This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Playing with the house's money

In the last two rounds of the sectional pairs last night I took shots on the last 6 boards. These were not psyches but just anti-field positions, mostly playing notrump instead of investigating for suit contracts, or over-competing.

On a 8 top, our last 6 scores were: 2, 2, .5, 0, 6, 0.

3NT going down with 4M cold was awful on three boards, and going down 2 vulnerable in 3M instead of letting their 3m contract make was bad on two boards. The 6 was a 3M on a 5-2 that came in on a mis-defend. If I played right down-the-line, our scores would have likely been, based on the results of the other tables: 3.5, 3.5, 4.5, 4.5, 2.5 , 4

Thus 22.5 instead of 10.5. The final score then would have been 123 and 57% instead of 111 and 51%. 51% got 0 masterpoints, while 57% would have good 3rd in the section for .84 masterpoints, but nothing overall (bottom overall was 58%).

This was not exactly playing with the house's money, where heads you win, tails you break even, but it was close to it. I ended up throwing away .84 masterpoints. However let's examine if this is the day where 3NT makes, while 4M can't do better. The last 6 results could have been:
7, 2, 7, 0, 6, 7.

On two boards, the 2 and 0, the cows aren't coming home (the 3M over-compete doesn't work), but the other 4 boards are a charm.

The net result is 29, and a final score of 129.5, good for 3rd overall and 4.22 masterpoints. Thus I was risking .84 masterpoints (which I ended up losing for our partnership) to gain 4.22. Those are odds well worth taking.

In online tournaments, where one can see a running score, if you are just sitting around average heading in the final round, you can take your shots on improving the score. If they don't work, it costs nothing. If they work, you improve into the points. Tails you break even, heads you win.
In live bridge, like last night, you can take shots if you estimate well. The overall is where the glory is, so if one is running a game just above average, make some moves at getting in there. At worse, you cough up a fraction of a masterpoint. At best, you win the whole thing. Was that possible last night? Yes, 135.5 won the whole thing, so if we were really fortunately last night on 5 of the 6 boards (convert the 0 to a 7 to get 7, 2, 7, 7, 6, 7) we would have ended at 136. Thus making those coin flips could have paid off big time.

Take some risks at the end of an event if you need to do so to move into the overalls (or in an online tourney without overalls, to move into the points). It is a lose-little, gain-big gamble.


  • At 1:33 PM, Blogger Jonathan Ferguson said…

    I completely disagree.

    If you are having a bad game, buckle down, focus, make the percentage bids and the percentage plays and hope you get good results. Shave a half HCP here or there, fine, but don't just unilaterally announce 'Here I come to save the day!' and then start throwing out random results. It's not fair to your partner, it's not fair to the field, and it's sure as hell not fair to your teammates if you're playing teams unless everyone is on the same page. There's also full disclosure implications if your partner knows you have a tendency to do this regularly.

    I think Justin Lall said it well in his post here when discussing the Italian juniors miraculous 81-IMP comeback (that came up just short) against the USA juniors:

    "The Italians were NOT swinging, doing anything wildly anti-percentage, or anything else that could be classified as crazy. They simply played good aggressive bridge, and did it much better than us in that set. We made some mistakes and they made very few.

    To me the lesson that can be learned from this amazing set is that no matter how many imps you are down, you should just keep playing normal bridge. This is what Bob Hamman has been trying to tell me for years, but I had to learn the hard way. Who could have guessed that he knew what he was talking about this whole time?"

    What are these masterpoints of which you speak, anyway? And why should I make obtaining them my top priority?

    I'd rather shoot a 57. Sometimes that's good enough to win. Sometimes my estimate is off by a few %. If not, well, playing good bridge is its own reward.


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