The Might of the Mind

[RR] “Do you believe in psychokinetic powers?” Roderick the Rock asked Harriet the Hazy, although he figured he already knew the answer.

[HH] “No!” Harriet huffed.

[RR] “ESP?”

[HH] “That’s different”, Harriet admitted.

[RR] “What about Schroedinger’s Cat? You know, the cat in the box that’s alive and dead at the same time.”

[HH] “What does that have to do with anything?” Harriet wondered.

[RR] “Suppose we’re playing a hand of Hold ‘Em. The cards have already been shuffled and cut. The hole cards have been dealt. A burn card is now sitting at the top of the deck, followed by three cards for the flop, another burn card, the turn, another burn card, and the river. Presumably the identity of those cards is now fixed, but none of us know what they are.”

[RR] Roderick let that sink in for a few moments before he continued, “If you had the ability to change those cards, would that be telepathic or telekinetic?”

[HH] “Telekinetic. Just knowing what the card is would be ESP though.”

[YY] Yuri the Young Gun chimed in, “You know, some online poker sites determine the order of the deck like we do live, shuffling at the start of the hand. But other sites don’t pick the next card until it’s needed, presumably to make cheating harder. If I pause a fraction of a second before tapping the Call button, I can change the flop! That’s way too much pressure for me. I definitely prefer the normal shuffling technique.”

[RR] “Agreed. I was playing last night on one of the sites that randomizes each card as it’s needed, and I was trying to figure out if typing in the chat box would change what got dealt. I was all-in with J♥J♣ against K♠K♦, so naturally I was rooting for a Jack for a set on the flop. The flop came A♦Q♥10♠, giving us both inside straight draws, and suddenly I was rooting for my opponent’s King! Then the board paired with the 10♣, and I went back to rooting for my Jack again!”

[RR] “The river card was like Shroedinger’s Cat, except that it wasn’t the feline that was simultaneously alive and dead. It was my tournament life!”

[HH] “And did you hit the river?”, Harriet prodded.

[RR] “No, I mean yes, I mean no. The K♥ had barely hit the felt when I started to celebrate filling my straight, only to realize a split second later that I’d lost to my opponent’s full house.”

[HH] “If you had ESP, you could have seen that was coming and folded before the flop.”

[RR] “If I had psychokinetic powers I could have changed the river card to a Jack!”

[TT] Tyrone the Telephone hypothesized how this might affect a different card game: “When two magicians played a game of gin / Sleight of hand was their least damnable sin / With pat hands a lock / Neither would dare knock1 / And neither conjurer could ever win.”2

Footnotes:

  1. In gin, you try to make sets and series (“straight flushes”) of three or more cards. What’s left over is your deadwood. You can knock to end the hand when your deadwood adds up to ten or lower.
  2. An opponent with the same or lower deadwood earns an undercut bonus.

Related Links:

  • Gin is an excellent two-player card game where you can learn your opponent’s tendencies and read their hands from their pickups and discards.
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