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Why backgammon?”

Because it has been called a cruel game and I want to play a cruel game.” Leslie smiled at her friend.

It’s cruel because you’re going to give yourself a penalty for losing?” Craig frowned in return.

No. The game is cruel in itself.”

How can backgammon be cruel apart from your self-imposed penalties? It’s just a dice game.”

It’s cruel because chance has such a large effect on the outcome. There’s a lot of strategy behind backgammon, but if you get bad rolls, you’ll lose even if you play well. The cruel part about that is that it makes you are uncertain about why you lost. That keeps poor players from getting better. They spend their whole lives playing badly and cursing the dice. They don’t even try to learn to play properly.”

How much does chance matter?”

It depends. If two people play exactly the same, then the outcome is determined completely by the dice. On the other hand if one player plays really badly and the other really well, then the bad player will almost always lose. But it’s never certain. Sometimes, the dice will be against the better player and it doesn’t matter how brilliantly she plays.”

Do you think that you play well?”

Leslie smiled. “Yes, I think that I play well. Most of the time, I beat most of the people on the Internet who call themselves ‘experts’”

But just knowing that you win more often than you lose isn’t enough to satisfy you?”

No. It’s only interesting if you care about the outcome.”

And these envelopes will make sure that you care.” Craig nudged the three manila envelopes that were stacked next to the computer.

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