Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bike Polo and Democracy

Daniel has raised an issue that I foresee requires our club to collectively solve—the “next game pile”. This is particularly relevant since we will now be mixing in League games during our normal pick up nights. Since we would never want to promote totalitarian or despot decisions, I think we should vote on this as a club. Hooray for democracy!

If you are not familiar with the issue read Daniel’s entertaining post here: Also, read Doug’s (New York) comments to the post.

The Issue: With 30+ players that regularly come out, our club has reached the level where it may be hard to get as many opportunities to play a game as we would like, especially if someone has a time constraint and can’t stay the whole night. The natural evolution is that those who do not get their mallet in after a game has ended, in the traditional throw in format, try and ensure they will be in the following game by creating a “next game” pile. This has the potential of actually decreasing the opportunities for play as Daniel mentions by turning into a series of “next game” piles. If you are in the bathroom, in a conversation, or just spacing out, you may find that there are multiple “next game” piles and you are on the waiting list behind two or three predetermined games. There are two solutions to this problem and I will try and explain the benefits and disadvantages to each.

The first is to keep things as is. Stay attentive, and be the first to throw in your mallet to ensure your mallet is one of the six mallets that land in the throw in pile. As Daniel mentioned, if you can’t do this you shouldn’t be riding a bike, or playing polo for that matter. This is the purest solution, but it has problems. First, it does not ensure that players who just played will not throw their mallets in for the next game. Second, as we all have probably witnessed, more than six mallets can land on the court at once.

The second option is that after a game everyone who wants to play throws in their mallets. If there are six or less, great, we solved the problem. If there are more than six, whoever shuffles the pile first weeds it down to six, throwing out the extras. If you are not selected you throw in on the next game. The problem with this option is something I experienced in Seattle while playing with their club. My mallet, by chance, was not selected three times in a row. At 15+ minutes a game, I sat and watched for along time anxiously waiting to play. Yes, you can solve the problem by making a fuss, but not everyone wants to do that. I surely did not as an “out of towner” playing with a new club. It wasn’t until someone asked me why I wasn’t playing that I felt comfortably explaining that my mallet hadn’t been selected the previous three games. He ensured that mine would be selected in the next throw in. This gets messy however and has to potential for the shuffler selecting who they want to play in the next game.

The solution is what Doug mentioned. Those who are shuffled out of the six are automatically set aside for the next game. So if two are not chosen, they are ensured to play in the next game and the four mallets that are selected from the next throw in pile are added to the two to create the next game. In a sense this is a hybrid of the regular throw in and the “next game” pile. As Doug mentioned, this works best if everyone agrees that you cannot play two games in a row if there are more than six people out at the courts.

That creates three options. I propose that we vote as a club on the three, decide on one, and implement that option. In the comments section on the blog cast your vote and let’s sort out this problem so we can “have our cake and eat it too”, or maybe that’s “eat our cookies (or scones) and play polo as well”.

Option 1: Regular Throw In

Option 2: Next Game Pile

Option 3: Hybrid


  1. I vote for the Hybrid, but I'd also like to insist, that with this hybrid way of handling the next game pile, there would be only one next game pile, there wouldn't be an additional next game pile just because there is already one for THE next game.

    so 9 people throw in, 6 are chosen to play, the extra 3 are set aside for the next game, 8 more mallets are tossed in at the end of the game, the 3 set aside go in, 3 more are chosen from the new 8, the rest go back into the hands of the owners to throw in the next game, no new next game pile, until the next round... make sense, that's how I want to see it... also no back to back games when we have this many people wanting to play....

  2. having mallets get set aside if they arent one of the six selected seems like an extension of the next game pile to me, causing everyone to throw their mallets in so they at least have a better chance of playing one of the next two games. what happens if 13 people throw their mallet in? six are chosen to play, six are set aside for the next game pile, and 1 is set aside for the next next game pile.

    the polotarian in me votes for the mallet toss

  3. it's called a hybrid for a reason Daniel... one next game pile to say, "hey sorry you're slow, you can fit in the next game" there wouldn't be a next next game pile. it would just start over...

  4. yeah but not if 13 people all throw mallets in, and if there is no sense of urgency to throw mallets in I bet that once the mallets are being tossed in, and somebody sees 9 or 10 mallets already in there, they'll figure well i might as well throw in now because otherwise there will only be 2 or 3 spots in the next draw that I would be able to throw in for. and if one person thinks that, im sure others will, which will cause more mallets to be thrown in not because they necessarily want to play in this game coming up but because they dont want to have to sit through both this AND the next game.

    so, what happens then 13 mallets get thrown in?

    oh yeah, and for the record im definitely against allowing myself to put so much thought into this. it's bike polo, not synchronized swimming. less discussion more destruction.

