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Subject: The seductive concept of improvement through practice. rss

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Tomello Visello
United States
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Three are playing today, all looking for fresh insight on a simple game that comes to us with no advance hype.

Ten days ago two of us were joined by a friendly stranger at an open table where we all worked together to learn the game from scratch. None of us knew anything in advance. The rules were hastily read and we walked through one hand with much discussion and performed scoring, then tried another competitive hand and scoring. That taught us the mechanics of a trading round but did little to develop any thoughts of overall strategy.

We two are now bringing today’s third player, one of our usual companions, up to date. I demonstrate the range of values for each suit, explain a fast view of the scoring (the 100 penalty if suit value is below 200; 100 point bonus for triples), and the bidding/exchange process that takes place each round.

We play several bidding/exchange rounds with open discussion to allow him to catch on. Then we just continue through the whole remaining hand as regular play so that an actual scoring can emphasize the short instructions that were provided up front (and likely not fully absorbed in the rush).

Indeed, he did ask questions and seeing the scoring was advantageous. Now we embark upon proper competitive play. Our objective is three complete hands as recommended to constitute a full game.

Hand 1: as the final bid/exchange completed, I was quite joyful inside. I managed to collect all nine cards of one entire currency – 300 base points plus 200 more in bonuses for both of the triples. I thought that was going to be unbeatable. Still more, I had another 30 points in coins: 530 total.

My joy is deflated instantaneously. The new player (player 3) has come up 1 card short in each of 2 suits, thereby collecting 280 base points for each plus 100 bonus in each for the triples: 760 total.

So what was supposed to be a teaching opportunity for the new player becomes instead a shocking revelation for ME.

My other companion (player 2) has also done well, as in even better yet. Two of her suits are something less than complete (230 and 240 points) but she also pulls THREE bonuses out of it: 790 total, including coins.

Hand 2: I take the lesson to heart and strive mightily to accumulate enough to avoid the 100 penalty while not obsessing over making each suit complete. OK, so it may have been as much luck as it was skill, but I am very successful. I have two good suits at 240 and 230 points, and I have 300 in bonuses: fully 800 total with coins.

Player 3 has a turn-around too. He has bombed: 280 + 100 + 20 = 400. Player 2 repeated her performance level but does not surpass me: 240 + 220 + 300 bonuses (no coins) = 760

Also along the way in this round I wanted to emphasize that players could simply capture one-another’s bid rather than necessarily choosing one of the two offerings in the center of the table. Pretty much when I noticed a bid I liked it tended to end up in the center once my turn to exchange came anyway, but a chance to demonstrate came up one time when I was lead bidder. The others did then shift attention to this possibility and took advantage of it on a few more occasions.

Hand 3: Some further reversals-of-the-reversals of player fortunes took place, perhaps giving proof to the fact that this is indeed a card game and is therefor subject to the element of luck.

ONE NOTABLE EVENT – A card I needed appeared on the table in the second-to-last round. It was a 40 value in a suit where I was just short of the 200 point benchmark to avoid the penalty. My bid put me lower on the turn order and Player 2 took the group the card was in. I felt dismay. But then I find with surprise that she tosses out that very card as part of her bid on the last round, and she has bid high to get top priority. Oh, goodie. My chances are very good of getting it when she trades out for one of the groups on the table. Then she turns away from the offerings in the center of the table … and hands her bid directly to me as her chosen exchange. Simultaneous relief and amazement.

In the end, both player 3 and I have suits which are scorable, but below the 200 point threshold and thus subject to the 100 point penalty. Mine provides 40 points residual, his gives 60. Up until now we mostly just had one or two leftover cards in an off suit, which leave zero residual points. Player 2 pauses a moment as if this is new information. She had only focused on the concept that a weak suit never a scored a negative after the penalty and had lost sight of the possibility of the partial scores.

Player 3 is the only one with two strong suits (above 200, no penalty). He also had a third suit that scored despite the penalty: 220 + 100 + 210 + 100 + 60 + 10coins = 700

Player 2 and I have single strong suits. Even with 200 bonuses for each of us our scores are low. 530 for me, 470 for her.

Summarizing the scores, Player 2 wins overall:

Me P2 P3
530 790 760
800 760 400
530 470 700
1860 2020 1860

Conclusion: Player 2 is very direct in proclaiming that this is completely a matter of luck, but is nonetheless equally forthright in immediately declaring that the game has high attraction for allowing her to be seduced into thinking that she can get better at it if she just practices often enough.

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