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Teach your kids bridge, not poker

Teach your kids bridge, not poker


·May 21, 2022


Post referred to in the article (you might want to read it yourself before reading this post): Teach your kids poker, not chess


Two player games do have an advantage as you only need two of you. Finding other children to play with is a huge advantage too and lots of schools have chess clubs, so I understand it's popularity. It's hard if you are much better at a game than your children. Magic The Gathering works well because they can genuinely beat us, but you need a keen player as a parent really.

There is also the age issue. I think Go is a more interesting game than chess but the scoring is a little hard to teach and it hasn't captured my children's interest as much as chess. Backgammon is interesting - been wondering about teaching it to my children as a counterpoint to chess. Not sure if mine (9 and 11) are quite ready for all the bidding conventions in bridge but working up to it with whist. Poker is very educational I think - I learned lots from playing it - but not really sure whether it would work as a family game.


Definitely give backgammon a try with them. It's very easy to pick up the basics, I reckon any 9 and 11 year old will pick it up in an hour, if you avoid the doubling die and just play games out.

A few evenings of this and before you know it they'll be playing tavla with a lovely turkish tea on the side and will be learning some farsi for common rolls. What's not to like?


Backgammon is a game I wish I’d picked up young. Anything that lasts that long is worth a look.

Edit: I meant lasts that long in the sense of being played for the past 5 millennia. I didn’t mean the duration of a game.


In addition, most bridge is boring as hell.

You study all these cool bidding problems. You work out how to drop the offside 10 when held against. Then, you sit down at a table with other people ...

And get a single semi-interesting hand the entire night.

Mostly everything is perfectly obvious bidding and perfectly obvious play. "Trick, Trick, claim" -- "Trick, Trick, Trick, Trick, claim" -- etc.

However, to be fair, "boring" is probably a good thing if bridge is regarded as a social activity. I find that I really can't be "social" playing chess. The "a single mistake can sink you" aspect of chess makes it too mentally demanding.


In addition, most bridge is boring as hell.

I’m sorry that’s been your experience.

If you find that most of your games are routine and entirely obvious, you might like to make sure you’re shuffling the cards properly before each deal. A classic problem particularly with social bridge is that you have a deck or two and someone just does a casual overhand shuffle or three between deals. That doesn’t mix the cards up anything like enough and tends to result in lots more bland, even deals than there ought to be with truly random shuffling.

I don’t know anything about your standard or the level of people you play with, but it’s also possible that your group tend to be very conservative bidders. If few of your auctions are competitive and usually the partnership with the stronger hands gets a free ride to a reasonable but cautious contract, it’s inevitable that you won’t face so many challenging situations in the card play stage because you’ll be under less pressure and the other side will have less information to plan their defence. If this is happening, either side could probably get much better results by being more active during the auction and so creating more challenges for their opponents and opportunities for themselves during the play.


I think the problem here is that rubber bridge is just very low intensity compared to most modern games.

Of course there’s a frisson when you correctly bid a slam or sacrifice to prevent your opponents from finding theirs. But most bridge players don’t even know how to recognize a borderline slam, and they just bid a game and don’t contest, leaving things pretty low stakes.

It’s so unfortunate that it takes 8 to play duplicate, as duplicate is my favorite of all games.

But I understand why people don’t get excited about bridge for 4.


Bridge is at least as deep as chess, and most hands, no matter if it is a grand slam or a seemingly trivial partial, pose several dilemmas for every player.

Thing is, the beauty of bridge (much like programming) only reveals itself after months of regular play; but instead of alarming red lines of error messages you just write your score and move on. If you don't inmerse yourself on it, you'll never see all the decisions you could have taken better.

For me, as a several times national representative player, it's perfectly obvious you haven't understood it yet.


It's obvious you've just never got hang of the game, and don't really understand it.

There are millions of more or less addicted players around the world (including me) that will tell a very different reality :)


I read the rules of Go, bought some books on it, watched some videos, and played several games. I never had a clue what I was doing. Was I winning or losing? I couldn't tell. I had very little strategy. Even as a child, chess was so much more straight forward.

Bridge has always seemed similar to Go IMO from a "what in the world" kind of view. I started going to a bridge club and took a few classes. I kinda understood bidding, but never what was going on. I know people actually figure it out, but I honestly felt like it was some kind of cosmic joke on me lol.


Interesting. Most folk I know fairly rapidly develop a basic intuition around Go as at the initial phases one leverages basic pattern recognition, which humans are good at. I think the issue you raise though is fundamental to the beauty of the game, which is that subtle differences in play have drastic emergent consequences.


You're not making me feel better :)

Maybe the pattern recognition just takes awhile. It took me quite a few games for "Set" to become natural.


>> understood bidding, but never what was going on

I would blame your teacher for this (im guessing that there was one in club?)

The relation between biding and then strategy of trick taking is something that requires a good teacher that can show where the real game is (the communication in biding and standard language of bidding is especially important and then the understanding of the probability aspects of the game makes it kinda clock for eveybody)

On the other hand - chess ... I really never understood it (the deep game strategy aspects of it, openings and final board positions less so)


Regarding Go, I'd say playing fast games on a 9x9 board is a good way to build confidence in understanding.


