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Side Pools--New Ideas

Posted By: Matt Cohn-Geier
Date: Tuesday, 28 January 2014, at 9:21 p.m.

In Response To: Side Pools--New Ideas (phil simborg)

I think that, for whatever problems there may be, there is something great about the backgammon environment. That is that the best players in the world come to tournaments, socialize with everyone, talk backgammon theory, sometimes go out and get dinner together. The players who have spent years working diligently to become the best in the world will come to their local club, play small stakes chouettes, and impart their wisdom to others.

Now you might say, I don't want those players in my local small stakes chouette. They are hurting my equity by showing up. And that would be mathematically correct, given the zero-sum nature of backgammon. But I believe it is short-sighted.

When I was a newcomer to the game, I thought it was really cool that I could interact with the best players and talk about theory with them and that they were willing to do so with me. I wouldn't have gotten far in most other games or sports trying to interact with the best players. Garry Kasparov certainly wouldn't have given me the time of day, unless there was a promotional event. I think it is something that is great and unique to backgammon that the best players all come to this online forum to discuss topics and share wisdom about the game I love for free.

I think there are some in the backgammon community who don't appreciate this level of camaraderie, or perhaps more precisely, believe they are entitled to it. Not that the majority does--most people are quite considerate and respectful. But I think there is a minority that doesn't appreciate this aspect. I think there are some TDs who believe that they are entitled to have top players show up to their tournament, or that they are doing top players some sort of a favor by holding a tournament. Again, not that most TDs think this way, but a few do.

When I see suggestions to have non-Giants side pools for the main event, or to give Giants a handicap in matches, I worry. I barely break even as it is. I too have a limited number of tournaments I attend, and I am usually on the fence about most of them. Usually at least half of my reasoning for coming to a tournament is because I want to support the tournament and to support the game in general. It's hard for me to continue to support the notion of diluting or eliminating my income source.

If players feel that they would rather have an event with 16 Joe Averages than the top 16 of the Who's Who in Backgammon list because that event would have better equity, then feel free. If a TD believes that would have better promotional value, then who am I to say otherwise? I don't begrudge anyone that--in the same way that I don't owe it to anyone to come to their tournament, they don't owe it to me to hold an event that is attractive to me. But I believe that that would be a giant step in the wrong direction.

The tournaments that draw the best players are typically the ones which are the most attractive to everyone. I want to commend tournaments and TDs for trying new, innovative things, and creating more prestigious events. Rory's Giants Invitational ostensibly has some of the same characteristics of bracketing players, but it is a reward for excellence rather than an exclusion because people are too good. Likewise with the Denmark vs the World event at Nordic, and Bill Riles and Tara Mendicino's Dual-Duel in San Antonio. These are premier events that everyone in the backgammon world has an interest in. Denmark now brackets players into 5 divisions rather than the typical 3, because they have too many players. I am all for creating more divisions because there are a surplus of players. And all the tournaments in Europe which go out and find sponsorship and added money for the main event benefit everyone.

I love backgammon. Please don't hurt it.

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