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An old practice with a new twist? (long)

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Thursday, 21 May 2015, at 12:53 a.m.

In Response To: An old practice with a new twist? (long) (Chuck Bower)

I like and agree with all you said, but I will add that I do prefer to play one side so that I can focus just on defending the back game, or playing the back game, or seeing why it was right for me to hit or not, etc.

When I am studying and practicing, I would much rather play a bot than be distracted by another human being. I don't care what he would play or think...I want to focus on what I think and then, what the computer says about my thinking. Unless, of course, that other player is a teacher or mentor that can point out errors in my thinking or make suggestions on the spot that would help me adjust my decision-making process. Also, when I am playing against a bot, I can stop, save a particular position, look at dice distribution to check my thinking, look at race formulas to see if I did Keith or Trice right, look at cube information to see if I accurately assessed the gammon values and take points, etc. I find it better to do those things immediately, on the spot, while the thoughts are fresh in my mind and so that I can immediately check and correct my assumptions.

To solve the problem of playing against a bot that does not play like a human, I recommend playing against a lower level bot. On XG, if I want to play against a near-perfect opponent, I play against "extremegammon." But if I want to play as if against a human that makes errors, I choose a lower level XG, usually "professional" or "expert"--and by the way, both of those are highly exaggerated descriptions of how it plays.

The other thing I recommend when you are playing out a position to see why one play is better than another is to only play about 4 or 5 rolls, as after that you get a lot of noise and variables that don't necessarily tell you anything about the first play you were interested in testing. Better to play 4 or 5 rolls 20 times than play it out to the end 5 times. More bang for the buck.

Lastly, I still like props. Mochy and I played a back game prop in Vegas that he found very interesting and I got to pick which side to play and he felt he could beat me playing either side. I won, but of course, one time means nothing. I want to play him again taking the other side, as several of the plays he made taking the other side surprised me. Of course I could do the same thing against the bot, but playing Mochy is like playing the bot and Mochy pays when he loses! And of course, the challenge duel I play with Mochy is nothing more than a prop to see if I can beat him holding the cube. It was so much fun we're going to do it again, but I have also played that same prop with others, both for practice and for fun.

One of my favorite prop stories is about a guy who used to live in Chicago who had a quite shady reputation, and he had a favorite prop. He would pull out a position card out of his pocket and say "this just came up, which side do you like?" It clearly looked like White was a favorite, so everyone takes White and he plays them for money. White was actually a big underdog, and he knew it. The last time he pulled that card out to show me his "interesting new position" I reminded him that he and I played that prop 5 years ago.

Thank goodness, the guy moved from Illinois to California thereby simultaneously raising the ethical standards of both states.

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