Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Partial Information Game of Divided Attention

I’ve been spending a little bit of time off and on over the last couple of days watching Jason Somerville’s live streaming from the Aussie Millions over on his Twitch channel. Was up late last night doing other work, and so since the live stuff essentially happens overnight for those of us on Eastern time (and 16 hours behind Melbourne), it provided me a chance to keep the stream on as background.

Because I wasn’t wholly focused on watching the action, I was often just relying on Somerville’s (invariably good) commentary on hands, occasionally clicking on that tab to look up from my work and watch whenever it sounded like something interesting was going on. After a while I realized my own method was kind of emulating that of the players themselves who were playing at the feature table there on Day 2 of the Aussie Millions Main Event.

If you’ve watched any of the streaming, you know to what I’m referring. The action was on a half-hour delay, necessitated by the fact that the the hole cards were being shown. That meant most of those around the table were often looking at their phones at Somerville’s stream, taking advantage of the fact that they could learn more about how their opponents were playing by seeing their hole cards from earlier hands.

In other words, just like my own attention on the action was divided, so, too, was the attention of the players only partly on what was happening at that moment and otherwise focused on what went down a half-hour before, as revealed by the stream.

Somerville’s commentary was also sometimes incorporating the players’ discovery of each other’s hole cards from earlier hands. “It looks like Jeff Gross just found out he successively avoided Julius Colman’s set right before the break,” Somerville once noted as a new hand was being dealt, and when I looked up I saw Gross looking down at his phone while chatting with Colman about the hand.

Indeed, a half-hour before Gross had folded ace-queen following a 10-J-4 flop after Colman had bet (see the pic above), saying as he did he suspected Colman had pocket jacks. Now, watching the stream (see at left), Gross was discovering Colman indeed had a set, though with pocket tens.

I got to thinking about how it is a bit of work for the players to catch those moments on the stream, and of course if they’re involved in a new hand that distracts them further from following the action from a half-hour before. Also, it was clear that while most of the players at the table were checking their phones, not everyone was, and so that added another variable when it came to the information-gathering.

Would probably be best just to have the stream running on a screen near the table, much like the tournament clock. Not saying it’s a must (nor wanting to reengage the same old arguments about fairness and televised/streamed poker), although perhaps for final tables -- like, say, at the WSOP Main Event -- it should be considered.

Some tournament should try it, at least, just as an experiment. I’m sure it would get some attention, anyway. Or at least whatever attention most of us had left to give it while we were doing other things.


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