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All comments by Richard Willey
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“Screw the future generations, we're cashing out now” would (arguably) be a helpful acknowledgement…
Sept. 16, 2014
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What percentage of the ACBL's annual budget just got flushed down the drain?
Sept. 15, 2014
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Couple quick observations:

1. Running a 1.5 million dollar project without a requirements document seems dubious at best.
2. In my experience, the best way to judge these sort of projects to ask for APIs and system diagrams. (If no one can produce a good system diagram, this is usually a sign that something is going wrong)

And one big recommendation: Even if you’re starting with a large monolithic program that does “everything”, this doesn’t mean that you need to produce a new large monolithic program that does “everything”. For example, the ability to generate movements can (and should) be decoupled from financial accounting.

If it were me, I’d radical decentralize the system as follows

1. You need a transition plan by which ACBLScore and your new system will co-exist. You need to make sure that your backend is flexible enough that some clubs can use the old system as others transition to the new.

2. Next, look at best of breed systems from Europe, Australia, wherever. Learn what these systems can already provide for you. (Generating movements, scoring, what have you). Figure out if their going to cost you anything, and if so, what.

3. Finally, determine what the core functions that absolutely need to be built by the ACBL. From the sounds of things, you’re going to need a small standalone program that can be used to send financial information to the ACB, record masterpoints, (there’s probably some other things that I’m forgetting)

I could bring this all in for a hell of a lot cheaper than 1.5 million. (The only slightly complicated issue is backwards compatibility for clubs that can’t upgrade hardware quickly enough). Hell, put together an RFP and I might bid on it…

FWIW, I find the whole copyright issue ridiculous. I can’t believe that any of this code is unique or valuable.




Sept. 15, 2014
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> I can say that most people are clear

Lets not drag Scientology into this ;-)
Sept. 12, 2014
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Maybe I am resulting, but with the opening lead coming into the East hand, I'd want to be in 6S
Sept. 8, 2014
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> Richard, my guess is that you underestimated the increased
> longevity, lucidity, and mobility of the “baby boomers” and
> older.

I played in an ACBL sectional in Watertown a few weeks back.

The words infirm and feeble come to mind. Flight A wasn't in too bad shape, but the lower flights wasn't looking too good.
Sept. 5, 2014
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> “Fall off a cliff?” No that's not the way it happens,
> absent some catastrophe like a volcanic eruption such as
> the one that buried Pompeii. Did Richard predict the ACBL
> would be hit by a giant meteor?

FWIW, I have frequently used the expression “Fall off a demographic cliff” to refer to the ACBL membership. I’ve probably exaggerated somewhat. I don’t think that we’re looking at a knife edge here. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a very sharp contraction in the membership rolls over a fair short period of time. (Say, losing 40% of your current members during a 5 year period and 80% over 10 years)
Sept. 5, 2014
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> In my mind, your credibility has been hurt because of
> past history. For years when I was on the ACBL Board, you
> were adamant about your theories/facts/? that
> ACBL demographic would fall off a cliff when the average
> age reached 66? 68? 70? 72?. you have been predicting the
> demise of the ACBL for years/decades. It hasn't
> happened nor do I think it will. Your theories did not
> materialize. That is a historical fact.

I readily admit that I have made statements in past that have not come true. I had expected that the ACBL would have imploded by now. I still believe that I have the long term dynamics correct, however, the date that things gets truly ugly is still a few years out.

FWIW, I make quite a good living doing forecasting for large companies. (I currently work at Akamai in their InfoSec department, spending much of my time doing demand forecasting and capacity modeling) The big difference between my statements wrt the ACBL and professional work is access to data. Up until this year, I never had access to detailed demographic information regarding the ACBL membership. My guesses about this were off. With this said and done, I do think that my high level description of the long term dynamics are correct.

Maybe you believe that an organization whose average age is 72 (and constantly increasing) is in good shape. It's not.

ACBL Masterpoint winners broken down by age

0% decile = 60
20% decile = 65
30% decile = 68
40% decile = 70
50% decile = 72
60% decile = 74
70% decile = 77
80% decile = 80
90% decile = 84

Median = 72
Mode = 71
Sept. 5, 2014
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> That F2F players want this change must be a given. I hear
> it all the time, in person,from private e-mails and
> in my travels to F2F tournaments.

Clay Christensen most famous book was titled “The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”. If you ever set foot in a business school or worked in tech in the last couple decades you probably read it. One of Christensen’s core theses is that established firms are often structurally and constitutionally incapable of servicing emerging market segments. They prefer to focus their resources chasing the high end, high margin portion of the market. Things go well for a while, but they eventually end up hollowed out and get gutted from below.

