Sorry to posterize my friend but here's a tip for some of the relatively unexperienced ladder players on when to select a counter-pick: http://warlight.net/MultiPlayer.aspx?GameID=1227642
Here are my general rules to follow:
1) Never select the counter pick in your first three selections. As you can see in this game I identified the prime selection in the game (Scan) as only my 3rd pick and the counter on my fourth. This ensured two things. One, If he smelled the trap I could still get my first three picks and not waste any picks on a counter. Secondly, it allowed me to get my counter spot and not have to hope that he was in the Scan spot.
2) Check the rest of the warlords. As far as I remember there was not any other combinations where two picks could get a set on the first turn. This made me 95% certain that he would load all 5 income onto his Scan selection and go for the set on the first turn.
3) Very rarely do you select a count-pick in a wastelanded set. As you can see, since Europe has no wastelands in it, it was still a viable expansion point for if the game somehow balances out after the counter has worked successfully.
4) Make your other two selections in either small sets to accomplish or close together. As you could see from turn one I left myself open to the possibility that I could get Australia on turn two. Counters are only good if you decide you want a quick victory. I.e. if your goal is simply to thwart his attempt at an early set, thats okay, but it basically leaves things even (whoever has the better other two spots has the advantage).
Anyway I hope some people learned from this setup on how to make better selections. I would never say that I any win is a sure thing from the get-go, but based on the habits of most players, there was not a shred of doubt in my mind that I wouldn't win this game.
To Impaller: Sorry, I know you hate counter picks and quick games for that matter. But I think it is a tool that needs to be utilized by the unexperienced players to give them a chance and to keep the ladder standings interesting.
Please feel free to comment if you see any holes in my pre-distribution selections.