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Diaconis on Randomness

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Thursday, 23 May 2013, at 5:15 a.m.

In Response To: Diaconis on Randomness (Timothy Chow)

Excellent information. Of course, as I recall, our shuffling was designed to increase randomization, and we do agree that if you keep the cards in perfect order with perfect shuffles keeping the cards in order from top to bottom, with perfect cuts and no card cutting, that you will return to the original on the 8th shuffle.

We were more interested in the "practical" application in our gin games (which are for considerable stakes and worth the trouble of these studies). No one shuffled perfectly, or wanted to. Everyone cut the cards between shuffles. And often, when the cards were handed to the opponent for a cut, the opponent would often cut and shuffle a few times, then cut the cards and hand them back to the dealer. According to the rules, the deal then has the option of just dealing or doing a another shuffle or more, and then handing them back to his opponent. As long as the opponent just cuts, without a shuffle, and hands them back, then the dealer must deal the cards.

The cut must be with the top portion laid nearest the dealer, and he then picks up the far stack and either deals directly from that, or places that on top of the other stack and deals.

Any deviation is simply not allowed in our game, and if someone forgets or someone who doesn't know joins the game, he is immediately corrected.

It has also become "an unwritten rule" that you do not shuffle the cards so that the ends open up toward you, as that is a very obvious way to look at the cards as they are being shuffled and you can easily see the top or bottom few cards which can offer a huge advantage. Also, care is taken when dealing to make sure the bottom card is not flashed in either direction. Occasionally someone deals wrecklessly, and again, he is always alerts by someone...usually a partner (we always play 4 or 6 man teams).

I have seen many of these same practices around the world in other gin games, though probably Vegas is the only place where there are firm, written policies and rules that cover all of these areas of card-handling.

Does it sound like our game is very rigid and unfriendly? On the contrary: because we have clear rules and everyone knows them, we don't have disagreement and hard feelings from people following different standards of what they think is appropriate. It has virtually eliminated suspicions and problems that would be caused without these firm rules. That's exactly what Chuck and Jeb and I were striving for in Backgammon, as there were far too many things that were unclear or ambiguous or rules that are different from country to country or even tournament to tournament, and all that does is cause problems.

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