Learning life’s lessons the hard way – Connect 4

I’m writing this in the hope at least one person heeds my advice – do not accept an offer to play Connect 4 in Thailand. We were forewarned and didn’t listen, our excitement getting the better of us in what was supposed to be a routine bar visit to use the bathroom.

“You wanna play Connect 4?” the barlady asked… “Sure”, I said foolishly.

“We’ll play for shots OK?” she said enthusiastically.

Combining shots and gambling, two of my most favorite things, with a Thai beachfront bar. Yeah, I can see how I was suckered in.

OK, now it’s probably time to admit we weren’t on a beautiful island or beach paradise, but Bangla Road in the somewhat seedy town of Patong, made famous by strip joints like Suzy Wong’s Ass Smacking Fun. It’s fair to say we should have seen it coming.

A friend had actually warned us about playing Connect 4 with bar staff before traveling, advice I wished I had remembered in the moment. In hindsight, a bartender keeping multiple Connect 4 sets under the bar in the hope some idiotic tourist will indulge their desire to play should have been another red flag. Alas, it wasn’t.

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Here’s the deal – there are 4,531,985,219,092 different ways to fill a Connect 4 board (I didn’t work that out, this guy did). Now without the help of a computer algorithm, which the ladies did not have, I fancied my chances, and was rather frustrated come the end when I realized I could not win. My opponent seemed to be feeling the strain too, having to retrieve more playing pieces midway through – she must normally win before the halfway stage.

Are the people of Patong naturally gifted Connect 4 players? Was my inebriated state making me irrational in my strategy? No, there’s a simpler answer…

By playing perfect strategy (i.e. blocking all opponent moves) and making sure that you make the first move of the game in the center space, YOU CANNOT LOSE! Reading this some 24 hours after recovering from my hangover brought a little smile to the corner of my mouth, a little closure perhaps.

Defeated, and pretty drunk for 3pm, we headed to KFC to get back on a sensible level, having learned a $200 lesson. The ladies were nice and we had a good time, albeit an expensive one, and was another memorable part of our vacation.

Worst of all though, we had to pay to use the bathroom.

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