  5. I'm with Daniel on this. I like the simple mallet toss. If we keep it that way, it ensures that spectators are watching the games with interest and the first 6 mallets thrown in get in. If you don't get in, you had better get faster on the draw next time. If we go this route, I think we should not allow those players who are leaving from the previous games to throw in directly following the match. That is unless <6 mallets are thrown in and it's free game after that.

  6. I also vote for the Hybrid, with the understanding as Rob mentioned that there would only be one "next game pile" then it would start all over. We can experiment with this and if it doesn't work out we can easily go back to the traditional throw in with no "next game pile". If there are more than six and your mallet isn't selected, try again next game.

  7. somebody help me out and explain to me what happens when 13 mallets get tossed out under the hybrid situation.

    this is the way i see it.

    13 mallets get tossed out.
    they get mixed up, 6 get chosen to play next game.
    the next 7 are the pile for the next game.
    so 6 of the 7 get chosen as the next game pile.
    and the 7th gets into the next next game pile...

  8. Daniel, you know what would happen if 13 mallets get tossed in, 6 would get chosen to play that game, and the rest would get tossed back to the sidelines, where everyone would wait until the end of the game to try and toss in again. It seems logical to me that if there are more than 3 or 4 extra mallets left over, then there is no need for a next game pile. A next game pile if only for those 2 - 4 people who were waiting on the sideline with the other 6 who just got chosen to play. Those 2-4 would then have to compete with another 6 who just came out after the next game to toss in again, so they would have their mallets put aside, to ensure they play the NEXT GAME!

    does that make sense?

  9. First off, its good to have this discussion in an organized and productive way. Thanks Rob and Daniel.

    I agree with Daniel on two points.

    1. We're over-complicating this
    2. As long as we're over-complicating it, the number of players is important to consider.

    If I understand you correctly Rob, the hybrid option only applies if there are between 6 and 10 people waiting to play in the next game, so a total of between 12 and 16 total active players in attendance. Fewer than 6 and more than 10 people waiting and you proposed solution is kicked back to traditional mallet toss/luck of the draw. Correct?

    It seems to me a simpler solution is to say if there are 1-5 people waiting to play in the next game, then folks who want to play back-to-back games can fill in the extra spots.

    Why would six or more people wait to play when they could just start a second game on the other side of the court? Miguel and I both have extra cones, and there are usually extra balls.

    I understand if you want to rest while you wait to play in the next game, and that if one or more of the people are in that mindset then getting a second game going can be difficult, but I say if you're that concerned about getting in a break and not missing out on the next game you should either pay attention to the toss, or throw your mallet in on the other side of the court, and wait for others to join you. If you can't get 6 from those on the sidelines, someone from the current game will usually want to keep playing and just throw in on the other side to continue doing so.

    So my vote is for option 4: mallet toss with overflow going to a second game pile in the middle of the other court. If a second game doesn't get going before the current one ends, go get your mallet from the other court and throw in again, or leave it in and wait for those who just played to join you and get the second game going.

  10. Oh so annoying my comment just got deleted! argh!

    I don't think any of this would be a problem if people that just played just waited a game to throw in again and everybody just respected the fact that we are all here to play polo and that every person is entitled to play an equal amount (unless of course they want to chill out and drink dem beers).

    With that said, I think the toss in works fine with the understanding that if you just played, you sit out a game or wait until everyone that wants to play has thrown in, if less than 6 then throw in.

    I think that would solve it.


  11. Yo. Agreed. I like option 1, regular throw in.

    Everyone just has to be quick on the draw with their mallets.

    The only good way to handle 30+ people is to have more space to play. Either divide forces, which would suck, or find a bigger lot.

    No back to back games though. If you just played then sit it out and let someone else have a chance.

    Also, if there are two courts open, we could have a league game court and a pick-up game court. Or, if there are a ton of league games goin' on, have a pick-up every other game on one court. Thoughts?

  12. I agree Will, it seems like having too many people wanting to play polo is a good problem to have, and the solution should be to play more polo!

  13. I change my vote to Gabe's option four. Hybrid option with playing on other court option. Work that democracy! Whoever is there work it out. Set up one for league games, or both and weave in pick up. And post if you will be playing other than tuesday, thursday or Sunday so we can come play polo.

    If hybrid is too complicated, just throw your mallet where you want to play and it should work itself out. I should note it doesn't include a traditional "next game" pile, i.e. no stacking up the next game. If the one selecting the mallets picks up more than six then he can set aside up to four players. If it's more than four everyone throws in together the next game. If it's four or less, those get aside for one next game. Everyone tosses in to be selected for the remaining two spots. I agree that people should not be playing two games in a row if we have this many people out. Clear Daniel? If not keep posting till we figure this out.

  14. i throw my mallet in for gabe's option 4.

  15. Right on Cyrus,

    Just to be clear, we're talking about any extra mallets being tossed over the net to the other side of the court. It's a 'next game pile' of sorts, but only to start a second game on the other court, not as a way to keep a spot on the court you just tossed in at