A Lesson in Odds

Hey everyone! I’m back this week with another article. This time I’m going to be talking about playing the odds.

In my last article I described my thought process behind making what I think to be the single best play in a given situation. In that article, one of the things I said that you should consider was avoiding unnecessary risks. Today I want to expand on that a bit by explaining something I don’t think a lot of people understand.

An Example

Let me start out by giving an example to demonstrate my point. Let’s say that you’re going first against an unknown deck and this is your hand:

Spirit Reaper
Tour Guide From the Underworld
One for One
Torrential Tribute
Maxx “C”
Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning

Your first intuition may be to summon Tour Guide, grab Sangan, set Torrential and end. Then you get to Torrential whatever your opponent does and search out Dandylion with Sangan leaving you with One for One Dandylion.

Well that sounds nice, assuming it works out like that, but are you taking any unnecessary risks by doing this? I’d say that you are.  What if your opponent had Mystical Space Typhoon/Heavy Storm and Thunder King Rai-Oh? You’d be put in an absolutely horrible position if this happened. You would be forced to stall with Reaper and hope to draw an out while your opponent has significant pressure on board and clearly has the upper hand.

Mystical Space Typhoon is generally played as a two of in just about every deck. Heavy Storm is also played in just about every deck. Thunder King Rai-Oh is also played in twos and in threes in many decks. Assuming your opponent plays 2 Mystical Space Typhoon, 1 Heavy Storm, and 2-3 Thunder King Rai-oh, there’s a pretty significant chance that they will have a combination of the two and if they do, you will probably lose that game.

Now let’s examine a safer play. I think that the best play in this situation would be to summon Tour Guide, get Sangan, XYZ into Zenmaines, set Torrential and end. This play doesn’t really lose to anything commonly played. All it does is slow the game down to a point that isn’t “If you have X you win, but if you don’t, I win.” There is no real risk involved in this play and overall it is a better play.

You can also apply this to other situations. Just replace the “X” in “If you have X you win, but if you don’t, I win” with a different card like for example Gorz. Let’s say that your opponent has an open field with one card in hand to your Thunder King Rai-Oh and Mystical Space Typhoon in hand. If you attack with the Thunder King Rai-Oh, you outright lose the game if they have Gorz, so why attack? You’re in total control as it is. Instead of just attacking why not just wait to attack until you have drawn an out to it if they did have it? Attacking in this situation is essentially the definition of unnecessary risk.

The Lesson

At this point you may be thinking “Why should I let my plays be defined by a relatively small amount of outs my opponent might have?” and hey, you’ve got a point. Chances are, they don’t have Mystical Space Typhoon and Thunder King Rai-Oh. Chances are, that one card in hand isn’t Gorz. So why should we still avoid making these plays that would lose if our opponents had one of these relatively few outs?

Well let’s think about it a different way and maybe you’ll agree with where I’m coming from. You sit down and it’s the first round of the YCS. You’ve been saving for forever to take this trip and were determined to top and prove you’re as good as the rest of them. Pairings go up and you win your dice roll and choose to start the match. You open with the Plant hand mentioned in the example above. You choose to start with Tour Guide into Sangan, set Torrential because let’s face it, the chances of them having Heavy Storm/Mystical Space Typhoon and Thunder King Rai-Oh is pretty small. Hey look, they didn’t have it and you Torrential whatever they do and grab Dandylion and win the game shortly afterward. You proceed to the second round where in game three you are presented with the second example. You could attack with Thunder King and deal the extra 1900, but if they have Gorz as that one card in hand, they’d win. Once again, you decide that the chances of them having Gorz are very low and decide to attack instead of waiting. Again you luck out and they don’t have it. You proceed with your day and lose round 5 because your opponent opened so well that there was nothing you could do. You then lose round 8 to a very poor hand in game 3. Both of these losses were probably unavoidable and you just got unlucky, but hey, there’s still day two.  You take the ninth round with ease and mentally prepare for your bubble match.  You push the game to game three and this time you are presented again with a situation similar to the ones above. This time however, your opponent had the Gorz when you attacked with the Thunder King Rai-Oh and you proceed to lose the game and not top.

What happened here? The odds were so low that the last card was actually Gorz! Why were you so unlucky that it was in fact Gorz?  Well, while the chances were low in that single instance that he had Gorz, you had been taking unnecessary risks all day. While a lot of them worked out, you still lost a game or two that were completely winnable because you decided that the chances were low of them having their particular out.

The overall point of all of this is that while one person may not have their particular out, if you repeat it and continue to take unnecessary risks throughout the day, someone probably will and it will certainly cost you a game or two. It is often this game or two that is the different between going x-2 and x-3, between topping and not topping. For this reason, you should avoid unnecessary risks at all times.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take risks; I’m just saying that you shouldn’t take risks that are unnecessary. There are plenty of times that you should in fact be taking risks. For example, it’s your last turn in time and if your opponent has Torrential they have it and they win, but if you don’t play into it, they win anyway. That is a necessary risk and something you have to take. These are not the kind of risks that I’m talking about.

Remember guys, Yu-Gi-Oh is easy and it becomes even easier for your opponent when you throw the game away by taking all sorts of unnecessary risks. I hope to see everyone at the Extravaganza in New Orleans this weekend! If you see me or any of the other members of ARG, stop by and say hi. Until next time everyone, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Latest posts by Patrick Hoban (see all)