Memories (May Be Beautiful. And Yet...)

by Jake Jacobs
8 February 2011

Jake Jacobs

I was reading Chance Of A Lifetime this morning. For those whose libraries lack it, the author was Skinny D'Amato's sister-in-law, and now that HBO's Boardwalk Empire is a hit her decade-old pastiche of history, rumor, and family photos is back in print. Among her unlikely claims about Skinny's skill with cards she refers to him as a "card counter," a term that is understood to apply to blackjack, not poker, and does not involve "remembering all the cards." I was thinking of writing about memory and game play, but the type of memory that is useful for backgammon is long-term, not short-term, and other than the odd match equity table I don't know anyone who uses memorization as a method for improvement. Good players remember a lot of positions because they see a lot of positions, and having seen a lot of positions tend to recall significant ones.

Double Jeopardy, for instance. Last spring Jeremy Bagai and I had something close to a benchmark position came up; I remembered the rule generally, he particularly, but not completely, and it turned out that generally was better than an incomplete memory.


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