Fine, since you came out of the closet, I will too. I don’t understand Wordle, solitaire, bridge, or minesweeper. I can write a compiler soup to nuts… But I can’t figure out minesweeper.


That’s interesting. Maybe the games are unique in that they ask you to make inferences about the hidden state of the world, whereas the compiler has the entire program available.

Still, both problems (compilation, minesweeper) can be solved through the logical repetition of a basic set of rules.


Get a free app and 9x9 should not be hard. For the real 19x19, need a teacher I think.


>Two player games do have an advantage as you only need two of you.

While not to encourage being antisocial, chess also has very good computer programs to play against--and even provide instruction. I assume there are good consumer accessible Go programs these days too although I haven't looked for a while. It's nice to have as a backup and, in general, I find computer card games are less capable or have annoying blind spots that you can suss out after a while. For example, I've found that computer Hearts programs are pretty vulnerable to shooting the moon against them.

Backgammon could be good--although I never really got into it. I suppose Checkers is another option but, of course, relatively simple.

Although I'm even worse at Go than I am at Chess, I agree with you. Chess probably has at least an easier learning curve to get to some minimal level of competence.


>While not to encourage being antisocial, chess also has very good computer programs to play against

even better, with the likes of Lichess and there is near instant placement into matches with a similarly skilled human


It's much better to play go against human competitors; there are several servers where you can do that.

The best place for tips is probably the Sensei's Library website.




> It's hard if you are much better at a game than your children.

I disagree, growing up I stalled out improving at chess because no adult around my small town could reliably beat me, give a close game or point me at any resources to improve. I'm playing at ~1500 level as an adult (having stopped playing for 20 years) so have definitely lost some potential there.

These days it's not the case as there are many more easily accessible resources for children to find themselves, but a capable adult player is definitely a huge benefit as they can teach a child a lot about mindset towards competition as much as the game itself.


> I think Go is a more interesting game than chess but the scoring is a little hard to teach

It's not just the scoring part, the goal of the game is somewhat elusive. Surround more than the opponent, how do I even get started? Chess, despite having way more complicated rules, has an immediately obvious goal: capture the king.


As someone who is pretty decent at go (6k OGS, for those who know what that means), I teach go in a pretty unorthodox way, which has so far produced much better results than the way I see other teach it.

The way I teach both the rules and basic strategy of go is to start with the smallest possible board 1x1 and work our way up.

on a 1x1 board, it's impossible to place any stones because it has no liberties. Great now the player knows about liberties.

Then we move to a 2x2 board, where it is possible to place a stone and capture the opponent's stone. Great now we know about captures and ko.

Then we move to 3x3, where we find ourselves able to create our first live shapes, and get to score the board. Now we know when the game ends and how to score it!

Then we move on to 5x5, where we play our first 'real' game, now knowing all the rules.


I'm not very good at go, only European 4dan, but I also have some opinions on teaching :)

In my experience, ko is confusing and shouldn't be explained until the players encounter it in their game, play it for a while, and say "wait this is stupid", which is a good time to explain "actually you're not the first to encounter this situation, and there's a rule to handle it!"


I've never once looked at how to play Go but your explanation was super helpful. I appreciate this learning style. I use it with computer stuff too (e.g, in an algo process a list of len 0, then 1, etc)


You can start with Atari-Go, thats pretty obvious for a while, and then 9x9 scoring is relatively easy.

I think there are other reasons not to teach go than this one.


> I think there are other reasons not to teach go than this one.

Mind elaborating? I'm very interested in this topic!

I made a rather large survey mostly among the European go players as to why they play go, learning why one shouldn't play/learn/teach go (pick any) would be even more exciting!


You still can teach it even to small kids. It is fun, even if the scoring details are not fully understood.


Area scoring is far easier to teach, especially if you're willing to ignore imprecision from not considering group tax.

'just keep going until you both agree on who can put more of your stones on the board and keep them there'.


For Go game scoring, just use an app. Our local go club no longer count in our Rank Competition. Take a photo as a record and you get the result as well. (First 10 free for some …).

Bridge if you pay the uk has a very good web site for learning.


I was a weird kid and taught myself the rules to a ton of card games as a kid, including bridge. (Except I was an only child who lived out in the country and never really had anyone to play with. Again, weird kid.) The problem is that knowing the rules of bridge don’t really translate into understanding the intricacies of the bidding strategy, and I’ve never found anyone else who wanted to learn it (my wife has, understandably, never been particularly receptive to picking it up). And it’s not like there are other millennial couples out there eager to learn bridge, lol.

I’m trying to make the canasta renaissance happen. It works well as a two- or four-hand game, and it’s social while also demanding some skill in the play. Bezique is another favorite.


We had a pretty effective group of bridge players at college — and the bidding is certainly a decent obstacle.

However, if you’re just playing for fun and at least one person knows the basics of a decent bidding set (American Standard is usually fine) you can just ask openly - thinks like “do you have more than 13 points? A major suit with at least five points and five cards?”

