Settle This

by Jake Jacobs
11 September 2012

Jake Jacobs

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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