Final Table, Baby!

(And I had a chance of doing better, when we were down to 3 players, but I had 10 straight bricks on 4th street. Razz, sigh. Though to be honest, I'm not sure how you're supposed to modify your Razz game at a shorthanded table, so it probably didn't matter.)

You may say that 120 people isn't much to beat. You may say that netting $13.30 is a bad investment for 5 hours of work. You may say that even if I came in first, I'd still be negative in tournaments for the year anyway.

To that, I respond: "Final Table, Baby!" You don't win these things without practice, and you have to get there to have the practice..

Encounter with a policeman

So, on Friday, I was driving home from the CABS meeting. It was around 1:30 AM, and I had a sack full of White Castles (yay!), when suddenly notice there's a car behind me. Looking closer, I thought I saw the (currently dormant) siren on the top of the car, and decided that it was probably a police car.

The ride home takes me on a long stretch of 4-lane highway, that is 45 MPH near Columbus, and 55 closer to where I live. I wasn't sure what the speed limit was in the spot I was in (turns out, it was 55), so I slowed down from my about 60MPH to about 40. Then, after about a minute of this, I realize that maybe if I wanted the cop to pass me, I should get into the slow lane, and so I did.

I get passed (it was a police car), and grabbed a cheeseburger from my bag, all proud of myself for not getting caught. Go me!

That's when the second police car pulled me over. At that point, I realized that what I was doing (excessive slowdowns, delayed lane changes, a little bit of swerving as I was staring in my rearview mirror or grabbing some food) could be seen as classic "I'm a drunk driver who realizes they're drunk and don't want to get caught" behavior. Which, of course, is what they thought.

So he comes over, talks to me:
"Where are you coming from?"
"A boardgame club meeting."
"You mean like Chutes and Ladders?"
"Well, a little more complicated than that."

Which at the time I thought was typical non-gamer misunderstanding, but now I wonder if it was calculated to get me on some kind of drunken "You don't know what real games are!" rant. I think that they have pretty good algorithms for determining drunken behavior..

Anyway, after being satisfied I wasn't drunk, just stupid, they let me go. The whole time, they were cheery and friendly, and so was I. And as I made it the rest of the way home, it occurred to me that maybe I have the right attitude about this whole thing finally.

When I was in college, right after I got pulled over, I would have been filled with inept outrage, and thoughts like "I pay this guys salary!" and "Don't you have better things to do than to fill your quotas going after me?", and I would've gotten them mad at me and gotten a ticket for something stupid.

When I was in Grad School, I would've thought that I was smarter than they are, and used my fantastic skills of rhetoric to try to convince them that I wasn't doing anything wrong. Since cops hate a smartass, they would've gotten mad at me and given me a ticket for something stupid.

(I still think those things, by the way. The only difference is now I have more context. They are doing something more important than harassing me- going after drunk drivers. I may be smarter than them, but people don't like to admit they're wrong, and I can't imagine any policeman, anywhere, ever, saying "Wow! What a well-reasoned argument! I'll never give another traffic ticket again!". Besides, the procedures that they follow are usually smarter than I am regardless)

Anyway, it helped this time that the guy was nice and cheery and friendly, but I think it helped that I was too. I'm finding that when you get pulled over, the best policy is honesty. Even "Yes, I was speeding a little there- you got me". Sure, sometimes you get Officer Crankypants, and it won't help. But Officer Crankypants is giving you a ticket anyway, and you don't want to make things worse.

My New Favorite Player

(well, favorite non-Yankee. Because you've gotta be true to your team.)

Meet Clay Zavata. Not only does he have an awesome name, he's probably the first player since Rollie Fingers who could pull off the handlebar mustache. Go, Clay! Wax that sucker up!

I also like the way he pitches- like he's throwing everything he has into the ball, and kind of falls off the mound. I don't think he's very good, but he's got style and personality, and that's cool.

We need more handlebar mustaches in baseball. And basketball, for that matter. Shaq needs to grow one. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Hurray, Bureaucracy!