Christensen almost certainly overstates his case, however, its hard not to think of his claims watching this thread unfold. Steinberg’s posts are a near perfect example of institutional leadership focusing its attention on a more and more narrow user base, even to the extent of actively alienating members of the emerging market segment.

I don’t doubt that Steinberg hears all sorts of stories from players just like him; Players with zero experience playing online bridge, who feel threatened and confused by changes in the society, and no long have the ability or the interest to adapt. And I don’t doubt that there is a profitable business opportunity in milking those players for every penny you can, before they finally exit the system. However, just a Polaroid, DEC, GM and all those other once dominant companies came to discover, this only works for so long.
Sept. 5, 2014
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> I keep reading “the Steinberg motion”. Maybe I should feel
> honoured that so many of you give me such powers but the
> reality is that it was the Board of Governors motion, about
> 55-60 in favor, 3 or 4 against.

As far, as I know, you have raised this same motion at least three times. Yes, the Board of Governors voted in favor of the motion, but this would appear to be your pet cause.

I am curious about a couple questions

1. How many times in total have you (specially) brought this motion before the Board of Governors and what were the results?

2. Has anyone else advance the same motion in the intervening years?
Sept. 5, 2014
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> That F2F players want this change must be a given. I hear it all the time, in person,
>from private e-mails and in my travels to F2F tournaments.

Clay Christensen most famous book was titled “The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”. If you ever set foot in a business school or worked in tech in the last couple decades you probably read it. One of Christensen’s core theses is that established firms are often structurally and constitutionally incapable of servicing emerging market segments. They prefer to focus their resources chasing the high end, high margin portion of the market. Things go well for a while, but they eventually end up hollowed out and get gutted from below.

Christensen almost certainly overstates his case, however, its hard not to think of his claims watching this thread unfold. Steinberg’s posts are a near perfect example of institutional leadership focusing its attention on a more and more narrow user base, even to the extent of actively alienating members of the emerging market segment.

I don’t doubt that Steinberg hears all sorts of stories from players just like him; Players with zero experience playing online bridge, who feel threatened and confused by changes in the society, and no long have the ability or the interest to adapt. And I don’t doubt that there is a profitable business opportunity in milking those players for every penny you can, before they finally exit the system. However, just a Polaroid, DEC, GM and all those other once dominant companies came to discover, this only works for so long.
Sept. 5, 2014
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> I keep reading “the Steinberg motion”. Maybe I should feel > honoured that so many of you give me such powers but the
> reality is that it was the Board of Governors motion, about > 55-60 in favor, 3 or 4 against.

As far, as I know, you have raised this same motion at least three times. Yes, the Board of Governors voted in favor of the motion, but this would appear to be your pet cause.

I am curious about a couple questions

1. How many times in total have you (specially) brought this motion before the Board of Governors and what were the results?

2. Has anyone else advance the same motion in the intervening years?




Sept. 5, 2014
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Might be related to the Buffet cup idiocy from a couple months back.
Sept. 3, 2014
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> When somebody open in standard he showing lenght and it
> reduced your average lenght in the opening suits, so to
> maximize the X we are using takeout double because the
> frequency of having 0-3 in the opened suit and 3-4 in the
> others suit is high.

1. No one is claiming that you should play a takeout double over the fert, so this analysis doesn't seem very relevent

2. With this said and done, your analysis seems lacking. For example, whats the conditional probability that you have club shortness after a standard 1C opening? I doubt it is that far off if it were a 1C fert instead
Sept. 1, 2014
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Assume that you are playing a strong pass system where you pass with “strong hands” (13+ HCP). Most of your opening show 8-11 HCPS.

You need some bid to show really bad hands (0-7 HCPs). This bid is called a fert. I've seen various strong pass systems that used bids as high as 2C for the fert (white on red).

The expression “fert” is short for fertilizer, since this is the bid that you use when you have a bunch of shit.


Sept. 1, 2014
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if you're used to playing a canape based strong club system like Blue Club, it wouldn't be that difficult to simple employ this over a 1D fert…

It might not be optimal, but you'd have a system that you're comfortable with

X is used to show the strong club opening
1H/1S show 4+ card suits, could have a longer minor
1N shows 15-17 balanced
2C shows 5+ clubs
2D shows 6+ diamonds
2M = weak

The big hole is a weak NT hand, unsuitable for a 1M opening.
It might make sense to switch to a weak NT opening, especially if the “fert” shows 5-10 as was mentioned on another site.

(Not sure if this should be called a fert, then)
Sept. 1, 2014
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So, as revealed on the previous thread, this precise same motion crashed and burned in front of the ACBL Board of Directors in Spring 2014. Said motion was brought forward by none other than Jonathan Steinberg (who really might have mentioned this beforehand. Certainly if you're going to brag that your proposal passed by an “overwhelming margin”, you should also state that it was rejected).

