Match Summary

Well, that didn’t last long. Hero got off to a bad start after Round 1 of Game 1 and decided to go all-in on a lousy hand, reasoning that if Hero’s chances of winning an individual game were less than 50%, then the chances of winning a long match would be rot13(fuvg) regardless.

I can see where Bart/Bug are coming from, but if the “protagonist” believes his chances of winning an individual game are less than 50% I think a better strategy is to be aggressive with even marginal advantages. For instance, Hero could insta-double if the initial game state allowed six guaranteed turnovers or a “good five”. That way, Hero would at least be fighting from a position of strength. If I had to play a 25-point match against Kit Woolsey or Paul Magriel, I would certainly consider a similar strategy – looking for any excuse to double from a position of strength. I would be less sure about accepting/refusing when my opponent doubles, but at least I would avoid any kamikaze redoubles unless the value of the cube is already enough to give opponent a win.

Bart has had a go at analysing the mathematics of an unbalanced match where Hero has, say, a 25% chance of winning a match to 5 and tries to equalise the match to some extent through judicious use of the cube. I will have more to say about this in a future post.

I don’t have much to say about the actual card-play. Hero had a reasonable position after round 0, managing to turn over every face-down card in column 7, albeit without getting the empty column. It’s hard to make bad decisions when we have very few face-up cards, no spaces, and all face-up cards are arranged in descending sequence. But after dealing a less-than-stellar 10 cards in round 1 the situation was already desperate. Rightly or wrongly, Villain immediately doubled the stakes and before we knew it, the number on the D-cube exceeded the number of points required for victory.

When you have a lousy position, the good news is it’s hard to make a mistake because your options are so limited. But we all know what the bad news is. Indeed, I couldn’t find any serious card-play mistakes by Bart or Bug for the entire game. Maybe Hero could have taken an extra turnover in round 3 at the expense of exposing two more Aces, but that’s always easier to say with hindsight. I think it was one of those games we were destined to lose. I’ve had similar games when playing with Microsoft Spider Solitaire and – dare I say it – I have no reason to believe this version is biased.

In the post-mortem, I will discuss in some detail why Villain doubled after we dealt the initial 10 cards in round 1. The TL;DR version basically says “I know from vast experience this is probably not gonna end well”.

Final position, Hero concedes the game and the match.

2 thoughts on “Match Summary

  1. A few things in life can be simplified. Here, we could simplify this to a few kinds of problems: (1) baseline probabilities of winning a random game, (2) how a given game state compares to the baseline in terms of probabilities of winning, (3) math. What GM is in the best position provide and which I also value highly is (2). I suspect that given accurate information about the first two, the third part could be done without knowing anything about the royal game. As for simply getting better at playing the game, (2) is sort of relevant in marginal terms — how much will my chances of winning vary depending on whether I do X or Y. Even for that, the relative magnitudes are what we need, and absolute magnitude is not important. But I’m also intrigued by the doubling cube in general and exploring how it works. I’m just suggesting it can be pretty cleanly separated from how to play Spider.
    So one thing I would be delighted to see is a screen shot of the situation which the Villain saw when he doubled, and how bad he thought it was and why (I know the screen shots are all buried in past posts, but… not so easy to navigate to).


  2. Hi Bart, I believe the optimal use of doubling cube in a match context can be separated from the actual game (Spider, Backgammon, s***p poker etc) to some extent. But there is a catch: since doubling during the middle of a game is legal, we need to evaluate not only the winning chances, but also the “structure of the game tree” if you will. Two different game states can have same winning chances but the structure is different, and that leads to complications. See my latest post for further details.


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