The truth is, not much. I’m in the middle of Ph.D. stuff which is frustrating the hell out of me because I’ve come back to that place where I just feel like I’m marking time, even though Andy continues to tell me that I’m doing alright. I’ve basically done all of the crop history research I think I can do (on the major crops, at least), and now I’m going through the annual reports of the site, trying to work out exactly what I’ll be looking at. I’ve also been trying to pull together some theoretical ideas – I’m considering using Tom Loy’s old manuscript on purposeful systems theory as a part of my theoretical background, because I think the idea of purposeful systems and choice-outcome might be a useful framework to describe the Ottoman system around the time of the Spanish discovery of the Americas. But on the whole, I’m not as far ahead as I would like... ah well, if my supervisor thinks I’m doing OK, that’s the only thing that really matters. Plus I can run faster than he can at this stage, so he can’t chase me if I miss a meeting!
In truth, these bloody disc problems have caused me more trouble than just four months out of the loop (and on top of the pains in my legs that come on every couple of days or so, which may wnid up ultimately resolving or they may not). Four months really has set me back more than that - it's just so difficult to regain my focus. I want to keep going, I really do, but I'm still all of a muddle as to where it's all heading. I'm supposed to have a research question more or less sorted out by April so that I can write my confirmation document by May, and I'm really not confident about it. Obviously Andy's knee injury means he knows exactly what I'm going through, so I have the feeling that he'll be really helpful, but... Anyhow, I've also been given the job of convening the Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series this semester, and with any luck that should help me get back into the swing of things (as well as start getting back in touch with people - I've dropped out of contact with so many that it's just not funny!). That's been irritating yet oddly pleasurable so far - it's annoying having to chase people up for talks (I've lost count of how many times I've asked Chris for a date and topic), but each time I confirm someone for the talk, there's a quiet thrill of achievement. So far I've got definite positive responses from Carney, Jon, Marshall and Steve as well as a few of the honours students from last year, on a range of different topics, so hopefully they'll all go well. And jaydeyn_sitari, I expect you to be there without fail every week, understood? :)
On the topic of archaeology, I still really can't express how fantastic it is that there's a new Indiana Jones film coming out. No idea what it'll be like - after twenty years, there are sure to be some differences that'll keep the continuity freaks picking for decades - but the first three are all favourites of mine, and of archaeology students everywhere. I even snuck an Indy quote into my honours thesis! So there's some very definite anticip...........pation going on there. Who wants to go and see it with me?
Additionally, work on the dictionary is progressing extremely nicely thank you very much. Thanks to a kind soul, Suleyman Sarıhan, whom I met through Facebook, I've acquired another half-dozen or so new Ubykh texts, and discovered among them the previously-mentioned-at-this-journal names for seven of the months of the year! So for those (not) interested, here they are:
kʷʼərkʷʼəmza June and July
Along with several other new words, they've all gone straight into the dictionary - I'm really very impressed with it at the moment, and it's gradually moving towards publishable form. Maybe I might even have it done before I
But other than that, not too much is happening. I'm still tragically single, which Valentine's Day did its usual nothing at all to alter (although I am going to lunch on Friday with someone I like - we'll see how that goes). I'm doing a little gardening at the moment; the kidney beans are doing well, the cucumbers going nuts (we've picked half a dozen every two days for the last week), and the button squash not doing so hot, but we've done a bit of weeding around them and with any luck they'll come good soon. We hope.
And poker is beginning to frustrate me just a little bit. It’s not that I’m playing badly – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve changed my strategy for the last few freerolls I’ve played in; instead of sitting out for half an hour to let three or four hundred suckers bust out, what I’ve been doing is playing a highly aggressive style right from the get-go, stealing as many blinds as possible and making strong raises pre-flop with virtually any two cards. I’ve come to notice that in the early stages of these cash-prize freerolls (as opposed to play chip tournaments, where people will move all-in with raving speculators), people are much, much less willing to commit any chips at all unless they’ve got an absolutely premium hand, and almost no hands go to a showdown. So if you can make a substantial raise from a good position after the flop, you’ve got an excellent chance of winning the pot. I’ve been taking advantage of this, and as a result I’ve been in the top 5% of chip stacks at the first break in the last three tournaments, and on the whole I’ve been extremely happy with the development of my game. But there are a couple of things I'm thinking about changing, viz:
In the last few tournaments I’ve busted out not long after the first break by going all-in with top-quality hands, twice with A-A, once with A-Q, which latter happened last night. This is starting to annoy me a little, as I’m putting time into building up a good stack by playing what I think is solid, aggressive, and intelligent poker, only to have the whole stack vanish in a single hand. I know that bad beats are a part of poker, but the frequency with which they’ve been happening of late, and the uncannily close circumstances of the last three such all-in moves, have made me start to question whether I should ever go all-in before seeing a flop, no matter how good my hand is. (Obviously, this consideration is only to be taken into account if you’re going to be knocked out if you’re called and you lose. If you’re sitting on 13,000 in chips and no-one else on the table has more than 3,000, naturally you’d always be happy to make an all-in move, not only because you’d still be on a healthy chip lead if you did happen to lose, but also because such a large chip stack is a good intimidator.)
