by Jake Jacobs
11 September 2012
For many years, if asked, or even if not asked, I could state unequivocally that my best day as a backgammon player was in January, 1984. I won my first major tournament, the very first Nevada State Championship, bought back in the auction, and instead of hedging at the final, pressed. I defeated my better known opponent in convincing fashion before a large crowd. All that would have been enough to set the day off, but I wasn't done yet. I played blackjack in those days, and two other professional card counters had played in the Intermediate. Both were very solid intermediates, of roughly equal skill. Their temperaments were something else. David was an Australian who had trained to be an F1 driver in London. He once drove us from the Jockey Club after a Sunday tournament to the east side of Vegas, eleven miles, in nine minutes. If you are doing over seventy miles per hour, and don't let traffic or traffic lights slow you down, that is possible. He was tripping on LSD at the time, and probably saw so many colored lights he couldn't be bothered to treat some as more special than the rest. The other player, Jon, had founded the Princeton Blackjack team, before the lads at M.I.T. ever mastered basic strategy. Jon went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars as a founding partner of a trading firm. David got run over by a truck. That describes the different approaches they brought to the doubling cube. After the tournament we adjourned to David's comped suite at Harrah's, and drank a half a dozen of his comped bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, while we chouetted. At the end I had won a hundred points, while Jon lost a hundred. It happened this way.
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Excellent article and positions as usual Jake. I would like to add the following "sage advice" about settlements. I know it is sage, because it came from you and I have lived by it religiously for the past 20 or more years.
"If you are not sure of the correct settlement, DON'T SETTLE."
To that I have a couple of corollaries of my own:
1. If it is a large cube, take any reasonable settlement, even if you have to give away a little; 2. Never make your best offer first.
Relative to No. 1, not only do you not want to lose too much on a single game or roll of the dice, you don't want that to happen to your opponent, either. Why? Because we're all friends and we do want to see anyone get hurt. (Yes, believe it or not, I am a caring, loving person who does not want to see my fish lose so much in one day that he might not return tomorrow.)
Relative to No. 2, most of the people I have played with in my chouettes over the past 30 years (playing an average of 4 days a week by the way) are NOT interested in making a fair settlement...they are more interested in negotiating and seeing how good a settlement they can make. There are a couple of people who are soooooooooooo stubborn about this, every once in a while I make them an offer that is very much in their favor just because I know that no matter what I offer they will turn it down and counter something even more ridiculous. Then I love to roll the dice and hopefully, teach them a lesson.
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