Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang


June 25, 2005

I drove up to Philly on Saturday to enjoy the company of Scrabblers, and Terry Kang's wonderful cooking, at her second backyard tournament. Once again I went winless against Stefan Rau and Jan Dixon (not Nixon). Jan once again drew like a fiend, but I was hopeful that I would get my due in the game that counted, at the real tournament. Against Stefan (accent on the A, I learned), I reinforced my growing realization that my ability to gauge the probability range of a word by eyeballing the letters sucks. Despite the fact that SORORAL only differs from OORALIS by replacing the I with a second R, the difference throws its probability way down the ladder, past the 5000 I've seen. Losing challenges like that make it seem even more urgent that I get through as many of the sevens as possible as fast as possible.

After the tournament and a sumptuous lamb dinner we played Taxes Hold Me. The game was entertaining enough for its similarity to poker, but it's also a learning tool. Once again Stefan demonstrated his commanding knowledge of bingos--in one case, BASILAR. I came out ahead by like a buck and a half--yay!!! Later, Cecilia would suggest a no-limit game, and I certainly hoped it was combined with a larger buy in, like $20, not $5.

I was saved from sleeping in my car once again by Le Hotel Kille. Jim offered a fan to make up for the lack of air-conditioning, but I didn't need it. All that experience sleeping in the car had gotten me used to sleeping in warm weather.

June 26

I was awoken in the morning by sirens that triggered an odd dream. In my dream, the wail of the siren turned into whine of a VCR tape rewinding. After a long time, the tape had still not stopped rewinding, and so I peered inside the opening to see sparks, as if the tape were metal grinding against the sprocket. I wondered what the dream meant. Jim was already downstairs, and he set out to make some oatmeal while I left to go to Whole Foods for breakfast. Across the street at the Starbucks, I looked up dream interpreters in the Philly area, but none seemed to be answering the phone on a Sunday morning.

I arrived at the Parent-Infant Center early and anxious to see the groups. As Jan had recounted the previous night, the top group did indeed include 16 players. I was #4, which worked out to my disadvantage, because it meant I had to play all lower-rated players for the first three rounds.

First up was Stefan Fatsis, and though I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for him, I was of a mood to redeem myself after Bayside. The tiles were favorable, and after a rack-clearing INTONE (E), I drew into CHILDREN and then BOnFIrE for a 133-point lead. From that point, I tried to balance scoring and blocking. I gave up a lot of equity in the process, but I still won by 107.

Stefan did manage to get down two bingos The first was LUCEINS*. It didn't look right, but it opened a triple that, with the right tiles, could put him back in the game. I didn't want to risk it and just scored and continued to stay ahead. Then he scored on another spot I could have blocked (by sacrificing points), but it worked out as planned. Because a bingo to the T at E8 would have opened a triple, I reasoned it was not worth giving up too many points to block because, as long as I kept a balanced rack and didn't get a completely crappy draw, I'd be able to score off the triple and come out about even. This time it worked out, and I countered his IRRITANT with QUASI to keep my spread.

IRRITANT turned out to be an appropriate word, because I held, thinking he had played it with one R at first. When I turned the board around, I noticed the two Rs, but then I became distracting in thinking about how to score with the Q and forgot to release the hold. Stefan was low on time, and so he had less time to think after drawing his tiles, and he made mention of this after the game.

Either there was something wrong with the air-conditioning, or there was no A/C--either way, it was mighty warm. The presence of some 64 players, one of Matt's largest turnouts I think, contributed to the heat, and after that first game I was starting to get soaked. Should have brought in a towel.

Rob Robinsky got his revenge killer draw out of the way within six turns in a game that I strongly suspect simulation will prove to have been unwinnable. He opened with UNTrIED, then two turns later, JAILORs, then three turns later, FANCIEST. Meanwhile, after the bingo that kept me in the game, REREDOS, my AAEEUNS left me little choice but the six-point UREA, and my AENS leave was followed by successive leaves of AENS, EONS, ERS, EINRS, ERS, and finally EERSV (because I chose to give up a TS to open another line), all without yielding a bingo.

