Monday, November 05, 2012

One last plug for Gary Johnson

Then I'll shut up about him. For a while, anyway. (I fully expect he'll be running again in 2016, and I fully expect to be an enthusiastic supporter again then.)

This is one of the more interesting pieces I've seen about Johnson. It emphasizes his ability to be more a pragmatist than an ideologue: "“I think libertarians need somebody who can articulate getting from A to Z. But you know, if G is achievable, how about it? Let’s get there!”

I also like his willingness to say "I don't know" when asked about something he hadn't considered before, and his unwillingness to declare all use of military for humanitarian reasons off-limits. I think he is right that we can't stop all atrocities around the world, but that we have to remain open to stopping genocides when we can.

By the way, you can watch what should be an interesting debate between Johnson and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, 9 pm EST/6 pm PST tonight, streaming here:

Oh, and have I mentioned that Johnson is the only candidate who openly advocates your right to play online poker, and has spent time hanging out at the WSOP trying to reach out to poker players as a constituency? I have? OK, then--never mind.

I'll leave you with my two favorite paragraphs:
A curious thing about Johnson’s candidacy is that if you are not a libertarian – but you are liberal who believes in basic civil rights, the right to due process, personal privacy, an unregulated Internet, a peaceful foreign policy, marriage equality, and an end to crony corporatism and pro-wall street policy-making, for example, then Johnson – not Obama – is much closer to you on policy, but you’ll probably vote for Obama. Similarly, if you are a conservative who believes in the Constitution, small government, free markets, balanced budgets and the Fed out of huge areas of your personal and economic life that could be better handled by yourself or even the States, then Johnson – not Romney – is much closer to you on policy, but you’ll probably vote for Romney.... 
There is a greater difference between the end of the two party system and its continuation than there is between an Obama presidency and a Romney presidency. A choice between two things that are the same is no choice at all. Much nonsense is written about “wasted votes”. By any accurate definition, a wasted vote would be one that, even if repeated indefinitely, could change nothing of substance. A vote for the duopoly, whether you prefer Obama flavor or Romney flavor, would be such a vote. When you see that, you see that the only way not to waste one’s vote is to vote to break the duopoly, which means to vote for Gary Johnson.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

String theory

At Mandalay Bay today I saw what I thought was an interesting situation that called into question the way I have thought of the string-bet rule.

A player had all of his chips in two stacks. He was first to act on the river. He picked up one stack with his left hand and moved it forward. Without letting go of it, he then moved the second stack forward with his right hand, with it ending up next to the first stack, and then he released both of them at the same time.

Was this a legitimate all-in move, or an illegal string bet?

I asked this on Twitter and got quite a variety of responses:

If you think the answer is perfectly obvious one way or the other, then consider these variations.

1. Does it matter to you if the interval between the forward motion of the two stacks is, say, 10 seconds versus half of a second?

2. What if he verbalizes "all in" between the two motions?

3. Does your answer change if the first stack was all of his red ($5) chips, and the second stack was all of his blue ($1) chips?

4. Does your answer change with the size of the second stack, i.e., a big stack of 30 chips versus one or two stragglers?

I do not like having the application of a rule depend on discerning a player's intention, because (1) it's too subjective a process, and (2) the process can be abused and manipulated by experienced players to their advantage.

Here, however, I'm forced to conclude that there is no way to do anything but attempt to figure out his intention. If he was betting, say, close to $200 with the first stack, and had left behind just one blue chip, and it appeared that he noticed it only after he had already moved the first stack into position and was doing his best to rectify his oversight, and he did so almost instantly, it's hard to assign to him any angle-shooting motivation. But the more you stretch any or all of those parameters, the murkier his intentions become.

If he had two equal stacks of red chips, and clearly paused for a long time to think after moving the first one forward, then we have to conclude that he did not form the mental intention of putting himself all-in before he started his move.

In between those rather clear-cut cases on either end of the spectrum, it's all kind of murky.

It's easy to pontificate that if he hasn't verbalized his action first, then if he is using both hands to move chips, they have to be synchronized. But that just moves us to the question of exactly how perfectly synchronized they have to be. We humans aren't capable of actual simultaneity. Shoot a sufficiently high-speed video of the action and you'll find some discrepancy, even if only tiny fractions of a second. It would be absurd to write the rule in a way that requires the two stacks to hit their final resting point within some precise interval of time of each other. But if you're not going to do that, and yet you agree that some intervals are short enough to be OK as an all-in while others are too long to deserve that supposition, then you've necessarily reduced it to a subjective judgment call.

What actually happened today was that the first stack was all of his red chips, and the second was all of his blue chips. But they were roughly equal, maybe 25 or so of each. So he couldn't have just overlooked the second stack. Furthermore, he paused briefly with his left hand on the first stack after having moved it forward, announced, "All in," then picked up the second stack with his right hand and moved it next to the first before releasing both of them. I think that what happened was that at first glance he thought that his red chips alone were enough to cover his opponent's stack, but then he realized a beat too late that the two of them might be closer in total chips behind than he thought, and he probably shouldn't leave his blue chips out of the bet, so he did a quick mid-move correction.

In other words, it makes no sense to attribute to him any actual ugly angle-shooting, because the difference in the total amount of the bet was not enough that it would make much difference in an opponent's decision. Furthermore, his mid-move correction came quickly enough that he couldn't have been trying to gauge his opponent's reaction before deciding whether to add more chips to his bet. But it also wasn't just the classic "oops I meant to go all in but I forgot the one blue chip that I'm using as a card cap." He had a real change of mind, I think, but one that didn't actually alter the situation by very much.

Because of that, I think a reasonable argument can be made to let the bet stand (because it changed the absolute amount of the bet by a fairly small percentage, not enough to plausibly affect whether an opponent would call), AND a reasonable argument can be made to make him take back the second stack (because he probably did not start his move with the intention of including it).

The dealer didn't hesitate at all. She disallowed the second stack. Nobody argued the point, and I was probably the only one that thought it even pointed to an interesting question.