And if bridge is a bridge to far you can play whisk or bid whisk as an intro.


I might give it another shot. There’s a bridge club in the area that might be worth looking into.

And whist is great. I inflicted that on my friends at Scout camp one summer, and they ended up actually enjoying it. I need to refresh myself on bid whist.


My wife and I have had some fun games of German whist


Or you can try minibridge, it at least has official rules.


I've wanted to get into Sheepshead (like Bridge, but from Milwaukee), but the issue is the same as bridge where all the players who could teach me in the family are either dead or moved away from the area. Even my grandfather said the game was hard to get into when he was young: he could have a good time with it with people his age but his extended family was full of sharks. I'd imagine we see poker being so popular since it is has enough rules to be interesting but simple enough to learn in an afternoon.


I played bass in Canasta Renaissance. Toured the Midwest a couple times in the 80s.


It's a shame that Bridge's popularity is waning because it is a very interesting and skilful game. It suffers from having a relatively high barrier to entry. A lot of comments here are from people who clearly have never played the game.

In bidding there are 48 calls you can make (1-7 of each suit plus notrumps, X ie double, XX ie redouble and pass). The bids (1-7 of each suit and no trump) are ordered meaning once someone bids 2D you have to bid 2H or higher so you've lost the 1 bids and 2C). The two teams are interleaved and are trying to convey information to your partner but your opponents have access to that information too.

It's kind of amazing how much information you can convey within this simple system. It's not even just about what bids were made but what bids weren't made. Bidding is a deep, deep topic.

Additionally you can lie to your partner (within limits) and in competition play there are rules around what you can and can't do. This can confuse your opponents but will also confuse your partner (if it doesn't it's often ruled as "illegal information").

After all this and the opening lead the dummy hand is placed on the table. Every player can see it. The defending team has the auction to inform the defense. So it's not just a simple trick-taking game. The auction and the play are inextricably intertwined.

The defenders can convey information to each other through which cards they play. The declarer can see this too but has less context on the meaning.

In both the auction and the play Bayesian reasoning comes into play. What didn't happen? How does that affect the probability space?

Building partnerships takes time although experienced players can sit down with a new player, agree on some fairly standard conventions (eg 2/1, upside down carding) and be at a reasonable point.

But the high barrier to entry, fixed numbers of players and the reliance on partnerships make it a tough game to play casually.


It sounds like if two players on a team have a lot of experience playing together they probably develop an intuition of each other, and I would guess this is viewed as an important part of the most successful teams. It also sounds like if those two players attempted to codify a communication pattern, like "I will play cards this way, which means this" it would be ruled as illegal? It sounds like a game of cards, and game of communication, and a game about pushing the rules and the moderators, like me and my partner need to learn to communicate illegal information, but we cannot do so in a way that is detectable, and if we're people of integrity, we wont make communicating illegal information our explicit goal, but our practice together is always helping us be a little better at it, but we maintain deniability and integrity because we never explicitly planned it.

Am I way off here? I'm guessing all these subtleties make online play difficult as well?


Carding conventions like bidding conventions are public. Let me give you some examples.

When defending a trump contract and you, as a defender, lead a side suit, what card you lead describes your holding. An example is you tend to lead top from an honor (AKQJ are honors) sequence. So if you have QJxx you'll tend to lead the Q. Doing so denies the K (as KQxx has a different lead). It may or may not deny the A depending on what you've agreed upon. So with AQJxx you might lead Q ow low depending on your convention.

Likewise your partner's card tells you something. For one you need to know if they're carding count (how many of that suit they have) or attitude (whether they want you to continue that suit or shift). So upside down attitude means you respond with a low card if you like it (standard ir high as a positive signal but most consider that an inferior treatment as you may waste valuable high cards). The leader can infer the meaning of your signal based on their holding and what's in dummy. Like the leader might have 32 and partner plays the 4. Leader knows this is a positive signal. Declarer who cannot see your 32 might not know this.

This is an example of imperfect information mentioned in the article.

Declarer knows what conventions defenders are playing. Hidden understandings are illegal. You can lie to your partner but if, say, you discourage a lead and your partner continues it and that's the winning play then you may get penalized for that in competitive play.


Pinochle has these characteristics, and team play definitely improves with understanding your team mate better.

One time, for a bit of fun, my team mate and I were looking for a bit of an edge. 4 suits = 2 bits = two eyes open or closed, one combination for each suit.

We triggered reading the eye lid states as particular points in the game were happening. A query was triggered by a shared set of words.

The opposing players were quite adept and we had to take measures or we would be caught!

We confessed it after a modest but fun string of great games and the opposition, who are good friends, thought it clever and pretty funny for us to end up wanting wins badly enough to develop the scheme!


I used to be a bridge tournament director, and have spent a bunch of time working out interesting ways of cheating (which is quite easy, given that very little information needs to be passed for a good player to have a massive advantage).

My favourite 'famous' method of cheating reveals the number of Hearts in hand (mod 4) by the number of fingers visible in front of the fan of cards.