The most important thing about that game is how I handled it. After initial nervousness at the onset, once both blanks were gone I assumed I was going to lose and just decided to play the best game I could. I shifted in Zen mode for the duration, and even when he hit again with FANCIEST I hardly flinched. Overall, I think I played a good game, giving up about 72 points of equity through the first 15 moves, and almost have of that was towards the end when I was trying to either bingo or stick Rob with the Q. I mistakenly thought I could still win because I had misadded his score and was off by 30--I had really been down 100 after his third bingo, and after a bingo failed to materialize after several turns, I really didn't have a chance at all.

When I opened with the blank and Z on my rack, I was confident I'd beat Thomas Hall. But things fell apart pretty quickly. Tom opened with a freaky word GIGLET, BIZ, leaving ENTV?, was the right play. Next he played another freaky freaky, LENTIC, and I had the choice of VET for 23 or VIVE for 20. Of course I wanted to ditch both Vs, but I didn't want to slot the E at N10, so I went for VET. Wrong choice, and I ended up with ALNNPV?. Wrong choice again, PLAN instead of VAN, and after Tom's STRIPES it was looking really bad. And I had picked up the second blank to boot, but with LMNVW. In all, I made a host of wrong choices, and by the time I did bingo, the game was pretty much over.

I was so focused on thinking about my games and setting up simulations that, despite having done this many times before, I got lost getting out to Walnut. Before I knew it, I had ended up some heretofore unexplored godforsaken part of Philadelphia between the freeway and the post office and some wooded area and the train station maybe? Oh, okay, I was underneath Walnut! My displeasure soon dissipated as I became engrossed in a Cowboy Junkies cover of "Thunder Road" (from Neath Your Covers).

XPN had been playing covers Saturday and Sunday in what they called an "Undercover Weekend". If I had not gotten lost, I would have been out of my car ordering food and missed the song, so it worked out for the best. In fact, it was a particularly good hour to go to lunch, because from 3:00 to 4:00 XPN was playing all Springsteeen covers. Next was a good version of "Atlantic City" by some band out of Austin called the Reavers (Reivers?) I'd have to look into, and later, after I grabbed my hoagie from Lee's, an unusual version of "The Streets of Philadelphia".

After lunch, Terry Kang came up with a creative way to keep cool. Meanwhile Verna Richards Berg was forced to shed her usual suit jacket. In fact, the heat was having effects throughout the weekend, as various individuals (including myself) shed and exposed clo1thing and flesh in all sorts of ways and places.

Oops! So that's what Matt meant when he announced "After this game I'm going to need to scorecards."

It came down to the wire against Mark Miller, who had bested me in all our previous five or six contests. I suspected it was going to be another rout when he played URINATED down to my opening dirty. But, like against Robinsky, I went into Zen mode, put his bingo out of my mind, and focused on finding the best play, a six-tile overlap, OLEFIN, that yielded two blanks for URIDIneS. Next was a tricky position.

I considered WOT and WATT, choosing the latter so I could keep the A and avoid giving up the S hook. I did not consider WOG at all, not conceiving of why I'd keep the two Ts, but it sims 3.8 points higher. After WOT, Mark played QAT at 8D, and I faced another tricky position, with AEEGLTX. I considered GALAX and IXTLE, finally settling on the latter in order to keep the X away from Mark. I can easily see, however, why REX sims the best, but I didn't consider it. I was looking at three X spots on the board, but, as happens all too often, missed a couple.

Suboptimal or not, the X put me in the lead, but Mark was right there nipping at my heels, staying within 10 points for the next four turns. I had a chance to break the game open, but I let him bluff me with WITHS*/IXTLES. A challenge would have earned me a commanding lead on the tight board, but while I was confident I hadn't seen the word on my list, I was worried it was one of this words I'd accidentally left off, like WHIN.

I caught a break when Mark exchanged, and the extra turn allowed me to extend my lead to 40. With the JQX, both blanks, three eses gone, and 14 intermediate-point tiles gone, Mark suddenly needed to open a line for a bingo to have the best chance of winning. He tried four successive openings, and I was able to block each time. The importance of tracking was highlighted at the end when Mark played KAE to give him an S-hook in the triple column in addition to the D from my BLUED. ATONIES wouldn't play off KAE, so I blocked the D line. Incorrect tracking might have lost me that game.

A win against Verna Berg earned me a place across the table from undefeated Jan Dixon, and a chance to prove I was an 1800 player, or close. In a sort of reversal of our Stamford game, I profited more from her initial power tiles, the X and Z, than she did, and I drew the first S to jump to a 43-point lead.

