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A Good New-Fashioned Programming Throwdown

We just concluded our most challenging developer arena yet, the one-month Criss-Cross tournament. In this post, I recap the challenge, crown the champions, showcase the winning solutions, and tease you with our next multiplayer level.

In Criss-Cross, humans and ogres compete to build paths across a chasm by bidding on bridge tiles. Unlike the all-out war of our last tournament, Greed, Criss-Cross was not based in combat. However, there was plenty of turmoil to be found in the cold efficiency with which players outbid one another. You just need that one tile–but your opponent knows it. They’ve modeled your bidding strategy, and now they’re going to outbid you by a single coin!

Each match is best-three-out-of-five, and we used Bayesian Battle to calculate player skill rankings after running an exhaustive 65,000 matches on a 32-core c3.8xlarge machine. Here are the results.

Playing in the World Series of Poker as an Underqualified Amateur

On Tynan

To my left is Barry Schulman, the owner of CardPlayer magazine, and a professional poker player. At the next table over is Jennifer Harman, considered to be one of the very best limit hold'em players in the world. As the dealer starts flinging the cards around our table, Jennifer stands up. She's just been busted out of the same tournament I'm playing.

I look down at my cards and see pocket queens, the third best hand you can be dealt. I've been waiting for a hand like this for hours.

Amid a field of 675 poker players, the majority of them professionals, and a handful of them famous, only 100 players remain. Improbably, I'm one of them. Luck has a giant part to play in this, of course. If not, I would have been busted out long before Jennifer Harman was. But at the same time, playing for twelve hours with some of the best poker players on earth has given me a lot of confidence. They're better than me, but I've held my own. I'm good enough, at least, to not be totally run over.

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