My favourite 'own' method relies on colour differences between similar packs of cards. I discovered a couple of packs of the club's cards had been dropped and reassembled into complete packs but making the subtle difference in the blue colour on the back obvious. If you did that deliberately, with all the hearts swapped between the two packs, you'd have a complete read of heart length in all four hands, which would make life much easier. Wouldn't even need a confederate partner, and if it was discovered nobody would know it was you...


If your partner has revealed information to you, you are required to alert your opponent to that fact.

In practice having better communication is still a big advantage, but it’s not because of an information asymmetry (for honest players).


>But the high barrier to entry, fixed numbers of players and the reliance on partnerships make it a tough game to play casually.

At various times, I've played a lot of different games. And Bridge always seemed like one that was more of a commitment than I felt like making at a given moment.


> it is very unusual to have imperfect information but no luck in a game

Rock, paper, scissors. Stratego. Many, many others.

But the author seems to miss that bridge is not one of those games. It has the dealing of cards. That's luck!

Luck, randomness, is a type of imperfect information. What is that enemy Stratego piece, really? Is the cat in the box alive? Will the roulette wheel come up red? All imperfect information. There are just different mechanics a game designer can use to achieve imperfect information. So we may as well argue about whether dice games are better than card games or games with spinners. Moot.

Here's an idea: teach your kids a favorite game. It's probably a favorite because it's challenging in some way. Great! Just make sure you all have fun.


Duplicate bridge removes the luck: you play the hand you are given at a table, but you are scored against other pairs who have the same cards as you, not against the people you played with. It essentially removes the luck from the game. Rubber bridge and grandma's version of the game have a ton of luck, but duplicate has almost none.

Stratego is also a great game, and I forgot about it!

EDIT: If you want to play a 4-player "duplicate" bridge game, that is also possible by comparing to the par result, which is the best scoring contract that can be played for the hand.


Yeah, we'd always either play duplicate hands to compare performance or else at least rotate through all three sets of partners so that each individual player had a score that was at least somewhat less reliant on luck and also lets you pick one winner at a table of four people with partners.

My grandma taught all of us to play once we hit about 8, just reading the books on strategies is eye opening.

You'll probably appreciate that one of her favorite quotes was "a peek is worth two finesses". She knew it was literal for sure, but figuring out why was very educational when I was 9. I also still remember the one time she miscounted trump.

And we'd get made fun of if we bid wrong, not if we didn't get the most points. They have newspaper puzzles asking "what do you bid next" in bridge because the answer is actually identifiable most of the time. As long as we bid competently, whether we actually won the hand was besides the point. It was if we made mistakes that we had the information to avoid making that was seen as bad playing.

So maybe you won't get as many points, but the other people at the table definitely know the difference between luck and mistakes.


From the article:

> Probability comes into play here: understanding distributions of cards and possible hands that opponents can have will allow you to figure out how to play for the maximum number of tricks.

This means that even in Duplicate Bridge there is an element of luck.

If I know that the King of Spades is most likely in the hand of my opponent on my left, and I decide to act on that uncertain belief, we've entered the territory of luck. If I was right, I'll have a big advantage over the other "duplicate" teams I'm competing against. If I was wrong, I'll be scored poorly.


The thing with bridge is that, like poker, the game itself is unbiased. There is often an element of probability, but stronger players will tend to play lines that are more likely to succeed, so over time they have a better average performance.

It’s also true in both games that as you improve you develop a deeper understanding to the point where you’re almost playing a different game. Where a beginner might be happy to play 100% lines, an improving player will consider the cards they can see but also what might be happening with the others and they will play lines that get better results on average by looking at the probabilities. A good player will see a bigger picture still, not only considering a priori possibilities for the hidden cards but also drawing inferences from what every other player does or doesn’t do and what each player would have known at the time.

That means a lot of “lucky” decisions that good players make actually had a much higher probability of success than an intermediate player’s calculations would suggest. At this level, both games also have an element of not just playing your own cards well but also painting a credible but incorrect picture for one or more opponents to trick them into doing something that helps you. That certainly does need an excellent understanding of the probabilities, but the final result is mostly due to the skill of the players in setting the trap and then either avoiding or falling into it.


The element of luck is canceled out. If you get a great hand, it doesn’t matter, because your opponent at the other table has the exact same hand.

We could quibble about whether this means there’s zero luck or merely a very small amount of luck involved, but in either case there is at most a small amount of luck.


Luck versus skill as a concept is the idea that you can discriminate between agents ability to win. You can state that one agent is better than another agent at a game with greater confidence bounds on the basis of a quantification of their skill. Perfect information versus imperfect information is the concept of whether you are playing a game over information sets and strategy space versus the states and actions of perfect information.

Conflating these two ideas is going to lead people to talking past each other. They aren't the same concepts.


Speaking of conflation, "luck vs skill" is very different from "luck vs non-luck hidden information."

The idea is to use skill to deal with the hidden information.


Even rubber bridge is usually long enough to even out the luck - where the more skilled partnership will win the rubber most of the time.

