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All comments by Richard Willey
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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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You baited Fred online with multiple unfounded insinuations about BBO. When he posted on the forum to correct your understanding, you now start claiming conspiracy.

Textbook pathology that plays out in comment sections across the internet.

FWIW, I think that your next line is “Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!”

Aug. 30, 2014
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> IMO, the “powers that be” here, have the goal of verbally
> “crushing me like a bug”.

> Otherwise, why so much effort to stifle my words on BW? It
> seems that multiple persons have come to this thread to
> blast me.

Sometimes, when the whole world seems to be rising up to tear you down, this means that you are threatening the status quo and there is an orchestrated attempt to drag you down.

More often than not, it means that you are a loonie…
Aug. 30, 2014
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The elephant in the room is the ACBL demographics. The generational differences are far too great to ever get significant numbers of young players to socialize with retirees.

This same sort of generational split impacts a number of other social activities that I participate in. Generational differences surrounding gay rights and treatment of women is causing enormous problems inside science fiction fandom. The SCA is running to some problems as well. These issues are painful, however, I don't think that its fatal to either organization.

In contrast, I think that the incredibly skewed demographics of North American bridge will prove impossible to address.

To some extent, I think that the conflict around Steinberg's proposal reflects some of these issues.





Aug. 28, 2014
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> Actually, you are the one who proposed calling the
> framework “separate but equal”, I believe.

Quite true, though other people have drawn similar analogies.

> Do you use analogies of racism regarding other games where
> they separate different kinds of points/ ratings, such as
> chess and Magic the Gathering, as well?

Having never commented on the MtG rating system or ELO, the answer to that would clearly be “no”.

I suspect that the question that you want to ask is “Why are you using an analogy to racism to describe Steinberg's relatively innocuous proposal given that this cheapens the very real struggle that non-whites faced and continue to face in our society.”

The answer there is simple: I found the turn of phrase amusing, evocative, and accurate. I think that the primary difference is one of degree rather than motivation.




Aug. 28, 2014
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> Melanie, I think that when people use “back of the bus”
> they are referring to the sense of feeling like 2nd class
> citizens.

Speaking strictly for myself, the inherent “Separate but equal” framework for the original proposal leads pretty quickly to analogies with racism.
Aug. 25, 2014
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I think that its more than reasonable to adjust the formula that the ACBL uses to award masterpoints, however, I disagree with the analysis that was just proposed.

From my perspective, the primary issue with masterpoints on BBO is the length of the events. This of an ACBL tournament as a sampling problem. You have a group of players with different skills. Each board is a sample that provides you with information about the relative strength of the participants. The more samples that you draw, the better your inference.

The tournaments that are held on BBO are extremely short (12 boards). This has a couple important impacts on the system.

The first order effect is that the tournaments are more noisy than a traditional 24 or 27 board club games. A weak player is able to get lucky more often in the 12 board matches.

The second order effect is that the high variance in board results mean that folks need extremely high scores to win. (If you want to do an interesting analysis, take a look at the types of scores that players need to win online events. Some of those scores reflect the fact that there are some very good players online. However, others reflect the fact that you need to shoot a lot to win).

I am all in favor of genuine reforms to the masterpoint system that make the number of points award proportionate to the accuracy with which the system is able to identify better teams. However, I see know reason why there should be limits on the number of points that individuals can win in a single day. Playing boards is playing boards. If people are playing more bridge online than they do in clubs, so be it.

Word to the ACBL BoD members who are reading this…

You already screwed up F2F bridge in North America so badly that your typically player is a 72 year old and your fresh blood entering the game at 65+… Your only hope for healthy Nationals a decade from now is not pissing off the online player base. You really might want to be a bit more circumspect and stop treating online players like they were second class citizens cause that worm is going to turn mighty damn quick…




Aug. 25, 2014
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He's playing an interesting style.

From the looks of things, whenever he has a systemcic 1m opening, he opens the wrong minor.

Most of the time he has a 1M opening, he prefers to open a 4 card minor.

I'll give this a try in some of the ACBL MP games and see what happens…

Aug. 23, 2014
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Nick, I'd like to return to a comment that I made a few posts back…

Given the enormous number of players and hands on BBO, its not surprising that one can identify a “run”. Its unclear whether or not that this strategy is consistently successful or whether it would work as well in a different tournament format.

