Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Highest Break In Shoot Out History | Mark Allen

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The snooker shoot-out format is a timed contest with its own rules:

Snooker Shoot Out Rules

This isn’t like other tournaments. The Shoot Out has several notable rule changes, though the introduction of the snooker shot clock is perhaps the most influential.

Frames are capped at a duration of 10 minutes. For the first five minutes of a frame, players have a maximum of 15 seconds to play a shot. In the second five-minute chunk, players have just 10 seconds to hit the cue ball.

This obviously hurries the spectacle along. There’s no time to ponder safety shots. Failure to hit the ball in time results in a five-point penalty or for the value of the ball which was ‘on’, whichever of the two is greater.

Similar to pool, players must also either pot a ball or hit the cushion with any ball whenever they take a shot.

Again, failure to achieve this results in a five-point penalty or a penalty for the value of the ball which was ‘on’, whichever of the two is greater.

Here’s Mark Allen setting the record for the highest-scoring break:

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Snooker, Video

Mini-golf game based on Congressional districts

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The Washington Post has an interactive mini-golf game that’s actually a lot of fun, while also displaying just how aggressive gerrymandering has become. That’s a gift link, so no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2022 at 1:14 pm

How A.I. Conquered Poker

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In the NY Times Magazine, Keith Romer describes how poker has now been solved. (Gift link, no paywall.)

Last November in the cavernous Amazon Room of Las Vegas’s Rio casino, two dozen men dressed mostly in sweatshirts and baseball caps sat around three well-worn poker tables playing Texas Hold ’em. Occasionally a few passers-by stopped to watch the action, but otherwise the players pushed their chips back and forth in dingy obscurity. Except for the taut, electric stillness with which they held themselves during a hand, there was no outward sign that these were the greatest poker players in the world, nor that they were, as the poker saying goes, “playing for houses,” or at least hefty down payments. This was the first day of a three-day tournament whose official name was the World Series of Poker Super High Roller, though the participants simply called it “the 250K,” after the $250,000 each had put up to enter it.

At one table, a professional player named Seth Davies covertly peeled up the edges of his cards to consider the hand he had just been dealt: the six and seven of diamonds. Over several hours of play, Davies had managed to grow his starting stack of 1.5 million in tournament chips to well over two million, some of which he now slid forward as a raise. A 33-year-old former college baseball player with a trimmed light brown beard, Davies sat upright, intensely following the action as it moved around the table. Two men called his bet before Dan Smith, a fellow pro with a round face, mustache and whimsically worn cowboy hat, put in a hefty reraise. Only Davies called.

The dealer laid out a king, four and five, all clubs, giving Davies a straight draw. Smith checked (bet nothing). Davies bet. Smith called. The turn card was the deuce of diamonds, missing Davies’s draw. Again Smith checked. Again Davies bet. Again Smith called. The last card dealt was the deuce of clubs, one final blow to Davies’s hopes of improving his hand. By now the pot at the center of the faded green-felt-covered table had grown to more than a million in chips. The last deuce had put four clubs on the table, which meant that if Smith had even one club in his hand, he would make a flush.

Davies, who had been betting the whole way needing an eight or a three to turn his hand into a straight, had arrived at the end of the hand with precisely nothing. After Smith checked a third time, Davies considered his options for almost a minute before declaring himself all-in for 1.7 million in chips. If Smith called, Davies would be out of the tournament, his $250,000 entry fee incinerated in a single ill-timed bluff.

Smith studied Davies from under the brim of his cowboy hat, then twisted his face in exasperation at Davies or, perhaps, at luck itself. Finally, his features settling in an irritated scowl, Smith folded and the dealer pushed the pile of multicolored chips Davies’s way. According to Davies, what he felt when the hand was over was not so much triumph as relief.

“You’re playing a pot that’s effectively worth half a million dollars in real money,” he said afterward. “It’s just so much goddamned stress.”