But the luck makes it fun even for the less skilled - as everyone can help them bid a slam if they get one.

Four-player duplicate needs a fifth person to arrange the deck/hands.


> Four-player duplicate needs a fifth person to arrange the deck/hands

I'm not sure what this means. The only time I played, we kept our played cards in front of us, face down, and passed them to the other table after the hand. You need eight players, not four, but I don't think you need non-playing helpers.


It doesn’t remove all luck. You may be dealt cards that suit your bidding strategy better than that of your opponent or vice versa.

Given the number of rounds played, that’s unlikely, though, unless one bidding strategy is truly better than the other.


If you're defining Rock, Paper, Scissors as a game of pure skill, that's probably an indication that your definition is bad.

Luck or chance in a game is any factor which causes the outcome between two players of unequal skill to become less certain.


I really liked Stratego growing up. Quite a few of the 3M Bookshelf games were a lot of fun too--in many cases they were pretty much restyled versions of very traditional games.


Teach your kids Tarock, not Bridge.

Ok, that phrasing is mostly just to keep the pattern going. But I do want to bring to light the fact that there are actually a larger class of games of the same sort as Bridge - imperfect information, high skill, with a body of strategy and discussion - than most Americans are aware of.

I think it’s worth mentioning these for two reasons:

1. They’re really wonderful games! And they have deep cultural roots, which can be added delight for those of us who enjoy engaging with other cultures.

2. Bridge players can be kind of… dicks? That is, it’s unfortunate but true that the culture of Bridge can often be quite rigid and unfriendly. Especially to newcomers. As mentioned elsewhere, a surprising amount of Bridge has to do with the conventions encoded in the bidding, and if you don’t know those conventions you might feel rather lost, and your partner might get very annoyed at you.

Luckily, there are other games in the world that are the ‘Bridge’ of their own countries of origin - deep, strategic, rewarding years of play and study - that the average English speaker has never heard of.

I won’t go into too much detail but some highlights are:

- Preferans, a straight-trick-taking game for three from Russia;

- Skat, a point-trick-taking game from Germany;

- Tarocchino, a point trick taking game played with a 62 card tarot deck from Bologna;

- Koenigrufen, a point trick game played with a 54 card tarot deck from Austria;

- Danish tarok, a point trick game played with a 78 card deck;

- Vira, a straight trick taking game from Sweden;

- a half dozen incredibly deep and challenging games from Hungary alone. Something in the water over there.

In point of fact, Bridge is quite interesting, especially if you’re interested in the meta game of communicating through bidding conventions. I am not; there are other games out there that have really interesting features, lots of strategy, and a history dating back hundreds of years. Check them out!

Because I’m an annoying evangelist for this sort of thing, I’ll make sure my email is in my profile in case you’d like to know more.


Adding Doppelkopf a 48 cards combined half decks game. Played by 4. Teams 2 on 2 determined throughout the game. The game was influenced by Skat and Schafkopf and borrows from them. It is however very casual usually and the rule variations depend on the region you are in. Anyway to sum up trick an bid games are really fun!

Fyi for the US there is also binocle that has some traction and at least to my experience has been largely forgotten in the originating areas of Germany.


So happy to see tarot games mentioned on HN, I'm a big fan of their strategic depth and centuries-old cultural background.

Something a lot of people don't realise is that when tarot cards were invented, their intended purpose was to be a game. The whole divination/cartomancy aspect was made up much more recently, mostly to amuse French aristocrats.

An excellent resource for people interested in learning more about this very old tradition is the following YouTube channel:


I'm a huge fan of Hanabi. It's a cooperative game with imperfect information, both because you only know other players' hands (not your own) and because you don't know what order the rest of the cards will come in. But with good strategy and good communication (within the bounds of the game's restricted communication) it's possible to win just about every game.


In Switzerland a lot of people play Jass[0]. It's almost like a national sport. I can't play it, but it feels like I'm part of a minority.

Jass games are even being broadcasted on national TV, it really is a huge part of our culture.



Czechs play a lot of Mariáš it's in some ways similar to bridge specifically the Licitovaný mariáš variant:

There is ordered bidding that often conveys information, further information can be conveyed by playing style (if you hold an advantagous card in betl you use the cards in descending order, otherwise you use descending order) and lots of counting and memorization is involved. Both for the current game as for the next ones - cards are not shuffled only cut - so skillful players can reconstruct approximately who has what cards based on the previous game.

On the other hand it's most often played in a loud pub with a beer in hand so lots of mistakes are made.

It's also referenced frequently in literature esp. from 1st half of 20th century (Hasek, Polacek)


This reminded me of an article in WSJ a few years ago that “Bridge is the ultimate war game”.

> Great bridge players are great liars—as are brilliant military leaders and diplomats and politicians.

> No board game can replicate the conditions of the battlefield or the maneuvers of geostrategy, for one simple reason: All of the pieces are visible on the table.

The linked article talks about these ideas in more depth and compares bridge to other games like poker, chess, and go.

Makes me want to give it a go, for sure.


