Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cepheus and the skill-luck debate

Head on over to the Craakker blog for a very interesting two-part reflection on what the news of heads-up limit poker being "solved" says about skill versus luck in poker:


Monday, January 19, 2015

Deuce-Four wins a WSOP bracelet

I don't think I saw this back in 2010 when it happened, but take a close look at the cards in the winning hand in the photo accompanying this story.

Too bad such a good thing happened to a poker cheat, which is the lowest form of life.

Hat tip: Grange95

PokerNews article #48

The winning secret to seat selection:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cyclocross at Biltmore

Yesterday Nina and I tried what was a completely new experience for both of us: watching a cyclocross race. It was held at the famous Biltmore Estate, which is just a couple of miles from Nina's house. Cyclocross is sort of like a steeplechase for cyclists. It's cross-country, meaning mostly not on pavement, but with nasty obstacles thrown in, like giant mudholes, and hills that are too steep to ride.

Nina has a new camera, and we both thought it would be fun to try our hands at fast action shots. It gave me a new appreciation for professional sports photographers. It is not easy to anticipate what will be worth taking a picture of, when it will happen, how to frame the shot to capture both the action and the competitor's face, and do all that while being aware of light/shadow conditions, obstacles, extraneous elements, and a hundred other things.

We watched a 45-minute race that actually included separate men's and women's races with staggered starts. We paid no attention to who was winning, but just enjoyed watching them negotiate tricky spots on the course. Much of our time was spent at a nasty series of hairpin turns coming steeply down the side of a hill. The men were mostly looking pretty stoic, but the women tended to wear their emotions on their faces, showing pain, determination, alarm, or even elation:

But before getting to coast around those downhill twisties, they first had to get up the hill. There were only two ways to do it--push the bike, or pick it up and carry it.

(Do not adjust your set. The sky really was that blue--no digital enhancement.) 

Well, that's not quite true. A very, very few of the strongest competitors were able to ride straight up--which, when you're standing on the side watching, looks like you're seeing something physically impossible transpire before your very eyes.

But you know who I admired most? It wasn't the elite cyclists whose incredibly muscled legs let them defy gravity. It was this woman:

She is obviously not as highly conditioned as most of the other racers. She may not love having to buy her spandex clothes in larger sizes. She was not in contention for one of the prizes. She clearly doesn't have as many hours in the saddle as others, which you can tell from the way she has already taken her feet off of the pedals in anticipation of having difficulty managing the gnarly turn she's about to hit. (We watched several people take tumbles when they misjudged it.) And I suspect she noticed that some of the bystanders snickered as she rode past. But she was out there giving it her all, while those judging her were just standing around. She could absolutely beat me around that course, and probably many of them, too. Plus, she's working on getting better at it, while I'm sitting on my butt in front of my computer. So my hat is off to her for taking on the challenge instead of just vegetating.

Speaking of the spectators, they were having a grand old time, what with ringing cowbells and cheering on friends and/or giving them a little friendly trash talking, sometimes through megaphones. Two stood out. First was this woman:

She obviously knew a lot of the riders and would taunt them by name as they sped by. Sometimes she would reach out and poke them with her stick, offering to give them a "hand." (Nobody seemed bothered by this. I gather that these are highly  informal competitions.) Her best moment came in that super-tricky turn. She yelled through her megaphone at one rider, "No front brake! NO FRONT BRAKE!" [Wipeout.] "Told ya!"

But nobody was having a better time than this kid:

He'd shout and ring his cowbell as loudly as he could at just about every rider that came his way. His enthusiasm was delightful and contagious.

I enjoyed the few minutes we had to watch the cyclists relaxing near the finish line, while waiting for the last stragglers to come in. Notice that this young woman is in bike shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, but sweating, while the more sedentary among us were freezing despite heavy coats because of a nasty cold wind.

All in all, it was a fun and beautiful afternoon at Biltmore.

Addendum: Nina's pictures are here.