Real validation wouldn’t come until around 2:30 that morning, after the first day of the tournament had come to an end and Davies had made the 15-minute drive from the Rio to his home, outside Las Vegas. There, in an office just in from the garage, he opened a computer program called PioSOLVER, one of a handful of artificial-intelligence-based tools that have, over the last several years, radically remade the way poker is played, especially at the highest levels of the game. Davies input all the details of the hand and then set the program to run. In moments, the solver generated an optimal strategy. Mostly, the program said, Davies had gotten it right. His bet on the turn, when the deuce of diamonds was dealt, should have been 80 percent of the pot instead of 50 percent, but the 1.7 million chip bluff on the river was the right play.

“That feels really good,” Davies said. “Even more than winning a huge pot. The real satisfying part is when you nail one like that.” Davies went to sleep that night knowing for certain that he played the hand within a few degrees of perfection.

The pursuit of perfect poker goes back at least as far as the 1944 publication of “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” by the mathematician John von Neumann and the economist Oskar Morgenstern. The two men wanted to correct what they saw as a fundamental imprecision in the field of economics. “We wish,” they wrote, “to find the mathematically complete principles which define ‘rational behavior’ for the participants in a social economy, and to derive from them the general characteristics of that behavior.” Economic life, they suggested, should be thought of as a series of maximization problems in which individual actors compete to wring as much utility as possible from their daily toil. If von Neumann and Morgenstern could quantify the way good decisions were made, the idea went, they would then be able to build a science of economics on firm ground.

It was this desire to model economic decision-making that led them to game play. Von Neumann rejected most games as unsuitable to the task, especially those like checkers or chess in which both players can see all the pieces on the board and share the same information. “Real life is not like that,” he explained to Jacob Bronowski, a fellow mathematician. “Real life consists of bluffing, of little tactics of deception, of asking yourself what is the other man going to think I mean to do. And that is what games are about in my theory.” Real life, von Neumann thought, was like poker.

Using his own simplified version of the game, in which  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Immortal Game vs Kyren Wilson | 2018 Champion of Champions

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Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2022 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Games, Snooker

A very interesting AI chess game: “Proof AI Can Write Poetry”

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Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 10:05 am

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

Magnus Carlsen Queen Sacrifice in Blitz Championship Game

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This is quite a game — and it’s also interesting to see how blitz tournaments are now played.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2022 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

The game is called “snooker” for a reason

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Ronnie O’Sullivan makes some skillful snookers to get the 8 points he needed to beat Neil Robertson.

Written by Leisureguy

20 December 2021 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Games, Snooker, Video

A great break from an earlier era

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Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2021 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Games, Snooker

Building a table to make solving jigsaw puzzles more convenient

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I have to say that I totally relate to this, although they have more skill and more tools and more room for tools than I — but plowing ahead toward the goal even when the cost and effort seem disproportionate: that I understand.

Written by Leisureguy

15 November 2021 at 12:37 pm

Dominoes galore

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Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Video

Aaron Rodgers Didn’t Just Lie

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a powerful post that begins:

Professional athletes have come so far from the dark days when the public saw them as perpetually partying adolescents, mean-spirited bullies, and worse: dim-wits one step above tackling dummies on the evolutionary scale. Today, many players are eloquent spokespersons as well as admirable athletes. This hard-fought change occurred gradually over decades as more and more athletes proved themselves to be passionate and articulate advocates for a better, more inclusive society.

This shift in public perception is especially important when we understand how impactful athletes are in influencing our children. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, children 10-17 years old admire famous athletes second (73 percent) only to their parents (92 percent). That’s a sacred trust not to be abused. Unfortunately, the pandemic has revealed several athletes who abuse their position and responsibility, not just to the public, but to other professional athletes’ livelihood.

That latest egregious abuser is Green Bay quarterback and three-time MVP Aaron Rodgers who directly and deliberately lied to fans and the public when he assured everyone he was “immunized,” knowing that word would be interpreted as his being vaccinated. He wasn’t vaccinated. And he got COVID-19. And he went maskless during in-person press conferences, which not only violated NFL rules, but put everyone else’s health at risk.

Instead of consulting immunologists, he consulted anti-vaxxer and podcast host Joe Rogan, who also contracted the virus. If he ever requires open-heart surgery will he hand the scalpel to romance writers because they know about matters of the heart? While many who came into contact with him thought he was vaccinated, Rodgers had embarked on his own regimen to boost his “natural immunity.” He failed, as any scientist could have told him—and as they have been publicly telling us for over a year. University of Michigan microbiologist Ariangela Kozik explained that achieving “natural immunity” through these homeopathic methods is a non-starter because vaccines inform our immune system what the virus looks like so the body can build its own protection.

