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Trick-Play Tool Development
#1
rakbeater and I are currently grappling with the program development for teaching Bidding; this takes considerable time and effort as it is a highly debatable subject.

Anyhow, after we get through that, we will need to develop the program for teaching how to play in the Trick-round of pinochle.  I think we'll try to split it up into 3 levels.  The first being "Basics" that a new/inexperienced player needs to know to get through their first hand and the last being the catch-all for very complex and skillful maneuvers.

I took a pencil and paper to bed last night and started to jot some ideas down.  Before trying to assign different skills to certain levels, I wanted to pool all the possible terms and skills.  I hope others will add what I've missed; here's what I have so far (not necessarily in any order):
  • Following Suit (Rule)
  • Trumping (Rule)
  • Pointing (& Not Pointing)
  • Leading Aces
  • Exiting (Basics would probably see Q of trump as default)
  • Leading Without Aces
  • Ace Leadback
  • Lead Selection (e.g. choosing between aces)
  • Exiting Selection
  • Sandbagging
  • Ducking
  • Playing for Last Trick
  • Cross-Ruffing
  • J-Leadback
  • K-Leadback
  • Setting up / Running a Sidesuit
  • Bleeding trump
I am certain there is more to add.  Please do.

Now, beyond teaching the terms and skills, I need to offer all pertinent information to make decisions that range from basic to expert.  What sources of information are vital?
My short list is:
  • Player's own cards
  • Table's Meld Units
  • Trick History (not just the last trick, but all played tricks)
  • Trump suit and Declarer
  • Table position
  • Thrown cards in current trick
Simpler plays require less background information.  Some expert plays require much of the above list.  If I am to make a training game out of this, I need to think about all the variables that a player may consider.

p.s. I did want to put this thread in a Play forum, but the content pertains to both Offense and Defense so I had to choose between Pinochle Discussion and this forum.  Because it is also about Site Development, I put it here.
It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life. -- Mickey Mantle
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#2
I don't have anything to add at the moment, but I look forward to using this program.  It seems like it would be a great tool to help players at all levels improve their skill.
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#3
One nice thing about developing this for the Web is you're not limited to any fixed page size, so you can really expound at length.


I would suggest that the VERY basics...the mechanics (must cover, must ruff, counters, last trick) don't belong in the 'play' section.  I'd lean to an Introduction section, that covers these "if you've never played before" aspects, because you have both bidding and play points to make there.

I think it's easiest to start with *early* declarer play, NOT considering information about the dummy or defense from the melds.  You probably know by now that I like to teach principles, so one thing I would tend to do quickly is to give a way to categorize hands as declarer.  There aren't that many broad categories, so it shouldn't be that hard for a beginner to pick them up.  And it does get him thinking, early on, about the whole hand, even without realizing it.

The categories:

--A below-par trump suit (save situations, for example)...regardless of the rest of the hand, this one aspect is dominant.

--A side suit to set up for tricks (e.g. AATTxx)

--A side suit to use for ruffing (e.g. AAQQJJ)

--No clear path...semi-balanced hands like 7-5-4-4 (the trump suit is the 7 card suit).  This might be the area to start.  The tactical points become side suit and trump suit strength...a hand like 

AS AS TS KS KS QS JS TD TD KD QD JD AC AC KC JC AH TH KH JH

tends to play rather differently from 

AS TS KS KS QS QS JS TD TD KD QD JD AC TC KC JC TH KH QH JH

The latter is admittedly a dog. Smile  But we have to play them sometimes.  The first hand is reasonably played by cashing the 3 side aces and exiting with a trump;  the timing for you is still pretty good no matter what.  (And write several paragraphs discussing the possibilities.)  The second hand...bleah.  You've got SO MANY losers, plus trump problems.  Starting trump early runs a BIG risk of losing control of the hand.  After cashing the club AC  I'd lean towards the  QD as the card most likely to help me attack THEIR trumps while protecting mine.  A key point to make is, I'm playing this hand *defensively* even tho I'm declarer.  I 

Hmm, that might be an early point to bring up.  Attacking vs. passive...because that's something that comes up for the defense later.  
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#4
I think for the lowest level of this future tool, I would blend basic rules with simple decisions that are correct when there is no additional signals, knowledge, influences available.
The Basics should provide JUST enough information to get a new player through their first hand.

Then as the tool levels increases the complexity should increase.  We should progressively cover how to signal, and how to process signals/knowledge/influences and suggest mostly correct actions.

Who knows, maybe 3 levels will be insufficient.  Time will tell.

Any other considerations?
It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life. -- Mickey Mantle
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