Saturday, March 27, 2010

On in competition? (bridge)

Ok, so there were more bridge hands of interest from Reno than just one. The first two have the same theme.

1. Imps vul vs nv

You pass in first seat, partner opens 1C, RHO overcalls 1D, you bid 1S (do people double here?). Partner now bids 2H. What do you bid now, and more importantly, is lebensohl over reverses on in competition? With a clear long suit threat from the opponents, should we worry about using 2NT as a natural bid?

2. Imps vul vs nv
The auction goes 1H-(1S)-2C-(p)-3D

What's 3D? In an uncontested auction, 3D would be a splinter in support of clubs. Is that still on in competition? I personally don't think so, since 2C is not G/F, and so the auction should revert to a SAYC type auction. If the auction had gone 1H-(1S)-2C-(p)-2D-(p)-2N/3C-(p)-, would 3D now be forcing? I think it's more important to be able to set up the game force with a natural 3D bid immediately.

3. Imps both vul
You hold

LHO opens 1S, pd X to you.

A) What do you bid? 2H seems normal to me, but I can see someone arguing for 4H (would probably need to play in conjunction that any values-based jump to 4H goes thru the cuebid first)

Let's say you bid 2H. LHO bids 3C and partner bids 3D.

B) Now what? There's still a good likelihood that hearts are the better strain, so I think 3H here is normal.

Partner now bids 3S.

C) What does he have? Is this in support of hearts? Or is he showing a spade stopper and missing a club stopper?

You bid 4H and it goes around to RHO who now wakes up with 4S.

D) Now what?
i) double
ii) pass and pass partner's double
iii) 5H
iv) pass and pull partner's double
v) other?

Reno thoughts (food, entertainment, bridge, gambling)

Reno wasn't great in terms of results, but I had a fun time. Here are some random thoughts from the trip.

The ACBL nationals weren't the only nation championships being held in Reno during my stay. The guy sitting next to me on the plane in was there for the US Open, the largest amateur bowling tournament in the country. He said he had a 210 average and was just doing it for fun.

On the plane ride in from Dallas to Reno, they showed a movie. People groaned initially when they announced that the movie was "The Blind Side", but about 25 minutes in when the audio went out, half the plane complained. The Blind Side gets my vote as a great airplane movie. It's a very balanced movie, which makes it great in my view for showing on a plane ride. It's a good length, not too short, not too long. It's wholesome for the whole family. It has the right amount of drama, comic relief, and sports action. It's a sappy feel good story without necessarily pulling you too deep into the movie. It's just got something for everyone.

On the shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, I actually heard someone use the Geico "ringity ding dingity dong" as their ringtone. I still think Geico should do the opening bell at the stock exchange one morning and just play that instead of the regular bell.

Didn't play well and didn't play much. Also ran pretty badly in general. Here are two stories.

Five players limp (1/2NLH) into a pot with a TT3 rainbow flop. Everyone checks and the turn comes a K. Everyone checks again and the river is an 8. Three checks to a woman who bets 10 into the pot. One guy calls. The woman turns over KT and the man turns over KK. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa??????
Naturally, they're married.

Down to $60 in the big blind and with game time (bridge) approaching, 6 people limp to me in the big blind. I look at K3 suited and decide to make a play. After all, if everyone folds I add 20% to my stack. I raise to $20. I didn't want to go all in preflop (too suspicious) and wanted to leave a sizeable bet for the flop. One guy goes all-in for $29, a guy behind him (his bridge partner) calls, and I'm forced to call as the reraise wasn't large enough. I go all-in blind, and the flop comes J25. The other guy thinks for a while and calls with J6 suited. The all-in guy had QT. The turn comes an A and the river comes another J to finish the hand. Oh well.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't play well. We still ended up in the overalls with a respectable 33rd in the Open Pairs (out of 300+ pairs) because seeded pairs kept miscounting their points against us. It was also my first experience with the bridgemate scoring system (entering results wirelessly from the table) and I liked it. It allowed me to forget previous hands for some reason. I entered the result, and then the hand went away. Didn't dwell on a single previous hand while I was controlling the scoring machine.

