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Denmark v. The World - All Match Files--what about luck?

Posted By: Keene
Date: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, at 9:54 p.m.

In Response To: Denmark v. The World - All Match Files--what about luck? (phil simborg)

When you lay down the facts as you did, the picture you paint really does describe a version of what is going on. However, a more accurate way of representing a result, and the reasons behind it would be something along the lines of:

Backgammon is a game of luck and skill. As such, the player that plays better will have more opportunities to maximize his overall equity. In this case, the player that rolled better was the player that had a performance rating that was higher (worse). As such, they had fewer opportunities to maximize their equity, and on this occasion they were better able to do so.

So, extrapolating that it comes down to luck between two evenly matched players is one way of putting it, another is that this is a game of risk and reward, sometimes the risk is greater, the reward less. The dice sequences that played out rewarded the player that didnt play as well. This is one of many expected behaviors. When top players play the game against other top players, they are not expecting it to be a contest of luck, but who can play well enough to create more opportunities to win, and hopefully maximize those opportunities.

An example may be that Player A drops an initial double, thinking it to be a small drop. They in fact made an error, and should have taken. However, the volatility was high, and they were favored to lose. Player B has then gained a little luck, as his opponent made a mistake. Same situation comes around, roles reversed this time, and Player B correctly takes the same double. Player A then goes on to win a gammon, and the match, with both sides rolling equally average. Player A was not lucky that Player B took - that was a technical position decision. Player B, based on the two decisions described will technically have a lower error rate (or PR), however will appear to have been less lucky than Player A.

Now, I am not sure that this one of the ways in which luck is calculated in XG, or if its in straight equity counts above the average roll that is used, but it does effectively describe how one player can be technically better, and make better decisions, yet be less lucky. You can apply the same logic to a roll of the die in a position.

In short: I disagree with Phil. When top players play, their PR's may be low, but their decision making will ultimately win or lose them a match. Does it come down to just Luck? No. Luck is too loosely defined in general. Its too loosely perceived, and vaguely described consistently. One man's luck is another man's standard.

Anecdote - I have chouetted with Petko enough to hear him demanding his captain "punish this guy", also "You left me an indirect shot? Thats like a direct shot for me.". I have been "this guy" on many occasions. Now, is he lucky to hit those shots? Yes, but I only recall them when he does. They become instantly forgettable when he misses. Do I think he's lucky? Inordinately so. Thats only because I forget the misses.


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