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.


Shruthi said...

Ha. Would it be prudent to say first here? :)

Anyhow, niceee.... :D

Shruthi said...

I just noticed. Shrewdest? Was that a jab, or was it unintentional Mistah Rikey? Something fishy...... :D

Elliott said...


Wendy said...

Look, a bird!

The Z-Particle said...

lol shruthi. cheers elliott. wendy, ROFL i'd completely forgotten that ...

Shruthi said...

Hmmm..... Just ignore if my friends decide to say something on your blog... Really.


(The reason why the person who made the previous comment was forced to delete the comment he made is rather a long explanation)

L'Anion said...

wow..SSP must have been a lot of fun.

chris said...

ROFL - what an entry. i'm INTO poker, and that probability you mentioned is absolutely accurate! lol - cheat as you might claim to, you must be hell good at poker, right?

and are the elliott and the wendy who commented before the ones you've written about? hallo guys!

GO CHEATING, yay. respect!

Vihang said...

That reminds me of all the Literature we played during TC '06 and '07

(I still believe that Udi needs to learn how to cheat ...)

udi said...

Haha, good one. Makes me wish I had tried my hand in a few games.
But was that thing about Alex's calculator true. I don't remember precisely but I sure wish I never had to borrow his calculator.

udi said...

Wait, what? Where did that come from? I was great at IMOTC '07!! I came back from a rigorous literature training program (otherwise known as the Astronomy nurture Camp), and I was good!!

udi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashwath Rabindranath said...

Your card tricks were really cool Rik. The ones you very nicely should off at IMOTC. I think they put even Abhinav under a spell :)

Anonymous said...

you know fing card tricks? holy shit what else do you know?

sickass entry - learned more here than daniel negreanu could ever teach me through his video tutorials.

ilona said...

haha, i loved this story... although i like to think that my natural skills at playing texas h'em were so incredible that even you couldn't cheat well enough to win--after all, you DID choose to sit out all those times i kept trying to go all in. you'll have to actually show me the tricks sometimes, though...

L'Anion said...

Haha, i second anonymous!
So rik, u are good at legerdemain too?(now that my 'chalo amreeca' dream is practically over, gotta make some use of the SAT prep!)
That just leaves spacewalking and free-running on the 'Stuff-Rik-hasn't done(yet)-list'!

new age scheherazade said...

haha..vairy funny.
but what, may I ask, do you know of the 312 ways of cheating at Pictionary? I think not a lot, because you have to have a gaggle of eagle-eyed cousins to perfect THAT art.
oh, and this is anasua.

The Z-Particle said...

lol everyone, thank you all so much!

Narsil said...

hm, nice, you know what a glide is? cool.. Personally, I prefer to make a a bit of a mess with the cards then while I straighten them out I do a quick pass (whilst slightly shaking) :D Too difficult and fast to catch. :D

Anyway, can't see how a glide/pass would come in handy, you'd not have that many cards anyway. Palming is your best bet. lol.. Or hold in a Tenkai grip, sneeze, and reach into your pocket for a handkerchief, etc. ;)