Saturday, April 12, 2008

Emergency Examination Helpline

Right. So this is turning out to be my second consecutive post about cheating. But I'm doing it on popular demand. So, not guilty, your honor.

Actually, the day before yesterday I met New Age Scheherzade for the first time, and she asked me for some tips about cheating in exams (hehe, sorry Anasua, it's good to be brutally honest sometimes). So I told her to keep an eye on my blog. Here it is, for all you prospective cheats out there! (By the way, New Age Scheherzade was only joking, for the slow on the uptake among you. She doesn't need to resort to other means. In fact, since she's going to Princeton, I have no idea why she is sitting for the IITs anyway)

Cheating in math is the easiest. Use your resources wisely. Wear spectacles to the examination hall that magnify your eyes around 3 times (6 if you want to go for the Grand Effect). What that effectively does is convince the examiner/invigilator that you are a total geek who doesn't know how to cheat. And couldn't care less. Take your TI 83 or TI 84 or TI 89 or Casio (whatever) to the examination hall. If they aren't allowed (haha IIT!), smuggle them in. Use your socks or sleeves. It's the same thing with cards, really. If all else fails, check my last post and pick up tips from Alex. When you are sitting down in the examination hall, look around for the geek nearest to you who is SURE to know the answers (if that geek happens to be you, don't bother reading the rest of this post). Calculate the shortest
effective distance between your center of mass and the geek's.

Definition: Effective Distance
Effective distance between two points is measured as any distance joining the two points which is traversed by any real object if it is to be passed between the two points. This is not necessarily the straight line joining the two points; that happens only in an ideal situation. Practically, the shortest distance between two points and the shortest effective distance between the same two points in vacuum at 298 K and 1 atmospheric pressure are related by the approximate empirical formula k = (χZ0/ε + 6.1P) l

where χ is the Euler characteristic, Z0 is the characteristic impedance of vacuum and ε is the dielectric permittivity. The quantities k and l are the effective distance and actual distance respectively, and P, known as Sengupta's Constant, is a singularly revolutionary constant related to something impossibly important in physics.

Once you figure out the effective distance, use it to your advantage. Write your answers on your calculator and pass it by means of the shortest effective distance to the geek in question. Attract his attention. Ask him to approve of your answers, and tell you which ones are wrong. If possible, agree on a code beforehand. Morse code works amazingly well if the examination is composed of multiple choice questions. If a lot of theoretical blabbering is involved, resort to other codes. Bribe the geek well. Chocolates always help. Geeks are also bribed by math books, hacking software, and girls, in no particular order.

You can also cheat at math using small pieces of paper. Microfilm works amazingly. If you aren't comfortable with that sort of thing, write all relevant formulas on a piece of paper in the smallest possible handwriting. Hide it in a strategic place. How strategic is up to you.

Physics is not a subject where it is easy to cheat. You have to study for that one, sorry. The microfilm approach works, I admit. But not as effectively as math. If possible, smuggle in a laptop with ethernet connection and use it surreptitiously. Distract the examiner. Be creative. I always like my own style. I point at something irrelevant and scream on top of my voice "RATTLESNAKE!!!!" (there are no rattlesnakes in India by the way). In nine cases out of ten, the examiner starts and looks towards where you are pointing. He or she then proceeds to check all over for anything resembling a rattlesnake. Once he or she is satisfied that there is NO rattlesnake involved (which will not take time if this is a biology teacher we are talking about who is acquainted with India's fauna), you are in trouble. But it gives you ample time to whip out your laptop, and search google for whatever it is you are writing the answer to. Be discreet though.

The only thing I can suggest about this examination is - don't. Turn. Up. I have no clue about chemistry. I always get screwed during chemistry examinations. I'm no authority. Sorry.

More coming up about general cheating procedures or ways to do better at exams. If you need quick tips right now, check out this amazing entry by Anasua - here. It appears that she knows a bit about the trade too!