As I’ve previously pointed out, the absolute best chance you can even theoretically have pre-flop is 94.9% to win, with K-K against K-2 offsuit where the deuce matches one of the paired Kings in suit. The odds of that specific confrontation are vanishingly small, though, so the best chance to win you can practically expect to have pre-flop is roughly 80% - that is to say, about the mean chance of winning a confrontation between a pocket pair and any two undercards, paired or unpaired. As such, the chance of losing with pocket Aces to any other pre-flop hand is even greater than the chance of rolling a six on an ordinary die. With this in mind, if you have a choice between raising a fraction of your chips and raising all-in, I’m wondering whether going all-in pre-flop with Aces is such a good idea. Let me show you what I mean.
Say the blinds are 200-400, and you’ve got 17,000 in chips; the others on the table have 3,000, 6,000, 18,000 and 4,000 respectively (let’s call them Messrs. Three, Four, Six and Big for convenience). In the big blind, you get dealt ♠A ♥A. Mr Three folds, Mr Six calls the big blind; Mr Big raises to 2,000, and Mr Four folds. Should you just call to see a flop, or should you just move straight all-in over the top? Conventional wisdom says you should reraise this all-in, mainly because such a large raise (four times the big blind) is usually indicative of a strong hand – probably either A-K or a pocket pair, probably between 8-8 and K-K but most likely higher than J-J – and any such hand is well dominated by Aces. Because you’ve got A-A (meaning that all other things being equal, there’s a 96% chance that your opponent doesn’t have even one Ace, although his reraise does make his having an Ace substantially more likely), you’d probably put him on a pocket pair, which means that your Aces would be an 80% favourite. But hold up now. No matter what he has, he’s still a one in five chance to beat you – which is ugly for him, but by no means a cert to lose – and whatever he’s holding, he’s a damn sight more likely to make a straight than you are.
So since there are cash prizes riding on this tournament, mightn’t it make better cash sense to make a smaller risk of 2,000 to see a flop and hope to see an increased chance to win before you go risking your tournament life with an all-in bet? Let’s say you call the flop and it comes ♦A ♥K ♠Q, or ♠J ♠5 ♠9, or ♦2 ♣4 ♣3. In each situation your odds are handily improved: in the first case, you’ve got trips, and if he has K-K or Q-Q in the pocket Mr Big’s not going anywhere (and furthermore, will be down to about a 13% chance to win with two cards to come, meaning you’ve improved your odds by 7%); in the second case, you have an over-pair with the nut flush draw, meaning that even if Mr Big has trip Jacks or nines, you could still draw an Ace to make better trips or one of nine spades to the nut flush (eleven outs with two cards to come, and if he has a made flush (an extremely small chance which is substantially lessened by the likelihood that he has a pocket pair, which you’re pretty certain of because of the big raise pre-flop), you could still draw one of seven remaining spades to make a better flush; and in the third case, you have a huge overpair with a straight draw, and virtually no-one makes a raise of 2,000 pre-flop with 2-2, 3-3 or 4-4 in the pocket. That’s when you make the all-in move: when you have a good hand and you know that his outs are substantially reduced by the flop.
Contrarily, if the flop comes ♦8 ♦9 ♦J, or ♠K ♥K ♦T, then your Aces suddenly don’t look so good. In the first case, judging from your assessment that Mr Big has a pocket pair, he could very well have T-T, giving him an open-ended straight draw, with ten outs, meaning that he’s about a 35% chance to outdraw you – and if one of his hole cards is a diamond, he has 17 outs with two cards to come, meaning that he’s actually a statistical favourite to win. In the second case, if your initial assessment of a pocket pair was right, he could be sitting on Kings full of Tens or, even worse, made quad Kings. Further, if your pocket pair assessment was wrong and he did have A-K, he would still have trip Kings, and his Ace would mean that you would have to catch the last remaining Ace in the deck to stay in. And in both cases, you’d be able to happily fold your pocket Aces, retaining your relative chip stack with a margin of 9,000 over the next lowest one, and losing only 2,000 to a player who was already ahead of you in chips anyway. That sounds a damn sight better to me than moving all-in pre-flop with Aces and having them cracked.
So yeah, that's what I'm up to at the moment. I'm also hoping to catch up with various people for lunchy-type things (suyongli, tomorrow still on?), and I'm enjoying life, on the whole. I'm thinking about using the uni pool, too, getting myself back to fit again and losing some of the weight I put on when I was on the floor. Looking forward to living life again!