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CSI Special Private Side Pool--funny

Posted By: Matt Cohn-Geier
Date: Thursday, 12 March 2015, at 10:57 p.m.

In Response To: CSI Special Private Side Pool--funny (Phil Simborg)

I want to address this non-Giants vs Giants thing.

I'm not convinced that there need to be "Giants" and "non-Giants" divisions. There are already divisions in BG tournaments: Open and Intermediate. The Open division provides an opportunity to come to a backgammon tournament and compete amongst a field of all backgammon players, including the very best in the world. By contrast, the Intermediate division and Novice division are for players who don't feel competitive enough in a higher skilled division. Some tournaments have 2 divisons, while others have 3 or 4.

Maybe Phil thinks that the disparity of skill in the Open is so wide that there needs to be another division for Giants and non-Giants. I wonder if he would feel the same way if he were a few places higher on the Giants list, but let's say that that's beside the point. Probably a more pertinent question is how many players one can expect in each division, how much they are willing to pay, and what the tournament's operating costs are. If the tournament organizers can ultimately make more money, increase attendance, or improve players' collective overall experience, then perhaps they should have another division. But my guess is that most of the players who play in the Championship would continue to do so. If all Championship players were allowed to play in the Intermediate, I'm sure some would do so, but I doubt that most of the Championship field would drop down. The reason, simply, is that people like to engage in competition and win tournaments. Playing in a division where you don't compete against other Championship players and can't win the tournament is not something most Championship players want to do.

There is currently an unusual situation in the backgammon community. Giants are not rewarded in any way, apart from biannual certificates. The Giants list is used as some measure of how "good" a player is, even though it just amounts to winning a vote and is really more of a popularity contest than a record of results or playing strength. Some people even think it's better not to be on the Giants list so that they won't be publicly recognized as good players.

Recently, there are sometimes 'bounties' for beating Giants. That's all well and good, but the actual Giants don't get any sort of bounty. If a person wins a few too many bounties, he might be next in line. I think bounties are great and fun and should be encouraged. But actually winning or playing well--that is, achieving results in a competitive endeavor--should also be encouraged!

Cry me a river. I don't exist to subsidize your tournament experience.

Honestly, my tournament EV is probably negative overall. Financially speaking, there is no incentive for me to come to a BG tournament, and I am usually losing money whenever I do. I usually do it anyway, because I love the game, but it's not exactly hard for me to just stay home that weekend (or forever, if it would improve your equity). If the consensus is that someone would prefer not to have me at their tournament, I just won't go.

However, top Giants are often used to promote events. If I say I am coming to a tournament, the organizers prominently display it. Phil often uses Giants to promote videos, quizzes, and other things (for example, his "challenge to Mochy" with Falafel commentary). I don't get any sort of compensation for things like that. I understand: money is tight already. I'm not really expecting a handout from anyone. But tweaking the system to make things more "fair" or "equitable" for the "non-Giants", while simultaneously using Giants' names to promote your events, doesn't feel right to me.

My perspective, surely, must be skewed as a top Giant, but--as others always hasten to point out whenever issues are raised--I don't do this to get rich. I am not writing this post with the intent of making a lot of money off of Open players. Rather, I am demoralized for the backgammon community as a whole. The way things are organized saddens me.

Some have suggested that these kinds of things hurt Giants. I don't think that is technically correct. It doesn't hurt me, since I can just quit BG and get a job. Rather, it hurts backgammon. It leaves the game and the community underachieving. Many great players (too many to list) have already left BG, at least partially due to this state of affairs. They look for better opportunities, like poker. Much of the reason why poker is a better opportunity in the first place is because the backgammon community and tournament scene are poorly organized relative to games like poker or chess.

At many tournaments I go to, people come up to me and tell me that they love watching me play, and listening to my analysis of positions. But it's hard for me to commit myself to backgammon fully when most of the time I am thinking about what career I should switch to. I am a relatively young player, but most of the time I find myself thinking about the "next step", i.e., what I will do after my love of backgammon has been exhausted. That thought saddens me, because I very much want to promote backgammon as a professional.

If a young, talented player came to me and asked me how to make a career in backgammon, I would probably tell him it is a terrible idea. He might say to me that he is determined to become one of the best players in the world, and I might say to him that most of the best backgammon players either get another career or drop out of backgammon entirely, because there is basically no reward for just being a good player. You can sometimes make money from backgammon--by writing books, giving lessons, or finding side games--but tournaments and the Giants list mean essentially nothing. That, to me, is a sad state of affairs.

We would all love to increase attendance and grow the game. I think it would be wonderful if attendance increased and I saw more new faces at tournaments. I don't know for certain the best ways to grow the game, but I do think it ultimately means that there will need to be some better incentives for good performance.

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