It’s not true that all board war games are perfect knowledge - things like Napoleon at Marengo have army markers that face the player so the other player doesn’t know what the strength is (could even be a blank as a feint).

Various other war games implement different forms of fog of war that can be quite strategic.


> No board game can replicate the conditions of the battlefield or the maneuvers of geostrategy, for one simple reason: All of the pieces are visible on the table.

Uh, Kriegsspiel chess?

Maybe a combination of Chess960 + Kriegsspiel would be even better...



All the pieces are visible on the table in that, though, even if you don't know what they are. Kriegspiel chess has an empty board.


There's the board game Diplomacy, reportedly a favorite of JFK and Kissinger.

Yes, all the pieces are there on the board for everyone to see, but the whole point of the game is the secret negotiations with the other players.


Uh, what about games like Monopoly that have a huge luck/negotiating component? Even in board games where all the pieces are visible, it is possible for a skilled opponent to feint or obfuscate their strategy.


I think the author makes some good points, and certainly I find this article more more compelling than the poker one. Trick-taking card games seem like a great choice for kids. However, when I looked into bridge specifically, the following things turned me off.

1) It requires a dedicated, long-term partner. If your partner isn't available, you can't play. "Pick up" bridge with strangers simply isn't feasible in the way that randomly matching teams on, e.g., an online FPS or tower defense games is.

2) The game is fundamentally broken by certain bidding strategies, which must be banned.

3) There's no way to prevent opponents from cheating by using out-of-game signals (e.g. timing of bids). This can even be done unintentionally. So fair play is always an open question.

Perhaps someone who knows more can comment about whether I'm wrong?


I am the author, and I have played bridge for a very long time:

1. Pick-up bridge is certainly possible, and you can walk into a club and find a partner. You have to be playing a "standard" bidding system with them, though. If you do this, expect to play a lot of Standard or 2/1 in America, ACOL in Britain, etc.

2. This is kind of true, except the strategies that are banned are mostly banned because people don't want to play against them. The ACBL is run by grandmas who want you to play bridge like a grandma, so they ban a lot of things. The world bridge federation is a lot more reasonable. The only truly game-breaking bidding systems were forcing-pass systems, and those are banned in order to preserve the diversity of the game (if not, everyone at a competitive level would have to use a forcing pass system).

3. I think this is correct, although cheaters do end up getting caught when their play deviates too much from "correct." Fantoni/Nunes ended up getting caught this way.


Bridge anti-cheating is some of the most elaborate in the world: at the top level everything is sanitized to remove the possibility of information transfer.

For local or friendly play it can be much more fun to openly discuss the hand as it’s being played, especially if one pair is much better at bridge than the other.


Bridge seems to be a game of "lets take all the good parts of Spades then overcomplicate it".

Kids can definitely learn all the lessons mentioned by playing Spades and its much quicker to teach.

Most of the fun in Spades is not being serious, which is easier if you're not playing for money. Long bizarre rambling hilarious discussions about how many tricks we can take vs how much BS the other team can throw down. If you play with super strict players whom think anything other than saying a number is "cheating" then Spades is incredibly boring. "Well I donno maybe with some luck I think I could possibly take three if I'm lucky how are you feeling?" "Oh they're saying they'll take 8, you know those two, they're always overbidding, how do you feel about taking 9."

Imagine playing DnD but all you can do is roll dice, call out numbers, and not talk any shit at the table.


Where I was in high-school, bridge happened to be extremely popular (and also another Whist variant, some kind of Oh Hell).

I can assure you that most of the bridge games from that high-school time were extremely funny and hilarious.

So I do not believe that whether a game is boring or funny has much to do with the rules of the game, but more with what kind of players participate.

Also, I do not believe that the rules of bridge are too complicated. When I was much younger, many simpler card games were entertaining, but by the time we were in high-school, most other card games, except bridge, seemed much too simple to provide any kind of intellectual satisfaction after a skillful win.


I like bridge. I want bridge to be more popular, but I don't think that will happen.

To extend from your first point. Top level players have their dedicated partner, and their own bidding system where the information transmitted is much more refined. This is all very fascinating!

But it also makes it unwatchable for anyone not dedicated to this art. Sometimes even the commentators don't know the meaning of a bid.


Bridge can be played online. I practise my skills there against the robots. It takes constant practise to interpret the bidding and play, aiming to work out the cards that the other players hold.

The most unusual aspect of bridge is that after the bidding finishes, one player (the dummy) puts their cards face up on the table. I don't know of any other card games where this happens.

Chess works really well online. Your rating is quickly adjusted so that you are playing players of similar ability. Bridge has a longer learning curve. You need to go to lessons to learn a bidding system. Though, I do remember one night at a club where a young guy brought his classmate along to play. Their whole system was, "If I bid a suit, support my suit".

Some (younger) bridge players stream their online games on Twitch:


As someone who has played international checkers (the 10x10 board), chess, go and bridge (although only chess and bridge in a club) I can concur. Bridge has the analytical dimension (at least with duplicate bridge), and compared to e.g. Klaverjassen or Belotte, the rules are very simple. (There is some complexity in the bidding part of bridge, but bidding can be postponed in the initial stages when learning the game)

Just as the rules for international checkers are easier then the rules of chess, it is much more difficult to play very well. (While in e.g. chess you have much usage of heuristics like a rook is better then a knight, these simple heuristics do not work as well in international checkers).