(and by the way, man is "Bureaucracy" a hard word to spell..)

My parents called yesterday to tell me that I had been summoned for Jury Duty.

In New York. Where I haven't lived since 1995.

That's a pretty amazing amount of time to be wrong about me. We started wondering why I never got taken off of any lists. It can't be based on driver's licenses, since I haven't renewed a NY license since 1995. We finally decided it's probably based on voter registrations. Which leads to the interesting question "am I still registered to vote in New York?".

If so, that's a little scary. I guess lots of people fall though the cracks like this. Enough to throw a close election? Maybe. The real question is whether a suitably determined nefarious agent could figure out who the "double-voters" out there are, and organize them in some useful way.

I'm a little bummed that I couldn't vote against Hillary in the primaries twice, but I guess it all worked out anyway..

What's the right strategy?

Early in one of my cheapo $1 tournaments, I still have around my $1500 starting stack, blinds are 15/30.

I pick up AKo in early position, and raise 3xBB to 90. The next player shoves all-in (he has about 1500 too), and it's folded around to me. What do I do?

Here's my thought process:
- I think I'm better than 75-80% (at least) of the table here. The fact that this guy just pushed for such a massive overbet means he's probably one of the lower-skilled players.
- That means he has a very wide range, which I'm probably ahead of. AQ, A8(!), KQ, low pairs, and things like that are all probable.
- So I'm ahead of most of his probable range. If this was a cash game, that makes this a pretty straightforward call.
- But it's not a cash game, and if this guy has something like 33, I'm in a coin flip against a field I should be better than. So should I play small-ball and stick around until I have a much better margin?
- On the other hand, pushing for 1500 when the blinds are 15/30 is only about 50 big blinds. Which, while a lot, is not tons. And if I fold, I just lost 3 of them.

I end up folding in these situations more often than not and saving up for times when I'm more likely to have a larger advantage (case in point- I just went all-in with QQ after a J-high flop, getting called by TT and KJ. The KJ guy made two pair, but at least he was the shortest stack.), but I wonder if I'm giving away too much waiting for those situations (and when I do reach those situations, my double-up gains me less chips)

I do something similar in my Razz freerolls- not raising or reraising on third street because I don't have a made hand yet, even though 5 people are coming along, many with face cards showing. Too many people want to cap every bet in those situations if I help them. My pot equity is huge, but I feel like I'm putting too much of my stack at risk on just one hand.

Is that too passive?

Legend of Zelda- Majora's Mask.

I got a Wii for my birthday back in October, and I knew when I got it that the best part of it for me would not the motion sensor (which I think is too fiddly and doesn't work very well), not the games for the Wii (I think my wife has more innate-Wii games than I do). For me, the best part of the Wii is the Virtual Console. They have tons of old games for the NES, SNES, N-64, Sega Genesis, and other old consoles. Heck, they even have some Commodore 64 games!

So, a week or 2 ago, I saw they had Majora's mask up for $10, and I bought it. It's a "sequel" to Ocarina of Time, which is probably my favorite Zelda game, and it's from the Nintendo-64 generation. Which is fine by me- the characters are defined well enough for my tastes, and I don't need much fancier graphics than that.
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Yet another sign of my sick mind

One of the faculty for the summer research here apparently is a fan of "Peep Art", where you make dioramas and things out of marshmallow Peeps. Apparently, this is real thing with contests and stuff. Which, well, ok, I guess I can't complain about anyone else's strange hobbies.

She's trying to get the summer research students to make a local contest here where they make their own displays. She filled a giant cart with boxes of peeps, and started handing them out to everyone. Which was a little creepy, but I guess it's good she's trying to inspire others with her hobby- it's sort of like what I do withe Board Game Nights for the students.

But talking about it over lunch, about all of the ideas we could come up with were really twisted..

  • A Peep on the rack, being stretched out and having all the marshmallow filling stretching between the head and tail.

  • "The Peep and the Pendulum", with a Peep strapped to a table with a giant pendulum blade coming down on it.

  • "No, Mr. Peep, I expect you to die." Related to the above, but the Peep is strapped beneath a giant laser.

  • "Peep Show". A Peep dressed in a bikini being stared at by other Peeps in little cubicles.

  • "Peeping Tom" A Peep looking through a window at another Peep undressing.

So, maybe it's best I stay out of this contest :)

Is this the voice you want?

So, in response to the government's seizing poker player's assets recently, they dug up Al D'Amato to talk about it on the news. Here's the link they put up on the PPA page:

I guess I understood the logic of bringing him in- he knows all about the shady back room dealings and how the sausage of American legislation gets made. I haven't seen him do a whole lot, but I don't know what's a realistic amount of progress to expect.

But in this video, he sort of sounds like someone's drunk grandfather. Sounding condescending ("Guess what?"), saying things you maybe don't want him to say (the whole rant about "the Chinese taking our products"), rambling between topics, never really giving a coherent message. The guy is pretty old, and it sounds that way. There's lots of good arguments to make, but I don't think he made them very effectively.

Um, huh?

On the Yahoo home page right now is a link to "Thousands in India swallow live fish stuffed with medicine" (not sure if the link works, sorry).

If you click to see the video, sure enough, you see people in India swallowing live fish. (The kids look particularly unhappy). But there's no reporting, now explanation of why they're doing this, no explanation of what medicine got stuffed into the fish, no nothing.

I can't decide if this is a) intentional to just show a video with nothing else, b) a mistake, and the actual story will show up sometime soon, or c) some strange hoax.

Summer Project

Summer for a college professor isn't all just relaxing and laying on a beach, like you may think. This summer, I've got several long projects to work on:

  • I'm doing summer research with a student on a game theory/graph theory project, which means I have to teach him, guide him, and (since he's really a physics/econ person) do a good chunk of the programming when it's needed.

  • I'm trying to learn Python and decide if it's a good choice to use in our CS1 class. (Early returns are mixed)

  • I need to upgrade FreeBSD in our majors lab to whatever the new version is. I'll then need to figure out how to get PostgreSQL (among other things) working in there for our database class in the fall.

  • I need to get as much of my classes and homeworks and things together in advance for the fall as I can, so that when the Giant Roulette Wheel in the Sky decides it's time for our baby to be born, I won't fall too far behind.

  • There's a possibility that more poker study stuff will come my way, but I probably won't know it until it happens. We thought it would be cool to look at the 100 million hands and attack some of the "online poker is rigged" conspiracy theories, but while it's interesting to think about, I'm not sure it's interesting in a "someone wants to pay to get the results" way. Mainly because most people believe it's not rigged already, and the conspiracy theorists out there (who believe that it is rigged) probably won't be convinced by a study where the actual hands were given to us by the poker companies themselves.

But most of that is pretty dreary and boring. So in an effort to pick myself up and get me motivated to do something cool and also something that will help keep my CS abilities honed, I decided to take on a fun programming project.

There's a game called Football Strategy that is basically played on a grid. The offensive player picks a number between 1 and 20, the defensive player picks a letter from A to J, you look on the grid to see the result of the play. It's pretty much the definition of a Normal form game in Game Theory. So I thought it would be neat to program it up and write a computer player that played using a game-theoretic mixed strategy. There's some neat algorithms in there, and some cool decisions that have to be made (the chart doesn't take into account worrying about downs and stuff- how do I incorporate it into the strategy?).

I started working on it last week, and I'm pretty close to having a program that can read the chart and enforce the rules of the game (which has lots of fiddly pieces to it- penalties, the amount of time a play takes, change of possessions, ...). I'm hoping that I can get to a point where the program plays really "intelligently" against good human players.

It's a shame that this doesn't really count as "research", because I think this would be a really good thing for a student to work on as well. Sometimes I think the pressure for research to be "new and original" is constricting, especially for undergraduates. There's no new ideas here, really, but it's a cool implementation of ideas that are out there, and they'd be just as new to the student as anything that's "real research".