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Bob Koca Story

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Monday, 1 July 2013, at 12:23 p.m.

Amazing story: Last night in Jamaica I was sitting outside at a lovely restaurant having sushi and a couple at the next table asked me about my shirt. I was wearing a T from the American Math Assn. which I got as a gift when Art Benjamin, Chuck Bower, Jack Frigo and I made a presentation to the AMA about math in backgammon.

It turns out the couple were both math teachers from Maryland and were in Kingston visiting relatives. We shared some saki (too much, I'm afraid) and talked about the relationship between backgammon and math and they actually were able to work out that the take point for the cube is 25 percent when I gave them the basic cube rules (they were somewhat familiar with backgammon already). I got my Saki free when I bet them that it was right to take the cube even if you have 23 percent...I know, it was sneaky, but what can I say? People should beware of strangers.

Since one was a college math teacher, I told him that one of the best backgammon players in the world was also a college math professor in Maryland, by the name of Bob Koca. You can imagine my astonishment when they told me that Bob Koca was someone they had never heard of!

It's just amazing to me how often coincidences don't happen. I think the reason is that it is such a boring story to say that you were walking down the street in Kingston yesterday and didn't bump into anyone you know. This was that kind of thing. Surprisingly, I also didn't know their relatives that they were visiting.

But for people who like coincidences, I guess you could say it was an amazing coincidence that we all wanted sushi while visiting Kingston; we all went to the same restaurant at the same time; we all liked saki; and we all were interested in math; and we all had many relatives and acquaintances that the others didn't know.

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