Monday, November 16, 2009

New pursuits

As my mind hasn't been on poker much, I've only been dicking around a bit online. At the moment, I'm not running particularly well and I've been card dead in my last two tournaments of Omaha. But it's only a distraction. I've tried to shift things up a bit by playing more Backgammon, which is growing more fascinating to me by the day. It helps that not 200 feet from my front door is an active community of Backgammon players that play daily, Monday through Friday, in the community lounge at 60 Wall Street. The group, comprising about 30 regulars and an odd assortment of floaters, such as myself, play money games of Backgammon and Chess. The guy who runs the games, whose name I'd rather not mention, has been really nice to me, introducing me to the players and talking strategy with me every chance we get. He's also an avid poker player, so there's lots of talk about that as well.

The players themselves are perfectly nice people, once you get to know them, though they're pretty crusty and ornery. These people are gamblers, pure and simple, but that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Some of them are pure degenerates and others are highly intelligent people who are deeply involved in their games of choice, arguing minutatie of strategy and studying the literature.

I've been doing a little bit of studying myself to try and bone up on my Backgammon game and at least start to be competitive with these Jackals. For those of you who don't know, Backgammon is a skill game. Period. It looks like luck plays a factor, and it does, but just like Poker, it's the skilled player who wins out in the long run. After starting to play these guys for $5/point, and losing with great frequency, I now play for $3 a point. I've been memorizing the standard opening plays and trying to develop my understanding of the different types of games (running, blocking, gammon, etc...) to adapt to the different rolls of the dice. Playing speed chess with these guys is out of my league, but I believe I can improve myself enough in Backgammon to make it a worthwhile pursuit.

Already, with just a few weeks of training (concurrently with good books and with GnuBackgammon open source software), I've built up my game enough to bring my win rate up significantly. I'm still a losing player against these guys who play every single day for hours a day, but I'm winning enough to boost my confidence. The key is in the doubling cube. Knowing when to double your bet, when to take your opponent's double and when to give it up, is crucial in winning points. The other day, I had taken a double when I thought I was only moderately behind early in the game. Twelve rolls later, I had seized a significant advantage, making a five point prime with three builders on points 4 through 8 on my board and having two of his runners on my inner board. All of my runners were safe and I was threatining a six prime. Foolishly, I doubled and he immediately declined. An onlooker admonished me by saying, "bad cube", and he was right. I had such an overwhelming advantage that playing for the gammon was the proper play. These are the things I'm learning by playing more experienced players and what excites me about the game. There are lessons to be learned and, just like in poker, knowing when to cube (roughly equivalent to bet sizing in poker) is a large part of it.

If there is a poker analogy here, and there is, it's like learning how to play Limit Hold'em by playing $.25/$.50 stakes against players who normally play $25/$50 and having them critique your play as you play! Basically, I'm getting a very very cheap education in how to play the game properly. In time, I'll play as well as them and maybe even overtake them. This will allow me to be at least a break-even player against these guys, but a monstrous favorite against your average man-off-the-street.

Just gotta grind it out...

No comments: