Friday, March 18, 2011

Poker = Tennis: A Categorical Equivalence of Games

Recently, while watching a tennis match, I was chatting with a friend of mine, my first poker teacher.  Back in 2006, after following his online poker play for a semester, my understanding of the game increased dramatically.  I had a breakthrough that I imagine most other beginning poker players have at some point, during which they rapidly realize their previous approach to the game needs to be completely scrapped.  My simplistic method could not accommodate the depth of poker, and so I rebuilt my strategies within a new framework and became much better at the game.  If you're reading, thanks man.

So while we watched Federer demolish some early round opponent at the Australian Open or Dubai, I tried to catch up on my poker gossip, asking about the results of recent tournaments.   Quite naturally, we started comparing what we were talking about (poker) to what we were watching (tennis).  To my surprise, the comparison was quite fruitful: many characteristics of one game had an analogous feature in the other game.  Now, before we get to this likeness of games, I'd like to introduce the theoretical framework which will serve as the language of the comparison: category theory.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two Footballing Intellects: Messi vs. Ronaldo

I have an embarrassing secret, a dirty little obsession which I need to own up to...

I spend a lot of time reading the user comment sections on ESPN

Now, you might think that I'm hungry for intelligent discourse about football tactics or transfer possibilities, but if that were the case I wouldn't be ashamed.  The sort of discussion I'm looking for is much more "Jersey Shore" than "60 Minutes."  Every time that site churns out another article, I'm scrolling through the comments seeking the most radically biased fan(atic)s and listening to their latest rants.

The commenter might be cataloging every bad decision made by the referee, or perhaps spewing profanities about the actions or words of a rival team's supporters.  Maybe they've just realized the perfect combination of transfers to complete their dream team (never mind that the total cost must be written in scientific notation to fit on one page).  Often they go so far as to recount long-past glories or predict ambitious results for next season.

But more likely, they are feverishly explaining why Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo, or vice versa.

A Quick Hello

Hi there.  I'm Sawyer, a mid-twenties academic from the USA.  I enjoy soccer, tennis, poker, math, science, and other stuff that will probably come up later.  Lately I've been wanting to practice my writing skills, and so this blog came into being.  The topics will mostly revolve around football, particularly in La Liga, but I'll write about whatever else interests me as well.  Please enjoy, and leave a comment if you have any thoughts about my posts.