Only one interesting hand of note that I remember.

Red all matchpoints, you hold in fourth chair:

The auction goes (1C)-1S-(1NT)- to you and I'm going to make you pass.
The auction then continues (p)-2H-(p)- to you.

It seemed like a normal, in-tempo, pass at the table. Unfortunately, LHO reopens with a cooperative X and partner goes for a number. In subsequent discussion, it's been suggested that preferencing to 2S is the correct bid in this situation. Partner could be 5-4 and the 5-1 plays better. Partner could be 6-4 even. A chunk of partner's 5-5 hands are taken out of the equation because he could have bid Michaels. An immediate preference is harder for the opponents to double. Any thoughts?

The Hotel:
Turns out I was here 6 years earlier (last bridge nationals in Reno) when it used to be a Hilton (now Grand Sierra Resort). I didn't realize it until I tried to get a players' card and they had me in the system.

The place was just slow. As in lines were long at all the restaurants. It wasn't so much the actual service being slow as it was the seating situation. It just seemed like they were woefully ill-prepared for the large capacity that was the bridge nationals and people going for the first weekend of March madness combined.

They had three fancy restaurants: a Charlie Palmer steak, a Charlie Palmer seafood place, and an Italian restaurant. I only tried the Italian restaurant, and it was decent. Although I thought it was bad when the server was describing the carpaccio appetizer to one of my dining companions and failed to mention that the meat was raw. All my other meals consisted of the breakfast buffet (best value, and only time the buffet wasn't mobbed), Johnny Rockets (good value, all you can eat fries with the burgers), and a pan pizza place with a small unlimited salad bar.

The rooms were ok. There was a nice touch with a TV inside the bathroom. However, there was also this atrocious design:
Basically it was a faucet that was designed to splash water everywhere. If you held your hands high, the sink wouldn't cover all the water. If you held your hands low, the long descent of the water caused it to splash up and about. Idiotic.

Overall it was a fun time, despite my horrible results. Bridge nationals are always fun, and midnights and catching up with old friends certainly adds to that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nouriel Roubini talk at Harvard Club of New York

Three friends and I went to a talk given by Nouriel Roubini at the Harvard Club. For those who don't know, Roubini is an economics professor at NYU who was acknowledged for predicting the once in a lifetime housing bust that would sink the economy into a deep recession.

His talk was about his outlook on the economy in the near future. Overall the feel was quite pessimistic. He felt that we were in a U-shaped recovery rather than a V-shaped recovery, and that the important question right now was when stimulus plans would be stopped and if too soon might lead to a W-shaped recovery.

He felt that drastic measures in policy were needed, but that even now, with the bust still fresh in our minds, the industry is already against such policy measures that would be needed.

He was also pessimistic about China, saying that too much of the growth is tied to investment and not consumption. He mentioned high end real estate and infrastructure that was being unused, and that Chinese people tend to save too much while Americans saved too little.

His view was that as stimulus winds down in the second half of the year, we will see that the economy will grow well below potential. He also mentioned that he expects unemployment numbers will continue to climb, as job growth will not be able to match employable population growth.

He sees similar slow growth in the Eurozone and Japan, but that emerging markets will continue to grow. However, emerging market growth will not make up for the advanced economies' lag.

Overall it was a good talk. He's a very good speaker and the talk was very well thought out and planned. I'm glad I went.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Favorite Steakhouse Picks Part 3: Prime House (food)

Prime House is one of my favorite steakhouses for a few reasons. It's conveniently located at 27th St and Park Ave South, it's elegant and big yet simple, and it has one of my favorite cuts of steak in the city. In fact, it's my favorite restaurant of the BRGuest restaurant group by far. While it's not actually affiliated with David Burke's Prime House Chicago (although I think they probably were once), all their steaks do originate from Prime, the bull at Creekstone Farms that sires all the beef that goes into Burke's Prime House in Chicago.

