Pharaoh and the Shuffle

Or how attempts to avoid cheating in card games have influenced scientific and technological progress.

The most common form of Black Jack is the game with a Shoe with six decks. A Shoe appeared in the first half of the XIX century in the United States in the game of Faro as a device for dealing cards to prevent fraud of the dealer - so that the dealer did not lay out the card he wanted. At that time, a single deck was loaded into the Shoe. Later, though with a great delay, this device was adopted for Black Jack and was used for convenience of work with a large number of decks, in particular - with six. Only in 1961, the famous card magician John Scarne (04.03.1903 - 07.07.1985) offered the casino Las Vegas in order to protect against fraudulent actions to use Shoes (until then, Black Jack was also played exclusively with one deck). The same Shoe that all the casinos of the world still use today was developed by Scarne. Scarne himself started out as a cheater, and was well aware of various cheating techniques. In time, he had changed the side and began to consult casinos, perform with the show program, write books and even star in movies (for example, it is his hands manipulate the cards in the movie "The Sting" in 1973). Among other things, Scarne was an opponent of Edward Thorp, claiming that his card counting system was untenable. There is even evidence that Scarne offered Thorp some sort of trial, but Thorp refused, according to sources, because he was allegedly not satisfied with the conditions.

In the XXI century popularity began to gain shuffle machines - special devices for automatic shuffling of cards. Interestingly, the first shuffle machines are not much older than shoes, used in gaming establishments since the late XIX century and made a huge invaluable contribution to the development of scientific and technological progress.

But everything in order.

The most popular game in XIX century was the game Pharaoh, aka Faro, aka Bank, aka Stos. It appeared in France at the end of XVII century as an alternative and modification of the game Basset, after in 1691 the game Basset was banned. During the XVIII century in Pharaoh play mainly in the aristocratic houses of France and England, but in the early XIX century the game spreads throughout Europe, reaches Russia, where it takes the leading place among gambling, and goes to the United States, where it shortens its name to Faro.

The popularity of Faro is evidenced by the multiple references to this game in various literary sources. Being an avid and famous Faro player himself, Casanova wrote about it in his autobiography. Characters of Jack London, William Thackeray and even Leo Tolstoy play Faro. In music, Faro is played by Massenet, Puccini and Tchaikovsky. And many, many others. But perhaps the most famous story with Faro was described by Alexander Pushkin in 1833 in the story “Queen of Spades”.

Initially, in the XVII century the process of the game was as simple as possible - one player had a deck of cards in his hands, he was called a banker. The other player, called a punter, named the card without specifying the suit and his bet (up to the beginning of the XX century the bet could not be laid out in money or other valuables, but simply written in chalk on the cloth or at all voiced in words). The banker started dealing cards alternately from the top of the deck into two stacks - to the left and to the right of himself. If the card on which the player bet went to the left pile, the player won one to one. If the card went to the right stack, the player lost.

Experienced players will immediately notice that with such procedures, not only is there no game safety, but there is a great chance of temptation to cheat. Knowing what card the player has bet on, and knowing that this card is about to go left, a simple flip can change the course of the game. Therefore, by the end of the XVIII century in the game of Faro in high societies appears an innovation - each player used his own personal deck. He would place a card on the table face down, so that the banker could not see which card the player had bet on.

This is what Tomsky from “The Queen of Spades” says about his grandmother:

“Oh! then listen. You must know that, about sixty years ago, my grandmother went to Paris, where she created quite a sensation. People used to run after her to catch a glimpse of ‘la Vénus moscovite.’ Richelieu courted her, and my grandmother maintains that he almost blew out his brains in consequence of her cruelty. At that time ladies used to play faro. On one occasion at the Court, she lost a very considerable sum to the Duke of Orleans. On returning home, my grandmother removed the patches from her face, took off her hoops, informed my grandfather of her loss at the gaming table, and ordered him to pay the money.”

And this is how Pushkin describes the last game:

“The next evening Hermann appeared again at the table. Everyone was expecting him. The generals and privy counselors left their whist in order to watch such extraordinary play. The young officers jumped up from their sofas, and even the servants crowded into the room. All pressed round Hermann. The other players left off punting, impatient to see how it would end. Hermann stood at the table and prepared to play alone against the pale but still smiling Chekalinsky. Each opened a new pack of cards. Chekalinsky shuffled. Hermann took a card and covered it with a pile of banknotes. It was like a duel. Deep silence reigned.”

