Wizard
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Wizard
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October 21st, 2014 at 8:26:41 AM permalink
Last Thursday I was honored to play about a dozen games of backgammon and have dinner with Paul Magriel. For those who aren't familiar with the name, he wrote what is considered the bible of backgammon. He also plays poker and chess at very high levels.

Before this, to my great surprise, I heard he is a regular player at a local Las Vegas poker room. I'm not sure I should say which one. A friend of mine told played poker with him often. I asked him if I could get an audience with him. Turns out Paul knew of me too and was anxious to meet me.

So we met up on Thursday and must have played about a dozen games of backgammon. I knew it wouldn't go well for me, so suggested $5 a game. Thankfully, Paul was not insulted at such low stakes and was kind enough to correct my many mistakes, after I made them. My backgammon game is very rusty and it was a very humbling experience. I don't even want to say what the financial result was, after the many doubles and gammons I was on the wrong side of.

We also enjoyed dinner and I found Paul a fascinating person to talk with yet very friendly and down to earth. Completely the opposite of many arrogant advantage players I know, who shall remain nameless.

Here are some photos.








I took a picture of this board to show that even that great Magriel is stumped from time to time. I was blue and to act with 4-3. The question is whether to hit that white piece or not? Note that I have the cube at 2.

Finally, I'd like to mention that Paul is available for backgammon and poker lessons. He may no longer be the best backgammon player in the world, but is considered the best teacher of the game.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
DRich
DRich
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October 21st, 2014 at 8:41:43 AM permalink
That is really awesome to get that chance to play with him and pick his brain. I remember trying to read his book about 20 years ago and most of it was way over my head.

I have had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to play poker with him. Definitely a friendly guy.
Order from chaos
beachbumbabs
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beachbumbabs
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October 21st, 2014 at 9:00:53 AM permalink
In my very amateur opinion, if you hit him, you leave 4 unprotected in-range blots on the 1, 7, 9, very near your home field, and 1 on the other side. He has 1 in 3 chance on each die to come in, 1 in 6 each die to bar you from a home point, and has 5 of 6 come-in points blocked against you, about a 15% chance of double-barring you. The risk to you is very high.

However, as the pips stand, you have no better move; can't fix any exposed blots or better your home position; any other move exposes yet another home point or splits your two-point anyway. With no better defensive move, I think you have to hit him; 2/3 of his rolls will leave him on the bar.
If the House lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game.
Romes
Romes
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October 21st, 2014 at 9:10:14 AM permalink
Quote: beachbumbabs

In my very amateur opinion, if you hit him, you leave 4 unprotected in-range blots on the 1, 7, 9, very near your home field, and 1 on the other side. He has 1 in 3 chance on each die to come in, 1 in 6 each die to bar you from a home point, and has 5 of 6 come-in points blocked against you, about a 15% chance of double-barring you. The risk to you is very high.

However, as the pips stand, you have no better move; can't fix any exposed blots or better your home position; any other move exposes yet another home point or splits your two-point anyway. With no better defensive move, I think you have to hit him; 2/3 of his rolls will leave him on the bar.


I'd like to know the correct play here. I've been in to backgammon for a while, but still definitely consider myself an amateur. I would not hit him here. The risk is entirely too high that you find yourself in a pretty horrible situation, with nearly a full wall of primes.

I would move 7 to 3, and 4 to 1. This will keep 4 primes in his home, and force him to move potential attackers pass you next turn, plus give you another chance at a better roll to move pass him to take advantage of your 15 pip lead.

So what's the correct play?
Playing it correctly means you've already won.
mickeycrimm
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October 21st, 2014 at 9:15:05 AM permalink
I think this is the Paul Magriel that made a final table of a WPT event in it's early days that I watched on TV. His face seemed to keep involuntarily ticking. Then I had the pleasure of playing poker with him at the Horseshoe. No ticks to his face so I thought what I saw on TV was a move to throw his opponents off. He was a pretty nice guy.

One bit of advice he gave me (for limit holdem cash games) was if I mucked every hand under the gun without looking at the cards I would be money way ahead in the long run. I didn't fully take his advice, I'm still not gonna muck aces or kings, but I tightened the hell out of my under the gun play and it's saved me a lot of pain and misery.
"Quit trying your luck and start trying your skill." Mickey Crimm
DJTeddyBear
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October 21st, 2014 at 9:15:42 AM permalink
That's very cool that you were both on each other's radar of people that you want to meet.

Okay, no financial disclosure. But was it worth it? Did you get your entertainment and educational value out of it?

That one tricky move is a real head-scratcher. What did you end up doing? How did that game work out?
I invented a few casino games. Info: http://www.DaveMillerGaming.com/ 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
Wizard
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Wizard
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October 21st, 2014 at 11:51:22 AM permalink
Quote: beachbumbabs

In my very amateur opinion, ...



As I recall, Paul marginally favored not hitting, but he was clearly on the fence about it. If I figure out how to program my backgammon software, which Magriel just encouraged me to buy, I'll let you guys know the right answer.

BTW, based on our backgammon match, I'd say your skill in that game at least exceeds your handicapping skill, as evidenced by this year's contest.

Quote: mickeycrimm

I think this is the Paul Magriel that made a final table of a WPT event in it's early days that I watched on TV. His face seemed to keep involuntarily ticking.



It did with me too, a lot. I thought he might have Tourette Syndrome.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
dwheatley
dwheatley
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October 21st, 2014 at 12:09:52 PM permalink
The correct play:

is to not hit. My program says 7/2 and 6/2 is best, with end of turn EV of 0.132. The 16/9 reduces your chance of winning by 3%, with an end of turn EV of -0.098. There are a number of other plays that are better than hitting, but they all involve moving pieces into the home board. Any play that splits the 16 without hitting is obviously a no go.

It wasn't asked, but the EV before the roll was 0.178 (and don't double), so the roll was a little unlucky for the Wizard.
Wisdom is the quality that keeps you out of situations where you would otherwise need it
mickeycrimm
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October 21st, 2014 at 3:08:25 PM permalink
I just had a flashback about Paul Magriel's WPT final table appearance. It was the 2003 World Poker Challenge at what was then the Reno Hilton. I was there playing the cash games. It was the first season of WPT. They came in to the Hilton and set up a big tent on the casino floor, and put bleachers and TV screens in it, along with a poker table that the six finalists would play on.

So I went in and grabbed a seat to watch the final table. Before it started the producers or whatever made us all clap and cheer, then boo, and generally act like we were pulling for someone or against someone, all the while filming us. When the final table started Paul Magriel's back was to me.

Later, when I watched it on TV, when the camera was on Magriel, I could see myself in the bleachers.
"Quit trying your luck and start trying your skill." Mickey Crimm
tringlomane
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October 21st, 2014 at 3:11:16 PM permalink
Magriel is definitely a character in the TV poker scene. Quack, Quack!

Seems like a jovial guy, and it would be cool to sit down and play a game with.

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