To all of you who are sitting for their IITJEE today, all the best. You guys will do just fine. To those of you who aren't sitting for your IITJEE today, you wasted five minutes of your life reading this post. Go find something better to do. And the fact that this is my second consecutive post about cheating should not be misinterpreted as a decline in my ethical values. I am still as honest as ever. More or less.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Of Cards and an Associated Art

The funny thing about card games is that everyone gets serious after a while. No, really. Really, really serious.

For instance, let's say A and B are playing chess. A makes a stunning move that puts B's queen in danger. B then retaliates by sweeping all the pieces off the board. Game over, no one wins, everyone goes home happy (more or less). Or take for instance a game of soccer between two teams X1X2X3X4X5X6X7X8X9X10X11 and Y1Y2Y3Y4Y5Y6Y7Y8Y9Y10Y11 in which the Y's are losing 13-0. Then what do the Y's do? They take the goalkeeper of the X's down, and score goals in an empty goalpost (if you think that's too much, I have actually seen this happening).

But ... a card game is a different story. Let's say seven people (for the sake of abbreviation, I will call them Elliott, Joyce, Alex, Liam, Ilona, Wendy and Rik) are sitting down at a table, wanting to play some Texas Holdem poker. Fair enough. More so because there isn't any real money involved.

First, a brief introduction of the characters:

Elliott: A good young man, brilliant in whatever he does, and always willing to learn the tricks of the trade (What trade? Hold on, I'm coming to that). Is dressed in a black formal suit and is seated in a casual, devil-may-care pose. Is concentrating on the cards (mainly his own ones, which makes him different from - say - Liam).

Joyce: A morally upright young lady, impossibly rigid about rules and ethics, with an intense hatred of the trade (Wait, I'm coming), and determined to catch ANYONE adopting unofficial means to win. Is looking around the table like a hawk, and peering suspiciously at Liam and Rik.

Alex: Greek guy, good at probabilities. Getting good at the trade, though learning every day from Liam and Rik. Is also relaxed and looking around for distinctive "tells".

Liam: Hmmmmm, ok this one's tough. A very charming, shrewd and hard-to-read guy. Is more or less the opposite of Joyce. Is a master of the trade. Is dressed in a suit with extra long sleeves (note this: extra long SLEEVES). Hmmm. Is wearing sunglasses and looking at God knows what. Face expressionless. Fingers twitching.

Ilona: Young lady again, trying to analyze other players. Is interested in the psychological aspect of the game. Has neutral feelings about the trade. Insists that she is only playing casually, but has won the largest pot of the day so far. Also very hard to read.

Wendy: Young lady. Shares some of the views of Joyce about the trade, though enjoys a good joke when she sees one. Like Ilona, her stack of chips is increasing exponentially. Laughing while playing, looks EASY to read, except that no one can actually do it.

Rik: Aaaah, our hero. Has pretty much no clue what's going on, but trying to appear as smart as possible. Inside that confused visage, however, lies one of the shrewdest brains around (except that he hasn't actually won a pot yet). Is reading people with charisma (and getting all of them wrong, but still, you can't ignore the charisma).

Ok this was an imaginary situation, but I have played with all the characters mentioned above (except Rik; or maybe not, I have played with myself. That way, you are assured of winning no matter what). And I know everyone's style more or less.

But since this post is about the trade, I will stop digressing and tell you more about it.

The trade is known to the common man as "cheating". Otherwise known as "the Art", "the passes", and "that shit Liam and Rik are amazingly good at".

Right, so now I am actually blogging an entry about cheating at cards. Don't get me wrong. My morals have not declined even a bit. My ethics are still as strong as ever. But cheating is no anti-ethical behavior. It is an Art. The greatest art form ever.

Take, for instance, the matter of Liam's sleeves. You need to see what's inside them to appreciate the true extent of his art. On a good day, his sleeves would conceal two Aces of Spades, several other Aces, nine complete hands (as in only pocket cards), a dealer chip, a Bicycle Revolving Poker Set, a screwdriver (don't ask), a lethal-looking knife, and a collection of shady looking coins. When he is feeling particularly high/lucky/drunk/smart, he tries concealing a biased dealer inside his clothes, but that unhappy event is luckily not seen too often. People tend to notice.