Rodgers compounded his lie by adding another lie. While being interviewed about the backlash on the Pat McAfee Show, he claimed that a league doctor told him “it would be impossible for a vaccinated person to catch or spread COVID.” However, the NFL responded by saying no doctor from the league or consultants from the NFL-NFLPA communicated with the players. And if they had, they wouldn’t have given such clear misinformation, which anyone who’s read a newspaper or watched a legitimate news show would already know. No medical expert claimed the vaccine prevents getting or transmitting the virus, only that their chances of spreading it to others or developing severe symptoms themselves are significantly reduced.

What’s especially bothersome is that . . .

Continue reading. It is a great post.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2021 at 7:51 pm

Traditions of the season: Who’s on first?

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I had never before seen Abbot and Costello’s vaudeville routine in its entirety, on an abbreviated version, trimmed down for audiences who had not come to a vaudeville theater to be entertained for an evening. Here’s the whole enchilada, filmed as it would have been seen back in the days before vaudeville died.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2021 at 11:21 am

Posted in Games, Humor, Video

Not lawn tennis: Court tennis (aka real tennis)

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I’ve known about court tennis — the original from which lawn tennis was derived (though lawn tennis is the “original” from which table tennis was derived) — but not in any detail. This first video provides some detail, and the second video shows the game in play, and damn! that court is large! A squash court or a racquetball court is tiny in comparison — lots more running in real tennis. The first video is via an Open Culture post, which includes this useful chart:

You may want to watch some actual play (video below) before seeing what it’s about (video above).

Written by Leisureguy

6 October 2021 at 9:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Games, History

How technology transformed bowling

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Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2021 at 1:45 pm

Sports hooligans in Constantinope, 532 CE

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The ruins of the Hippodrome, Onofrio Panvino, 1580.

Sports hooliganism has an long if not illustrious history. Dan Billingham writes in Antigone:

Constantinople’s Nika Riots of 532 may seem like a dark precursor to the so-called Dark Ages of the early medieval period. A tempting assumption to make is that a bout of collective madness and lack of societal restraint caused the grumbles of chariot-racing fans to escalate to the point of laying waste to large parts of the city and thousands dying. Sixth-century Constantinople was far from a place of anarchy, however. It was one of the most sophisticated cities on the planet, with a social order underpinned by a vast legal code. The Nika Riots were, in fact, more ofa sudden social implosion fuelled by mismanagement from an earnest emperor trying to do his best but failing disastrously.

Around a century after the Nika Riots, the sport of chariot racing was in terminal decline. That was anything but inevitable. It had already enjoyed a key cultural role in the ancient world for over a millennium. Its glorious era at Rome’s Circus Maximus was transported to the hippodrome of Constantinople, where it enjoyed several more centuries in the limelight.

Chariot-racing fans were, well, fanatical. Packing the great arenas to cheer on their favourite faction (team) was just one part of it. Merchandise such as statuettes of famous charioteers were popular, and curse tablets have been discovered on which fans would implore gods to wreak all manner of injustice and havoc on an opposition faction. Idolatry was granted to the brave charioteers, along with money that is staggering even in comparison to the earnings of modern sportspeople. 

This level of enduring fanaticism makes the poet Juvenal’s infamous line that the people “anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses” totally understandable. The popularity of chariot racing was so extreme, however, that it would be wrong to think cynical emperors were merely orchestrating spectacles for an intellectually vacant populace. Emperors mostly sought to harness for their own benefit a powerful popular interest in the sport – an exercise which, as Justinian showed in 532, could go disastrously wrong too.

Violence would appear to be a natural consequence of such fanaticism. This wasn’t noted to be a major problem at Rome’s Circus Maximus. Casual violence began to become more associated with chariot racing from the fourth century, however, and continued as Constantinople assumed Rome’s mantle. By the late fifth century, gangs formed within groups of fans that resemble modern-day football ultras. Several high-profile riots occurred during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius (491–518). The toll of several of these events was significant, with around 3,000 fans of the Blue faction killed in an ambush from fans of the Green faction in 501, but still there had been nothing quite on the scale of the Nika Riots.