I look forward to a bevy of posts projecting/psychoanalyzing the significant “strain” between the BoD and the BoG…
Aug. 31, 2014
Richard Willey edited this comment Aug. 31, 2014
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> Steinberg pushed forward the motion under discussion in this
> thread once again in Las Vegas at the Spring 2014 nationals.

I look forward to a bevy of posts projecting/psychoanalyzing the significant “strain” between the BoD and BoG…

Aug. 31, 2014
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It would also be interesting to know who proposed this the last time around (cause if it was Steinberg, he really might have mentioned this)
Aug. 31, 2014
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I did one of my graduate degrees in game theory. I didn't focus any of the analysis on bridge, but it felt clear that there were a variety of interesting applications.

Here are three topics that you might find of interesting:

1. The application of mixed strategies in bridge (I'm attaching an article that explains this in more depth)

2. Variance versus expected value considerations

Years back, Kit Woolsey wrote a great book where he made some interesting observations about variance versus expected value. Suppose that you are facing a team that you objectively know to be better. You might be better off adopting strategies that have slightly lower expected value but will significant increase the variance of your results. Woolsey's prototypical example involved finessing versus playing for the drop. However, there are plenty of other examples including choice of bidding system. (FWIW, I strongly believe that this dynamic explains the harsh restrictions in bidding methods in North America)

3. Population dynamics as applied to bridge bidding system. What does an equilibrium look like? A monoculture? A optimal ration of bidding systems that can't be perturbed in the long term? Some kind of cycle?

I'm attaching an article I tried to get submitted to the Bridge World a few years back. You might find this of interest.

Mixed Strategies as applied to Bridge

The academic discipline of game theory differentiates between “pure” strategies and “mixed” strategies. Pure strategies are deterministic. Players choosing a pure strategy follow a predictable course of action. In contrast, mixed strategies deliberately incorporate random action. The simplest example of a mixed strategy equilibrium is the Penny Matching game. Two players simultaneous display a penny. If the two coins “match” (both coins are heads or both coins are tails) then Player 1 keeps the two pennies. If the two coins don't match then Player 2 keeps both pennies. The only equilibrium strategy to this game is mixed. Each player should randomly determine whether to display Heads or Tails using a 50/50 weighting scheme.
The concept of a mixed strategy can be applied to a number of areas within bridge. The simplest and best know examples come from declarer play and defense. Many well understood problems like restricted choice make use of mixed strategies. For example, declarer leads a low Diamond into D QJ9 and plays the Queen after LHO plays low. RHO holds both the Ace and the King and needs to determine which card to cover with. Restricted choice analysis presumes that the defender is applying a mixed strategy will randomly chose to cover with the Ace or the King, once again applying a 50/50 weighing scheme.
Mixed strategies can also be applied to the design of bidding systems. Players applying a “pure” bidding strategy will always chose the same bid bid with a given hand. In contrast, players employing a mixed bidding strategy allow deliberate randomization. Consider the following example taken from Bridge My Way by Zia Mahmood. You hold

S AQJ3
H K5
D 873
C A653

The auction starts

1H – 1S
3S - ???

and you need to chose a rebid. Zia advocates a bidding style in which players should randomize between 4C and 4D cuebids. Zia never goes so far as to discuss probabilities, but hypothetically he might chose a 4C cuebid 80% of the time and a 4D cuebid 20% of the time. Alternatively, consider the following example: White versus Red partner opens 1H in first seat promising 5+ Hearts and 10-15 HCP. RHO passes. You hold:

S 742
H AK762
D 9732
C 4

I advocate a hypothetical “mixed” strategy in which players bidders

4H: 60% of the time
3NT: 20% of the time
2NT: 10% of the time
2D: 5% of the time
1S: 5% of the time

Players who adopt mixed bidding strategies allow for the use of multiple bids to describe a single hand. As a consequence, many responses could show radically different hand types. For example, players adopting Zia's Sting Cue bid style need to describe their 4C cue bids as either “First round control of Clubs or no control of clubs”. In an equivalent fashion, my partners would need to describe my 3NT raise of a Precision 1H openings as either a strong balanced hand willing to declare 3NT OR a preemptive raise of Hearts.

In turn, this brings us to the last major area in which mixed strategies and bridge overlap: Regulatory structures. Few if any Zonal authorities incorporate mixed bidding strategies into their regulatory structures. Instead, regulators attempt to sidestep the issue using the concept of a psychic call. Regulators and players pretend that psychic calls are “deliberate and gross misstatements of honor strength or suit length”. In actuality, so-called psychic calls are a subset of a more complex meta-agreement involving mixed bidding strategies.

I argue that neither players nor regulators are served by this pretense. Complete disclosure can never be achieved unless the regulatory structure matches the actual strategies employed by players.


Aug. 30, 2014
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