1. You can't just try anything you want and expect success or credit because you worked hard.
Some approaches to a problem simply work better than others. Some don't work at all. No amount of self-confidence or wishful thinking can change these facts. Insisting on a poor opening strategy in chess or Starcraft will produce only a chain of losses for as long as you stick with the game.
2. Don't fall into ruts.
There's an old saying in Starfleet Battles
: "Use your tractors, dammit!" The phrase is a reminder to be familiar with all your available options instead of fixating on the few things you commonly do. Often an oddball technique will not be practical or effective, but a player who keeps them in mind fares better chances of winning.
3. Understand your goals.
Make sure you have an accurate view of what you're trying to accomplish, without assumptions, or you might misdirect your efforts and aim at the wrong thing. The canonical-to-the-point-of-overused example of this is Blackjack. The naive view of this game is that the goal is to get as close to 21 as possible. Not so. The real goal on a per-hand basis is to get more points than the dealer without going over 21. (The goal of the entire play session is to make as much money as possible, but since Blackjack is played against a single opponent following deterministic rules, you should try your best to win every single hand in isolation. That's not always the case in games such as poker.)
4. There is no single key to success. It's a mix of everything.
Inexperienced players who decide early in their studies that they've isolated the most important, and therefore only significant, aspect of a game invariably do poorly in serious competition.
5. It's all you. Success is your responsibility. Failure is your fault.
You can copy the techniques of two well-known players, gather advice from five of your friends, and read a dozen strategy blogs. You can try everything they said would assure victory and find their advice to be anywhere from somewhat lacking to dead wrong. It's still not their fault you lost. It's yours. You played. You chose to listen to them rather than listen to other sources or make more of your own discoveries. And you're the one who has to deal with the repercussions of losing.
6. Approaching a problem initially with a minimum amount of effort, with the expectation that you can simply apply yourself extra-hard later if it turns out to be necessary, is a horrible strategy.
The flaw lies in deluding yourself that you can pull out some last-ditch miracle by dint of sheer willpower, that anything is possible if you just try hard enough. But in any practical situation, there is a limit to how much skill, attention, and effort you can apply in a given time period. You cannot literally give 110%, by definition. If a task is so difficult to require near-100% effort from you to complete, you can accumulate an insurmountable deficit if you coast into your first approach.
Start before the beginning. Don't stop until the end.
7. If you want to win fair and square, you need to know how to cheat.
Notice I did not say "You need to cheat." I said "you need to know how
". This may be a distasteful and depressing revelation to you, but some people in life are bad and break the rules. Tournament judges cannot watch every table constantly, just like the police can't have an officer in every dark alley. A game is a contest of skill. If you have more skill than your opponent, you should win most of the time. If he cheats, that rightful outcome is jeopardized. And if that seems egalitarian to you, consider this instead: your opponent might cheat by making an illegal move that puts him behind rather than ahead, or that puts you ahead, then call a judge a short time later and accuse you
of cheating. There is the very real possibility you could find yourself forfeiting a round, getting kicked out of the tournament, or even being temporarily or permanently banned from future events, all because you didn't know how to cheat.
If something questionable does go down, it'll be your word against your opponent's, and the judge can't (and shouldn't!) take you at your word just because you're a Boy Scout who loves his mother. If you know what to look for, you're more likely to be able to provide the judge with something concrete when you make your accusation. At the very least, your unsavory opponent might pick up on the fact you're watching him like a hawk and stay honest until next round. (Lest you think that's cynical, I should mention that locking your car doors doesn't make thieves break into appreciably fewer cars overall. It makes them break into other people's
8. It's not what the rules say. It's what the judge says.
Games will always have disputes that require adjudication. (See yesterday's post
.) It is outright impossible to craft a set of rules that cover all possible situations and that are interpreted the exact same way by everyone. Those disputes require human intervention, which means the resolution is always arbitrary to some extent, depending on which definition you use.
9. Do things because you want to, not because you think other people expect you to do them.
Immature are the majority of opponents who beat you and deride you for being unskilled. It's delusional to think they'll respect you once you work your way through the ranks and become their equal or, heaven forbid, their superior. A far more likely outcome is that they will dismiss your success as the result of unethical practices or the abuse of imbalances inherent in the game that its designer failed to correct.
If you're striving for greatness to garner the praise of others, stop. Just stop. Spare yourself the wasted effort and future heartache.