Sunday, August 11, 2013

O'Dell Lake

Everyone has heard the expression "Everything you really need to know you learned in kindergarten."  The other day as I was trying to explain my new mining analogy to someone at the 40/80 game (the 40 games are the salt mines, you see.  I had tried my luck in the diamond mines earlier in the day, and basically got thrown down the shaft with no ladder and no rope, just a pick ax dick in my hand), it occurred to me that the Commerce top section is pretty much exactly the same as the educational game O'Dell Lake that I played on Macs in the late 80s in elementary school.  The premise of the game was very simple.  You were a fish (the parallels begin already) in a vast and complicated ecosystem (see?).  The main way to play was a timed version where you assigned an identity at random (such as Whitefish) and had to navigate the lake.  Each "stage" amounted to being presented with a single obstacle and being asked to decide how to handle it.  Your choices were basically the same that you have walking around in the commerce top section on a day to day basis:

1.  Ignore the obstacle.  "Jesse, 2/4 hold 'em!"  "Roll me"
2.  Eat the obstacle.  "New game 60 hold 'em!"  "Lock it!"
3.  Run away, either deep or shallow.

Depending on which fish you were, the correct answer for each obstacle you faced changed.  If you chose the best possible option you would be awarded max points.  If you chose one that was acceptable (didn't get you killed) but was less than optimal (say running away from a fish you could have ignored, since neither of you were big enough to eat the other) you got some points.  If you missed a chance to eat something nourishing you got no points, and if you chose an option that got you eaten (such as a deep escape when staring down the dreaded Mackinaw Trout), the game ended immediately.  If it had just been half a dozen species of fish where basically big eats small obviously the game couldn't even hold the interest of an 8 year old, but there were a few additional wrinkles.  Otters and osprey needed to be avoided by way of deep escapes.  Various species of plants such as algae or plankton often drifted by;  smaller fish found these tasty to eat, but bigger ones did not.  And occasionally something that looked like food turned out to just be a fisherman's bait!

I remember playing the game a ton (which probably means like three or four times, total, given the way we often remember things from 2 decades ago) and the parallels to the commerce top section are just striking.  You are some small member of the ecosystem, and you need to figure out how to navigate the other creatures and games in a way that gives you the chance to score max points.  Some players have a short clock, others have a longer one.  The goals for each player can vary drastically, as can their abilities.  When faced with the same obstacle (opening a new 1/2 game) it can be correct for two players to make different decisions about whether or not to sit, even if they have the exact same skill set!  Obviously this wasn't modeled in O'Dell lake, but you can see how it might be true at Commerce.  My decision to sit in a new game is often based on how much longer I can stay;  big games are usually about waiting to see if they get good, and if you don't have time to do that, it's probably better to just stay where you are and finish out the day (this is another advantage people who basically live at the casino have over the commuters).  But aside from that, players with different skill sets need to sit in different games (and navigate obstacles differently) in order to achieve max points.  This is a critical thing that I seem to learn every 6 months;  I am flat out more comfortable in loose passive juicy games where 4 or 6 people take every flop than in ones where aggressive opponents end up tangling heads up or three ways with very wide ranges.  In short, a good game for someone else (attack!) might be a bad idea for me (shallow escape), and even vice versa (there are players who cannot stand the loose passive bingo fests and go on tilt almost immediately upon sitting in them).

Coupled with my Oregon Trail skills, my O'Dell lake experience should make a formidable member of the Commerce fish tank;  maybe not a Mackinaw Trout, but perhaps at least a Dolly Varden.

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