The Watering Hole

“Thank you for leading me to the Watering Hole,” says the Horse. “Unfortunately I rot13(fhpx) at Spider Solitaire.”

Despite my best efforts, I can’t make my newest student to think more than two moves ahead. Through my peripheral vision I notice a demotivational poster saying “Training is Not the Cure for Stupidity”. The horse looks dejectedly at the cards on the table. He has just been forced to deal a new row of cards and has no idea what to do. He takes another swig from his glass. It seems drinking is not the cure for stupidity either.

“I was the local champion at Klondike,” continues the Horse. “Got the hang of it pretty quick …”

“Local champion,” sneers the rot13(Fzneg Nff). “Only because you were up against the likes of the rot13(Qhzo Ohaal), Bad Idea Bears and Ninja M-”

“YOU’RE NOT HELPING!” I yell.

I angrily swipe the cards off the table and glare at the rot13(Fzneq Nff). Fortunately Ninja Monkey is able to restore the correct position in less than three nano-seconds thanks to his photographic memory and extremely fast metabolism.

First of all, let me begin with the response from Bart Wright:

I’m finding this really fun — applying all those competing considerations that only arise in a real game.

This is where the game often starts getting tricky… sometimes the moves before the first “deal” feel like following a chess opening, and here I go off the opening and have to think harder. I know sometimes I get to a position where I say, “Darn, if I could think far enough ahead I bet I could do better, but I can’t pull off the mental effort required”. But I don’t think this is one of them.

Bart says the moves before dealing a row of 10 cards feel like following a chess opening and in some sense, he is right. Before the first deal, all face-up cards are always in descending sequence (a knowledge bomb from Edifying Thoughts of a Spider Solitaire Addict) so analysing a particular position is not so difficult. But after dealing a row of cards, the descending sequence property is lost, and it takes much more effort to determine minimum guaranteed turnovers, let alone the best move.

In this case, we have only two guaranteed turnovers – that’s the bad news. The “good” news is we probably don’t have to think too far ahead to determine the best play.

Bart also mentioned that in the last post, I shifted the Q-J of Diamonds from the King of Diamonds in column 5 to the other King of Diamonds from column 1. He thinks it’s better to leave it in column 5 because of the consideration that we get an empty column if we remove a full set of diamonds. The reason I moved it to column 1 is to avoid a possible long-term problem with “One-Hole-No-Card,” a situation where you can’t reveal a new card despite having one or more empty columns. I’m still not sure about my decision – but what I do know is that anyone who plays long enough will eventually encounter the situation of One-Hole-No-Card.

To determine the best move, we need to visualise several moves ahead and also calculate (or at least estimate) various probabilities, such as chances of drawing a good card.

Meanwhile the Horse unsuccessfully tries to stifle a yawn as Bart and I study the cards in front of us. We all know yawning is contagious, especially when it’s the Bad Idea Bears setting a bad example.

Here are a few options to consider:

  • Five of Spades onto the Six of Diamonds, the easiest turnover.
  • We can shift both Threes in column 3 to expose a second card.
  • Jack of Hearts onto the Queen, Four of Hearts onto the Five of Hearts, Five of Diamonds onto the Six in column 1. Seems very attractive with three more in-suit builds.

But there’s a catch: we also wanna “insert” the Queen of Hearts in column 2 between the K-J in column 7. If we choose the last option, we will end up with Ks-Qh-Jh in column 7 and 9s-Qh-Jd in column 8 (unless we reveal some good cards). It is clearly more desirable to have Ks-Qh-Jd and 9s-Qh-Jh, so column 8 is easier to shift later on. Therefore we have to sort out the K-Q-J mess first.

In other words, we have to sacrifice many moves before turning over a single card in column 6, and this not only hurts our goal of 1000+ but also may affect our chances of winning the game since we commit ourselves to several irreversible moves before gaining information from the new card.

For this reason, Bart suggests we turnover column 3. Note that “killing” the Five of Spades in column 10 isn’t a big deal because we already have a Five in column 9. We would only regret it if we turned over two Sixes – that is heavy odds-against with only two guaranteed turnovers.

Unless anybody other than Bart can come up with a different suggestion within the next few days, I’m turning over a card in column 3. Any takers?

“Hi,” says the rot13(Fzneq Nff). “I’m rot13(Fzneq Nff)”

I’m Bart,” replies Bart. “Rot13(Rng zl fubegf!)”

Uh oh, I think we’ve all had a bit too much to drink, including myself. Then again, we could all use a bit of laughter after what’s been a rotten year.

THE END

3 thoughts on “The Watering Hole

  1. I’m delighted to have found someone else who likes to talk about Spider (that would be you). So part of what I want is to do everything I can to make sure that having me in your column is still fun for you. I hope you’ll tell me. If it involves saying less or saying it less often I could do that. I could give myself a timer and only tell you what I’ve been able to figure out in 5 minutes, maybe. I won’t be offended if you silently ignore parts of my posts (which I hope you will do for most of this one!). It seems your other readers are pretty quiet. I have time to put into solutions — partly it’s that I don’t have much of a life (retired 8 years, live alone, few friends, most of my life was online even before covid struck). Maybe too much time for spider problems. How long was I on that last one… 45 minutes? Got to a certain point, started to write it up, realized there was something even better, realized there was a better way to write it up, etc.

    Let me make sure I understand the scoring rules you use. So is a win scored at 1300 points (500 initial plus 8×100 suits completed) minus the number of moves you make?

    I can also tell you my rules on “undo”. I will never undo a move that gave me more information, such as turning a card or doing another deal. I will undo moves where the mouse slipped. And (more controversial) I will sometimes undo moves when I get 4 no-reveal moves into a situation and realize it’s not going to work out. And I know that last is reasonably considered cheating.

    I also use this version https://www.free-spider-solitaire.com/, where the default/obvious moves happen with a single click, to reduce RSI problems.

    Like

    1. Hi Bart, I always enjoy reading your comments. The main problem is (as you pointed out) my other readers are pretty quiet – they only seem to like posts that involve silly short stories, and I’m trying to think of creative ways to bring Spider Solitaire to a wider audience. If you can (somehow) help in that regard it will be much appreciated!

      Your understanding of scoring rules are correct. And it seems you have a lot of respect for Steve N Brown (author of Winning Spider Solitaire strategies). Keep up the good work 🙂

      Like

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