Incidentally, when she played EYEN for 7, and I suspected immediately she was trying to get me to hook an S, figuring that what worked in Stamford with PELON would work again. Uh-uh--not this time.

Even though Jan drew the X and Z, I'm the one that got lucky with those first three gimmes. Then the luck started to shift towards Jan. She slotted JAPE at I1, and I was stuck with an A but not R, T, or H. She scored, and then after my KOBO she was able to play KILL to set up her S. Two in the bag still, but I drew mine one turn too late.

For the rest of the game, she seemed to get the better tiles, and only near-perfect play from me could have overcome her advantage, but I started to flounder. AUNTY was not the best play--hooking VENIN and slotting the Y on the double would have been. But it turned out all right for me, and I drew into ENTITIES. That was my last break, and my game fell apart. Despite my mistakes, I could have won if I I hadn't let her sucker me with the phony GAVOTED* that allowed her to draw the second blank. Seriously, in both our games she had played me like a fiddle. I guess I didn't feel so bad since she went 7-0 and has to be close to 1900, but still it would have been a sweet win. Or at least if I could have kept my equity loss low like at the start of the game. Oh, why I can't be Kenji???

Jeez, REFLOWER is good! I'd seen it, but I had no idea, and I didn't want to risk the 42 points for WIFE.

Once again Mitchell Brook and I met in the final round, and once again "The Witch Doctor" put a spell on me. I managed to resist his subliminal suggestion that I play MINKiEST early in the game, but I still played one of my worst games ever. I was bleeding equity. But when I picked up the second blank and was sure I would win, things got really ridiculous. With 10-point lead and a board close to being closed, I layed down REsIDUAL, and then I decided to try DUALIzER* because it scored more (even though it was the last game and score didn't matter) and was prettier. Mitch slapped it off. A few turns later, I could have played mOLDIER (and a host of other bingos), but I decided to try DOlLIER* because I thought I had seen it (I was probably thinking of BONNIER). Later, Fatsis would tell me he was looking over at my game in disbelief. Anybody else would have too. Terry Kang said what I did was criminal and merited banning from Scrabble. I can't exactly disagree. Needless to say, I managed to turn a sure victory into a loss, against Mitch one again. It was clear that he had been using voodoo on me, because what other explanation could there be for such inept play???

Dinner with Terry, Stefan, Rod, and Cecilia was at an Indian restaurant at 40th and Walnut. I don't usually go for Indian, but I figure I oughta try something different every now and again. If nothing else, I can consider it practice for the inevitable apocalypse when I'll have to eat anything that's available. I just wanted something light because I had yogurt and fruit in the car still, so I tried a type of naan with minced meat and spicers. Hoo, boy, they weren't kidding about the spices!

As always, there was plenty of gossip to go around. But the juicy stuff ain't free. I've posted it on my new site, secretscrabblegossip.com. You will need a credit card to access the site.

I hadn't driven too far before I realized I should have eaten more of the scant meal I ordered. I had my yogurt, but it had been sitting for a while and tasted funny. I debated whether to try it. I tried it. It tasted funny. I kept eating. That voice in the back of my head got louder, telling me I really should stop eating. Hmmm...

June 28

I found out that The Reivers broke up in 1991, and that their cover of "Atlantic City" is on an old CD of Springsteen covers by Rhino Records. I had no luck finding a copy of the track online, so I set out to find the CD. The original Springsteen version is excellent, no doubt, but I was fixated on that cover version! Help!!!

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 3.9 (54.1)
2 - 4.8
3 - 6.7
4 - 2.5 (37.2) or 6.1 (91.3)
5 - 9.6
6 - 7.1 (84.3)
7 - 16.3 (244.2)


PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
RED4EEIULS29.2 (worst play ever, I should be shot)REV6

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
WOT31AGLT3.8 (WOG???)QAT22
OMSCOREAEOR (U or L)3.4 if U or 57.5 if L (SALEROOM)-30
SOB17AELLR9.7 (block)GAT6
ARGLE14UL13.6 (block)RAG5

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
PLEADER13A19.1 (block)VEER9

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
FRAT31UJR?10.7GOER18 (16)
JUG15 (13)EIUR?0CAPE42

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