November 26th, 2008


Proving that there is sometimes justice in the world...

Two related stories from a couple of days ago, both demonstrating that sometimes the bad guys do get their comeuppance:

First, the court judged that SCO owes Novell $2.54 million. If ever I needed a personal definition of schadenfreude, this would provide it. SCO was a good company once upon a time (like, 25 years ago), but for over a decade now it has served only one purpose: claiming that it owns the rights to Unix, and trying to sue everyone involved in the Linux business for vast amounts of money. Their claim was that Linux infringes on Unix code, and that since they bought the rights to Unix from Novell, everybody who has ever done anything significant with Linux owes them big bucks.

Well, this has slowly turned into a rueful comedy of errors. First, it gradually became clear that no, Linux does not, in any meaningful sense, infringe on Unix' intellectual property. Worse, in the course of *those* lawsuits, it turned out that they never quite succeeding in buying Unix from Novell -- they thought they had, but they didn't read the fine print on the contract that they'd signed. In fact, not only does Novell still own Unix, SCO owes *them* money for everything they've ever done with it.

So while this judgement isn't all that large in the grand scheme of things, it's a fine bit of ironic justice -- hoist very much by their own petard. And it should be the final nail in the coffin of The Lawsuits That Wouldn't Die.

Second, the courts awarded an eye-popping $873 million judgement to Facebook against a major spammer. Of course, nobody (including Facebook) actually expects them to receive even a small fraction of that money. But it ought to put at least one egregious spammer out of business, and helps eat into the business case for spam. It's a small step, but a good one...

New Poker Variations

Our monthly poker table has a tendency to be... inventive. We typically get one or two new variations each month, often good ones. It occurs to me that there might be some interest in the worthwhile variations, so let's start writing them up as they come in. (These will go into the wiki page soon, but my site seems to be down today. Grr.) Here are this month's.

Johannesburg: High concept came to new_man in a dream. This is a Seven Stud variant. Pairs and straights must be entirely of the same color. (Not suit; color.) Trips (and thus boats) are unnatural, and thus illegal. High hand splits with the high diamond in the hole.

Analysis: A pretty good game -- the consistency of concept makes the complex rules fairly easy to remember. With so many normal hands wiped out of play, hands that would ordinarily be weak become considerably more powerful. A flush should usually win.

Puppetmaster: Invented by me after someone made a crack about wanting to choose somebody else's cards in Bargain Basement. This is a Seven Stud variant. As in Bargain Basement, the up cards do not get dealt out normally; instead, three options are placed on the table to choose from, and a new card is filled into the open slot after one is chosen. The difference here is that, in the first, second and fourth up rounds, you choose the card for the guy to your left. (Also, there is no payment in this game: all cards are free.) In the third up round, you get to break free of control, and choose the card for yourself.

Analysis: Not bad -- worth playing more and experimenting with. Obviously, people are generally choosing crap for each other, so this falls to lowish hands. The third up round is critical, since it is your one chance to make your own decision and exposes some information about your situation.

Variations: Might try reversing who does the picking (that is, the person downstream would pick instead of the one upstream), which could lend a *tiny* bit more tactics, in that it would allow you to knock out one option you *don't* want to have picked for you. Might try Madison Avenue, which would be closer to Bargain Basement, with the puppetmaster having to pay the usual Bargain Basement price for the cards. (Or possibly the puppetmaster *always* has to pay if he wants to pick; if he doesn't, it's a free choice for the victim.)

Let's also toss in one bonus game, which isn't all that new (we've been playing it for several months now), but it has become a particular table favorite, so it's worth promulgating more widely:

Liege Lord: A variation of Sidewinder (which was itself originally a variation of Anaconda); I don't remember offhand who invented this, possibly Fernando. This is a Seven Stud variation with two twists. All cards are dealt face-down, but in the third through seventh rounds, you must pass one card to your left; then (in the third through sixth rounds) roll your own. So far, that is exactly Sidewinder; the difference is that in Liege Lord, the winner splits the pot with the person standing to his right.

Analysis: A great, subtle game. Since you win *either* by having the best hand yourself or by feeding the best hand, there is strong incentive to pass good and consistent cards downstream. A lot of people tend to stay in until the end, on the theory that the person they've been feeding to has a better hand than themselves; a fold can cascade down the line as people realize this isn't so. You have a lot of information, especially if you pay close attention both to what you passed and what the people downstream are showing.