourselves! Regarding the 3rd position you wrote "The position we're looking at now does have some scare factor to it. Six big shots that put another man behind my solid deeply developed 5 prime." If I understood well to which position you refer then it is 8 rolls (3-6, 3-5, 4-6 and 4-5) and not 6, right?
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