Do you have other examples where this style is consistently successful? FWIW, I'm going to watch USLA's scores over the next month or so. It will be interesting to see whether these results are an isolated blip or whether this continues.
Aug. 23, 2014
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I just took a look at USLA's result in some of those tournaments.

Few quick comments.

1. He's “operating” a lot more frequently than I would have expected

2. He seems to be primarily playing in small robot rebate games. These games don't award ACBL master points. The limited number of boards and small fields tend to encourage very high variance strategies.

3. Personally, I would prefer to see this sort of behavior dampened down by increasing tournament length rather than removing robots. (Short tournaments with small numbers of boards favor high variance tactics. Increase the number of boards and this doesn't work as well). Sadly, not many people seem to favor the longer events.
Aug. 23, 2014
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> there are successful online 3-robot matchpoint tourney
> players who psyche 20 times or more in a 12 board tourney)

I would be shocked if there are successful players who regularly psyche 20 times during a 12 board tournament.

I readily admit that I distort my bidding playing with the bots. (It's better to be in the relatively well defined NT structure than take your chances with less defined sequences). However, even if I wanted to psyche 20 times, I wouldn't have a chance to do so.

FWIW, I readily believe that there are bad players who misbid 20+ times during the course of a tournament.

Moreover, given the enormous number of bot tournaments each year, I wouldn't find it surprising to discover that someone pyched on almost every hand and happened to win.

I don't believe that there are successful players who are able to psyche with that frequency across a significant fraction of their tournaments.

Three or fours times a tournament, I believe. But 20, no way…


Aug. 23, 2014
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> Now consider a thought experiment. Someone learns bridge
> playing online and plays nothing but bots. They become
> extremely skilled in that environment. One day they decide
> to enter a regional knockout. Would they have any chance to
> beat a team of equivalently skilled face-to-face players?
> The answer is clearly no.

I seem to recall very similar statements use disparge online poker players. This continued right about until the point where the online pokwer players started winning the big F2F events. (It turns out that the ability to experience playing an order of magnitude more hands matters a lot more than purity of form)

With this said and done, lets consider the following extension of your experiment. Lets take two groups of beginning and give them identical budgets. (Say $500)

You get to spend your money taking your team to play at ACBL sectionals, regionals, and clubs games for the next month. I get to spend my money having my team play in bot tournaments on BBO. (I also get to explain basic rules specific to ACBL events like convention cards, bidding boxes, and the like)

At the end of the month, the two teams compete in an ACBL team event. I know which team I'd expect to place better…
Aug. 23, 2014
Richard Willey edited this comment Aug. 23, 2014
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> And some people are bitching about the bots. At least they > can follow suit and remember when it is their turn to play.

The bots are much much stronger than the players in a “humans only” ACBL indy. The folks who complain about the bots should spend some time looking at their human contemporaries… (Seriously, its horrific)

I'd argue that the reason that certain human players have a much better track record playing in tournaments with the bots isn't so much the their experience exploiting the bots, as it is the dramatic decrease in variance by limiting the number of humans. I think that there is a lot more skill involved in the bot only games.

Aug. 23, 2014
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> There is no question that the easy availability of online
> games at home, the frequency of available games, and the
> speedball aspect all make it much easier to accumulate
> online points. Online point winners will overwhelm F2F –
> just do the math.

So the heart of your complaint appears to be that people are playing too many boards of bridge.

For what its worth, I think that there are any number of ways in which the masterpoint system can be improved. (I'd love to see mechanisms in place by which the allocation of masterpoints was tied to the predictive accuracy of the format).

However, throughout this thread I haven't been able to see any common theme to your litany of complaints beyond “change is bad”. You keep trying to dress this up behind ever more ridiculous justifications. However, it all seems to boil down to “Get off my lawn you damn kids!”

In all seriousness, you're now complaining that it's unfair that people play too many boards…. Do you understand just how ridiculous this sounds?







Aug. 22, 2014
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> How do you suppose Group B should interact with Group A
> in the future?

Wait a few years until the members of group A die…
Aug. 21, 2014
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I'll point out once again that % game, matchpoints, and the like throw out enormous amounts of information. You end up averaging together a large number of board results into a single summary statistic.

If you are going to bother with any such project, do it right and use board results as your input.
Aug. 20, 2014
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Alternatively, if the USBF captured the results on individual boards as well as matches, we'd be in a good place…
Aug. 20, 2014
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