Their potential for organised violence made chariot-racing factions a force to be reckoned with. How this force played into Byzantine politics is subject to scholarly debate. In his 1976 work Circus Factions, Alan Cameron dismissed earlier suggestions that the factions were aligned with different social groups or followed the religious divides of the era. He saw them as a social ill akin to modern-day football hooliganism with limited political impact.

The sociopolitical identity behind and between the factions does appear to have been muddled, but perhaps this is because the factions were too big even to fit within major social or religious fault lines. Blue was blue and Green was green. How people could declare allegiance to a colour is baffling for historians used to hunting for clear social explanations, but the popularity of the sport was such that people were generally confronted with that choice. Green supporters were accused of being Jews, Samaritans and blasphemers by an envoy of Justinian in the hippodrome in the build-up to the Nika Riots. That they walked out en masse in disgust at these accusations shows they identified as none of these.

Choosing which faction to side with became a major political decision for emperors. The varied conclusions they came to supports the idea  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And see also the Wikipedia article.

Mosaic of the Reds, 3rd-century AD Rome (National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid).

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 12:30 pm

Kayfabe Ascendent

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Two very interesting videos:

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2021 at 6:13 pm

A run of 26 in three-cushion billiards

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A run of 26 in three-cushion billiards is unusually good. From Wikipedia:

The high run at three-cushion billiards for many years was 25, set over two games (fourteen and out and starting with eleven in the next game) by the American Willie Hoppe in 1918 during an exhibition in San Francisco.[1] In 1968 Raymond Ceulemans improved the record to 26 in a match in the Simonis Cup tournament. In 1993 Junichi Komori set the record to 28 in a Dutch league match, a feat repeated by Ceulemans in 1998 in the same league.[10] In 2012 Roland Forthomme tied the record in Zundert.[11] In the 2013 European Championships in Brandenburg, Germany, Frederic Caudron became the fourth member of the “28” club.[12] Ceulemans reputedly had a high run of 32 in a non-tournament, non-exhibition match.[10] The highest run so far in a World Cup match is 24, set by Jérémy Bury on 7 September 2013 in GuriSouth Korea (see result sheet on the right).[13]

When allowing for interruptions by opponents starting new games, the current record high run is 34 by the Dutchman Dick Jaspers: in his 2008 European Championship Final match against the Swede Torbjörn Blomdahl, played in three games of 15 points each, he ended Game One by going 13 and out, ran 15 and out in the only inning of Game Two (started by Blomdahl), and ran six in his first inning of Game Three.[14][15]

This player’s cue ball is the yellow ball. (The spots are to make the english visible.) One point and the right to play another shot are given when a player makes the cue ball strike both the other balls provided that the cue ball strikes the cushions at least three times before it strikes the second object ball.

And here are some nice shots, explained:

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

Tagged with

Some amazing 3-cushion billiards shots

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Billiards (true billiards, not pocket billiards, aka pool) is played on a 5′ x 10′ table with no pockets and 3 balls: 1 red ball and two other balls — in this video, one is white and the other yellow. (One oddity: many places that have a sign saying “Billiards” will not have any billiard tables — just pocket billiards and sometimes snooker tables.) One of the two players uses the white ball as his/her cue ball, the other uses the yellow ball as their cue ball. The object in straight-rail/carom billiards is simple: hit your cue ball and make it hit the other two balls. That game is more difficult that you might think but if you can get the  two non-cue balls in a corner, you can make a lot of points very quickly.

To avoid that issue, there are a couple of variants. One is balk-line billiards, the other three-cushion billiards. I find three-cushion billiards more elegant. It has the same object as carom billiards, but it requires that before your cue ball strikes the second object ball, the cue ball must hit the rail cushions at least three times. The hits can be on the same cushion — what is important is the number of times the cue ball hits any cushion: three or greater. Each successful shot is 1 billiard (1 point).

This game shows various ways of doing that.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2021 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

The Beauty of Bézier Curves

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Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2021 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Games, Math, Software, Technology

Marvellous break — Alex Higgins v. Jimmy White

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2021 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Games, Snooker, Video

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