As bridge also had the psychological dimension (trying to trick your opponent by faking a finesse), I agree it teaches life lessons that can help you further down the road.

(Furthermore: while chess is often a game of two - the classical variant is two players playing one game in the evening on the chess club, hardly talking at all - bridge is a more social game. Personal bonus for me: chess means either success of failure, while with bridge you can play e.g. 28 games in one evening, and go away with those 3 beautiful hands you played while forgetting the 5 times you blundered).

The only game I find more elegant is Go, but I find the time necessary to play a single game to long (and in the Western world there are not that many simple to find opponents).


> The only game I find more elegant is Go, but I find the time necessary to play a single game to long

We have various board sizes! A 9x9 is quick, while still being interesting enough even to strong players.

> (and in the Western world there are not that many simple to find opponents)

Come on, you are on the internet ;)

As for online play, OGS [0] is where the Westerners hang out, and GoQuest [1] is where the quick hassle-free 9x9 online play is: with 3 minutes per player, a game takes around 5 minutes.

Also, at least in Europe, most major and not so major cities have some semblance of a go club or a semi-regular meetup.




> Unless you want to introduce gambling to your children, this fact alone disqualifies poker.

Why wouldn't I? Gambling teaches math, probability, detecting deception, the sunk cost fallacy, sticking to a budget, dealing with disappointment, and if you win, generosity of sharing your win.

Maybe I'm biased because growing up Jewish we learn gambling at a very young age (playing dreidel) but we're also using blackjack and poker with our kids to teach them all the things I said above.


There is a big benefit to learning about how to gamble well as a kid, but that is offset (in my opinion) by learning that it is good to gamble. It needs to be drilled into a good gambler's head that they should take good bets as long as their bankroll supports it but avoid bad bets. Most people who learn to play poker don't learn that.

Incidentally, I believe that it is also good to teach teens about fine wines and spirits (to expand their palates) and how to drink in moderation and avoid hangovers (to help them in social situations). Many people who start drinking early also don't learn those lessons.

Kids also pick up a lot from context, so if you teach your child to gamble using a dreidel on a holiday, it is a very different thing than teaching them to gamble with online poker (for example). It's very easy to learn the wrong lessons from games like poker and blackjack.


>and how to drink in moderation and avoid hangovers (to help them in social situations). Many people who start drinking early also don't learn those lessons.

Looking at drinking age 21 in the US vs drinking age 16 in Germany, I would say German college students don't put so much effort in getting wasted in my experience.

Starting earlier gives some time, where the kids are still somewhat under the control of their parents, to adapt to alcohol. At 21 I feel like a lot of Americans already have an unhealthy obsession with getting wasted, because they've waited so long to get there.

I do understand that in the US you get your driver's license at 16, and having these events coincide would be horrible, but it's not entirely clear cut to me whether this trade-off is good.


whereas east asia mostly has a drinking age intermediate between the two and, in turn, get absolutely turbo-sozzled, mega-crunked even more than americans. only comparable to east europeans, really.

more the state of society than the number


>It needs to be drilled into a good gambler's head that they should take good bets as long as their bankroll supports it but avoid bad bets. Most people who learn to play poker don't learn that.

Absolutely true, and to add to that, even taking good bets requires disciplined bankroll management. Too many gamblers seem to think a bet that won means it was good; and that it's an oxymoron to take a good bet which loses.

Tangentially related, it's important to learn to seek out mispriced odds or lines in sports bets. For example, the recent Mavericks Suns game 7 had the Suns favored by ~6.5 points depending on the oddsmaker, which translates to ~94% implied probability of winning. I saw this as mispriced and so I bet on the Mavericks, expecting to lose - I thought the Suns would win, but nowhere near a 94% probability of winning (I didn't pick a number, but I'd have estimated something like 60% probability to win); therefore I felt it was a "good" bet to take. If the suns won and I lost money (which was my expectation), it was still a good bet to take.

As an additional point of interest, after the game, I googled to find out the home team in NBA game 7s had won the game 78% of the time (after last week, the number is now 77%).


Depends on the gambling. Casual games with friends/family is one thing, but definitely teach them that Casinos are not the same thing and exist to part fools (or rich people already set for life) from their money, no matter how badass some movies make them out to be.

I'd rather they learn risk taking through strategy games with incomplete information (like XCOM 2, Starcraft, Among Us, etc). That gives them a range of strategies to experiment with and will teach the perils of both risking too much and being too conservative. Most traditional gambling assumes a position of "luck is part of the fun" as opposed to treating it as a risk to be managed. Because if you treated it as a risk to be managed, and the requisite luck level is set so high, why play the game in the first place?


> Casinos are not the same thing and exist to part fools (or rich people already set for life) from their money, no matter how badass some movies make them out to be.

