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August 15, 2016

Detroit Chouettes

I have enjoyed playing backgammon on a regular basis with a small group of friends for low stakes over a period of about ten years.  Now, like Dmitriy Obhukov before me, and probably Frank Talbot and others before that, I may be on the verge of being eliminated from the local backgammon scene.  

Why?  Mainly due to the efforts of one man, John Quinn, who views me as a shark stealing his money.  I do understand his position to a point.  His argument would have some merit if this was a high-stakes game, but it isn’t.  I find the idea that I am a professional making a living playing five dollar chouette at John’s expense ludicrous and offensive.  Moreover, it upsets me greatly that I have to defend myself to my friends as if I am some sort of bad actor.

Below is an open letter I sent to the Detroit backgammon community, followed by John’s response, and my response to that.  These are unedited.  

Please let me refute a claim John made that I didn’t specifically address in my short response.  John did in fact push Emil hard to disinvite me from Emil’s weekly game.  Clearly if Emil had agreed John would still be attending while I would be sitting at home.  Only when Emil refused did John decide to quit the game.  Another example is the recent Novi tournament where John repeatedly schemed to exclude me from the five dollar chouette.  I understood I was not welcome and stayed away to respect his wishes and avoid confrontation.  In one instance, John recruited players from a game I was in to his own game, then refused to let me join him.

A couple related issues.

Why should good players be chased away from a friendly low stakes game?
This whole incident is a major reason I am against ratings and publicizing PR’s.  Let’s focus on playing the game we enjoy rather than determining who the best and worst players are.

Will my public statement here do more harm than good?  I don’t know.  I understand I risk losing some long-term friendships by posting this.  So be it.  I want to at least present my take on events, and let people decide for themselves.

Finally, thank you to the many of you who have supported me either privately or publicly in this matter. I am encourages that even if John succeeds, other will let me into alternative games.   I intend for this blog entry to be my last public statement on the subject.
=====My Open Letter to Detroit area backgammon players =======

I am writing to bring to your attention efforts by John Quinn to block me from non-tournament backgammon activities and seek your help.  I believe you all know me.  I am not a troublemaker, am honest, loyal and generally a good guy.

You may know John is the main organizer of our social play.  Recently he has dropped me from the invite list.  John is also lobbying the hosts of games he doesn’t organize to exclude me from the group.  Since our community is so small this would effectively ban me from any chouette play.

Why have I been uninvited?  Simply because in his judgment I am too good a player.  I am sure you will agree this is small and unfair for a number of reasons.

·        If you work hard and improve your game will you by rewarded by being banned next?
·        This is a friendly low stakes games (fives or lower)
o   No one is getting hurt financially at this level
o   Even as a plus player any net winnings I may have are modest
·        If you are John’s first call every week ask yourself what he thinks about your game?
·        It seems John does in fact want a best player in the game –him!

All I want is to play.  I first caught the backgammon bug about 2006.  Over the past ten years we have spent a significant amount of time together in tournaments or social play.  I go back about thirty years with some of you when you include the old chess days.  I consider you all friends in our common pursuit of this wonderful game we all love so much.

If you agree John’s actions are unfair, please tell John so!  I am not asking for a boycott nor am I looking to start a rival game to exclude John.  I would just like to continue to play this great game we love with my friends.

Please feel welcome to share this letter with anyone I might have missed.  Thank you.


======= John's Response ========

Hello Bill Calton and all of our mutual friends out there in the Michigan Backgammon community,
First of all let me answer Bill's question in the simplest and most straightforward way that I can:  I have never asked anyone to exclude Bill Calton from any Chouette that they were hosting or planning to have. 

Bill, I wish that you would have asked me either in person or by email or by telephone conversation before putting this out in an email to all of our friends, but what is done is done and so therefore I will now respond to your question in the same way so that all in our group can draw their own conclusions.

This all started about 3 weeks ago when I made a personal decision to drop out of playing in what is known as the Emil Chouette on Saturdays of which I had been a member of and a regular attendee of for many years. Of course I was asked my reason for dropping out and I simply answered that I no longer could, in good conscience, continue to go there every Saturday to lose money on a weekly basis to you, Bill Calton. 

My opinion of your backgammon abilities, Bill is that you are a far better Backgammon Player than I am and I commend you on the progress that you have made in a few short years in learning the game and becoming one of the top players in the State of Michigan.   So I made a simple decision that I would no longer go to the Emil Chouette on Saturdays. 

As a second part to that action, I decided that I would create a weekly Chouette on Saturdays and I began inviting people who are interested to come out and play. My intention with this Saturday Chou is to invite players who are comfortable in playing with each other and feel that on any given day that they have a fair chance to win or lose and that they are not just showing up to make a weekly monetary contribution to a player or players whose skills are far greater than their own. 

Consequently there are actually several Michigan Players who I do not invite to this Chouette that I organize and, without naming names, they know who they are because they do not receive text messages from me to invite them.  Hopefully they do not feel as badly about this lack of an invitation from me as you do Bill, and in fact  I believe that they should consider it a compliment to their superior skills as Backgammon Players.

You know, Bill I figured out a long time ago that I was never going to make any real money  playing Backgammon and I have often said that when I counted up the hours that I have spent on this game that on an annual basis I am probably making or losing about 50 cents an hour,  But I love the game and I love playing Chouette so I continue to play.  I just don't want to play in a situation where I feel that I will consistently contribute to players who are so far above my skill level that I do not have an equal opportunity. Nor do I feel that any other player should play in a Chouette where they do not have an equal opportunity to win or lose without feeling that that they are consistently contributing week after week in a losing cause. 

So let me make this statement and put it out there to all of our Backgammon friends - I have not asked anyone to exclude you from any Chouette that they are hosting or planning on hosting. And if anyone has somehow made that interpretation from my actions, then please understand that it is not my intent to conspire with you to bar Bill Calton, or prevent you from inviting Bill Calton to your Chouette, or in any way influence you as to any action that you wish to take with Bill Calton.  Quite frankly I don't believe that I would hold such power and sway over your decisions about who you invite to the chouettes that you organize. 

As for me I only ask the same right to make my decision as to who I wish to invite to the Chouettes that I organize and to not to be questioned repeatedly as to why I am not inviting Bill.

So there, I have given my explanation to everyone and now everyone can draw their own conclusions.  
I have been asked repeatedly for the past three weeks about this subject by several of our mutual friends, so hopefully this written answer that I give today will suffice as this is the last time that I intend to discuss this subject.

I will ask you all at this time to do whatever you will and think whatever you want, I will simply ask you as a courtesy to please leave me out of any further discussion about this matter. 

I consider you my friend, Bill and I am sorry if you feel that my personal decisions have had this negative impact on you, that is not my intention. So hopefully someday you will realize that there is no big conspiracy here against you - it's just one guy (me) making the decision that he feels is right for him.   


======= My Response ========

I don’t intend on going back and forth on this either.  John’s decision to blackball me was obviously considered and I respect his right to do so.  While I would be pleased if John changed his mind, I didn’t really expect that to happen.  

But I didn’t want to take this lying down either.  I would like our mutual friends to know what kind of person John is.