Or take myself. Whenever I sit down to play poker, my collar hides a world in it altogether. I can't tell you the details obviously, for purely aesthetic reasons; let me just say, in all modesty, that if I - er - unleash my collar's strength, I will win any tourney in the world. Unless Liam's sleeves are extra long.

Let us now confine our attention to Alex. He appears to know probabilities to such an extent that he can calculate - in about 2.68 seconds - the odds of getting a flush at one try if you select five cards at random from a complete pack (for the clueless, this is 33/16660). If you are getting impressed by the Greek human calculator, think again. In reality, he has a small handy pocket calculator hidden in his - ok, there are decent people reading this, let's just say his hiding place is a bit unorthodox. He has also formed a nexus with Liam, which makes it unfair on me. It's harder to cheat when you have an alliance of other schemers working against you. Added to the fury of Joyce if she finds out.

That's all very well. You have the means in your sleeve. Now all you have to do is to use them. How do you do that without arousing suspicion?

You use one of the following:

1. Magic (i. e. sleight of hand)
2. Misdirection
3. Foul language
4. Red herrings
5. Nagging tone
6. Camouflage

Personally, I prefer the first two - because I am a dabbler in both magic tricks and misdirection. Liam was a master of foul language and red herrings. We both occasionally went for the nagging tone. Alex relied on luck and camouflage.

By magic, you can palm a number of cards and delicately swap them with your original pocket cards when no one is looking. Or you can try mass hypnotism, but that occasionally fails to work. If it fails, you are done for - you'll probably get lynched. My personal favorite is the "glide" and the "reverse pass". Experts will know what I am referring to. Googling won't help, so you've been warned. False shuffles are also BIG helps, as is dealing from the bottom.

Misdirection refers to making people think you are cheating in another way. For instance, if you look constantly at a particular spot on the ceiling and gulp once in a while for effect, official anti-cheats like Joyce smell a rat. They begin to think that your artistic cheating technique involves that spot on the ceiling in some way. They begin pacing furiously like caged lions, and checking and double-checking the ceiling, the pillars, and even the bathrooms. Which gives you ample time to take the pocket aces out of your - er - pockets. Or collar, in my case.

Foul language refers to using amazingly bad language for misdirection. For instance, Liam would shout "#@%*Y)W*Y$*^T)$(*%#@%*@#^()*&^%)(^^#$%*^*$&^" at the top of his lungs, and we would all look away embarrassed. Then Liam would simply rummage in his sleeves for the right combination of cards. Most often he would mess up, but that's just because he would be trying too hard.

Red herrings are used when you blame others indirectly for your acts. This was the one occasion when Liam and I worked together. We combined so well that we got away with the entire game, and Joyce reprimanded two other players for our crimes. These techniques are top secret. So sorry for leaving the details out.

Nagging tone refers to the act of boring vigilant watchers like Joyce to death. They usually yawn and look at their watches as you drone on and on and on and on about the dangers of cheating, and how you are opposed to it, and how you wouldn't even dream about it, and how you distant uncle once got caught ... *yawn*. You use that opportunity to great effect. Thank you Alex for that one.

Camouflage - well, I'll just give you an example. Alex hides his calculator in his - er - unorthodox place, remember? Well, when he has to take the calculator out to calculate his odds, chances are that no one will catch him because no one is actually bothering to look at his hiding place (except a very, very, SICK few). So he is totally safe.

I will keep you all posted about newer methods.

I can't believe that I actually wrote an entry about cheating at cards in the first place. To defend myself, I can only mention in all modesty that I was voted the "Most Likely To Cheat At Cards" at SSP, beating competition from the likes of Liam. So I am in fact in a position of authority.

Finally, a note to Liam if you are reading this. Remember that AWESOME day when Jason got the blame? How I pushed you and you fell, releasing the extra cards on to Jason's lap, and Joyce got all mushy, saying "You too, Jason?" and stuff like that? We still haven't confessed about that day to anyone! I think it needs more publicity ...

Cheers all.