Viewing a casino as a place to make money is certainly an error. However with smart play and a bankroll of $20,000 or more you can get a VIP experience at an excellent average price in Las Vegas. A room, food, and beverage comp from your host can easily have a nominal daily value in the low four digits if you have a nice room and eat and drink at the nice places owned by the property you play at. You will be expected to spend a minimum of four hours a day at the tables though, so it’s not really worth it unless you enjoy the games. Personally I find blackjack and craps entertaining, albeit for very different reasons. Incidentally those games are very close to even odds.

You don’t have to beat the house edge, you just have to beat the house edge less their marketing budget. The casino allocates marketing dollars, that is comps, based on your theoretical loss. Last I knew for blackjack the theo assumed a 2% house edge and marketing will refund about 30% of that in comps. That’s regardless of how well or poorly you do. Since even competent basic strategy brings the house edge down to a 0.5% you’re already ahead there.


> However with smart play and a bankroll of $20,000 or more you can get a VIP experience at an excellent average price in Las Vegas.

Curious if you could expand on “smart play”? Which strategies do you consider? Just basic BJ strategy and come bets with odds? Or something else? How much do you bet per hand to get RFB comps?


We (the kids in our neighborhood) learned gambling at a young age. For some, this was associated with compulsive behaviors, criminal misconduct via mafia-associated illicit gambling rackets, and further organized criminal activities.

Gambling is a vice. Where there is a vice, other vices exist.

I agree with your comment primarily but suspect that the influence on life outcome of learning gambling at a young age is environmentally and culturally dependent.


Impulsive gambling is a vice.

Games with sufficient game theoretic aspects can also be excellent intellectual playgrounds for strategic planning in uncertain situations.




At what age did you learn to gamble?

Gambling is highly emotional and triggering. How were the inevitable outbursts handled?


Don’t forget risk management.




Teach your Kids Many Different Games, Not Just One.

Domain specific intelligence optimizes for particular games, but our kids will play lots of games all their lives, and they need to be able to play them reasonably well. And of course, I'm not really talking about games. I'm talking about situations with different rules.

Sequential circuits are so much easier to imagine and discover when you start drawing them down as flows and transformations, inputs and outputs. If you thought that the only way to describe a circuit was as a simple Boolean expression, you'd have only been left with combinational circuits..


Getting especially good at one thing is very good for a person.


Specialization is for insects. A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. --Robert Heinlein

We shouldn't be hyper focused on becoming "especially good" at one thing but . Jack of all trades, master of none, makes you better able to see and apply relevant knowledge to different areas. It's good to know your own limits, but not good to to only focus on one area and ignore others.


The world economy and the mega-prosperity of the 20th century onwards depends solely on providing the means for individuals to become highly specialized in return for a livelihood comfortable in proportion to the utility of their specialization.

Of course it's good always to learn new things, but expecting everyone to be able to "plan an invasion, butcher a hog.. program a computer" is a rhetorical judgement on the potential of humans that ignores the realities of the modern world.


It can be, but there's also a good amount of risk and opportunity cost that comes with that.

Maybe the thing you get especially good at turns out to be useless or low-paying (for a profession) or of limited fun, social potential, or replay value (for a game).

I would much rather become a generalist and learn a bunch of things, and then do some limited, "shallow specialization" when the need and opportunity arises. But I think you're still more likely on average to be successful/happy with a more generalist/breadth approach.


Well it's not zero sum. You can specialize in one thing but still dabble in others


GP invoked the modern saying "Jack of all trades, master of none." The original saying was "A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one." In other words, if the choice was between average knowledge of many things OR having an incredible knowledge of one thing sans much else, the former was likely preferable.

I tend to think that everything I know represents a thousand things I don't. In other words, there is only so much time in the day or so much space in my brain. If the choice isn't simply binary, as is implied by that original saying, I think it would be preferable to be a "jack of all trades, master of ONE."

Western societies, and probably others, seemed to have this ingrained for quite some time. So much so that people would adopt a name that reflected their mastery (or profession): "Smith", "Cooper", "Fletcher", etc. Obviously, most people through-out history lived in incredible scarcity and consequently had to be somewhat skilled in a variety of things simply to survive. Specialization was the exception for quite some time. It wasn't until technological advancement, widespread usage of labor-saving devices, and later the industrial revolution, that specialization by large numbers of people was feasible (due to the abundance of resources from the efficient production of goods).


Expertise has its place, but it is not everything.

Also expertise is not the only component to career success, and everything isn't about career success either.


Why do we teach our kids games? Is it so they become especially good at playing chess? or poker? or bridge? Are we hoping that they'll go pro? I think your comment misses my point. We prepare our kids for life. Not just for a job. And life involves all kinds of skills.


I didn't say "only ever doing one thing and doing it well is good for a person". Learning multiple games is also good; learning many things is also good, my (trite) point is that IMO there is a specific virtue in the pursuit of excellence: the stripping away of imperfections, the alterations to one's temperament required to reach excellence and then to demonstrate it, the self-knowledge of what it takes and that one has it and could demonstrate it again, pure self-esteem, etc.