Knowing the gluttony that I was in store for, I opted to start with the classic caesar salad. It's definitely expensive at $11 for just the salad, and I usually add the imported white anchovies for $3, but it's a nice way to start the meal.

The server prepares the dressing table-side.

The finished product with the anchovies on top. I wish the romaine pieces were larger though. I tend to like larger pieces of lettuce in my salad.

My friend SM had the French onion soup to start. SM said it was ok, not great, which makes it even easier for me to avoid ordering it. I just think that much cheese would bog me down for the food coming up.

We both went with the signature cut, the 65 day aged bone-in rib eye. At 20 oz, this thing is huge. As you can see, there's not that much bone there, and all of it is good edible steak without pockets of concentrated fat. The steak has great flavor, and was cooked a perfect medium rare.

More cheese on the creamed spinach. Didn't need it, and it was ok but not great.

The hash browns were a little greasy and not as crisp as I would like. My favorite hash browns by far are the ones at Morton's (with McDonald's coming in second?).

Here's where it gets crazy. For dessert, we split the Slice of Prime, their 7 layer fudge cake served with malt crunch ice cream. The cake was delicious without being just overly decadent, and while the ice cream that night was coffee and not malt, it was still pretty good.

Here's a view from the other side but I still don't think it does it justice. I probably should have included a birds' eye view. This thing was absolutely humongous. For $10, I want to declare this dessert the best steakhouse value in NYC. There's a smaller, $6 version available at lunch.

Most regular people could probably just come in and get the steak and the cake and expect to be completely full, a terrific value at $62+t/t.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Psyching a XX (bridge)

During a recent BBO ACBL speedball, I psyched a XX with 1 HCP on an auction that went:


The director was called and ruled against me, saying that the psyche was illegal. I mentioned that psyching a redouble is certainly not an uncommon psyche, and the reply was that this was a GCC event. I then looked up the GCC which says, "Psyching of artificial or conventional opening bids and/or conventional
responses thereto. Psyching conventional suit responses, which are less
than 2NT, to natural openings."

I started a thread on the Bridgebase forums: and it brought up a couple of interesting points.

1. The director was under the impression that 1C promised 2+, which made it "conventional". My partner and I play standard convenient minor openings so I don't know where that came from. Anyway, this director cited from the ACBL active ethics page: "The latest version of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge defines a convention as a call that, by partnership agreement, conveys a meaning other than willingness to play in the denomination named (or in the last denomination named), or high-card strength or length (three cards or more) there." I don't see how 1C promising 2+ is not a willingness to play clubs, since it means I clearly can't open any other suit.

So first question: Is 1C showing 2+ a conventional call and should it be treated as such in all interpretations of law?

2. The director then cited the ACBL alert chart for his ruling that redouble was a conventional response: "A bid which, by partnership agreement, conveys a meaning not necessarily related to the denomination named or, in the case of a pass, double or redouble, the last denomination named. In addition, a pass which promises more than a specified amount of strength, or artificially promises or denies values other than in the last suit named." And followed that up by saying that redouble "artificially promises values in a suit other than the last therefore conventional."

First of all, I think most people play that XX promises 10+HCP, and I don't think that necessarily means values in outside suits (it might imply it). Also, it isn't telling partner not to play the contract redoubled (like an SOS XX), and so should convey a meaning related to the last contract/denomination, right? (and hence not conventional)

3. Maybe the laws should be clearer about using two adjectives (natural/artificial, conventional) to describe what's allowed or not and that might clear things up a bit. I remember once an opponent overcalling 2NT with 19HCP but I was oblivious because none of the 2NT interpretations are alertable on the CC. I expect to ask a director or two about all this when I'm in Reno.

Comments/thoughts welcome either here or in the forum thread.