As we know, Alexander Pushkin was an inveterate gambler himself, and was very well versed in the subtleties of the game. What can be read in his story, so to speak, between the lines? - Back in the middle of the XVII century in France in Faro allowed to play under the word of honor. At one table could gather up to 30 players. In Pushkin's time, a player could come to the game with his own deck. The banker mostly used one deck too. But when the bets became high (and I remind you, in Hermann's game there was 188,000 roubles at stake - a gigantic amount of money for those times), for safety reasons both the player and the banker opened out a new deck.

But even this did not protect against experienced cheaters. In the United States, in saloons, they play on the word, from the hand and one deck. Every banker had at least one deck. And in most cases, cheaters-organizers of games used several marked decks. The variations of the charges varied depending on the players and game situations.

Nevertheless, the gaming business has always strived for transparency and honesty. And in 1825 in the southern states appeared a set for the game of Faro, the purpose of which was to reduce the likelihood of deception on the part of both players and bankers. The set included a board, on which were drawn or attached 13 cards of each denomination, game chips, a special box in which the cards were placed after shuffling - a prototype of the shoe and some device resembling a scoreboard, called “casekeep” - in fact, it is a prototype of the scoreboard. In the frame there were 13 spokes, each of which had 4 markers (balls, knuckles). The 13 spokes corresponded to 13 nominals of cards, and when the cards came out of the shoe, a specially trained employee, called “casekeeper”, moved the marker to the side. Players, however, referred to such an employee as the “coffin driver”.

In such a variant Faro will be preserved virtually to the present day. The popularity of the game gave a great variability of bets - you could bet not only on one card, you could bet on red-black and other options, the most interesting of which was a bet on the last three cards. The player who guessed in what sequence they would come out (and which cards were left, was visible on the casekeep), received a payout of 4 to 1. By the way, this last stage in Faro was called “turn”, from where it was transferred to Texas poker.

Nevertheless, even the shoe did not protect players from scoundrels. The techniques that were worth paying attention to players, widely replicated in various magazines and books of the XIX century, moreover, it is with the description of probable fraudulent actions on Faro began each new issue of the guide "Hoyle" - the oldest and most famous publication about gambling.

Gradually, the liveliest minds begin to think about how to maximize the safety of gambling. And in 1878 appears the first device for the cards shuffling. It was not yet a machine, it was a device, because it was a box with two compartments, between which were slots in the form of comb. The dealer placed the deck in the box, shook it, as a result of which some of the cards fell into the slots. The procedure was repeated several times. It was practically impossible to cheat with the cards. This device was patented by a certain Henry Ash, and it was immediately used in American gambling establishments.

In 1887, Silvanus Tingley and Charles Stetson patented their “card shuffling apparatus”. The device consisted of two boxes in which half decks were held by springs. The device simulated card shuffling by removing cards through a slot in the bottom of each box and placing them stacked in the middle. The operator turned a crank that was connected to gears and finally rubber-covered disks that made contact with the cards. This feeding mechanism ensured that the final stack would consist of cards randomly coming from the left or right box. In subsequent years, various mechanisms with different combinations of rollers, card boxes, combs, and pin systems were proposed. Most of these machines were operated by hand by turning a crank that actuated internal gears and rollers. In other words, they were full-fledged shuffle machines, though still mechanical.

slot machine first angle

There were also such shuffle machines, which not only shuffled cards, but also dealt them, and something like a gaming machine - the cards were shuffled on the reels and then shown to the player in random order. The spinning devices in such machines were also driven by the operator.

We know for sure that in Brooklyn in 1891 a certain apparatus was introduced which consisted of five reels, on which after a few mechanical actions 5 out of 50 cards were presented. From the full deck were specially removed jack of spades and ten of hearts - this is so that fewer combinations converged, for the purpose of the game was to collect a poker combination. This machine did not accept money and did not pay out winnings. But it served as a prototype for the first full-fledged slot machine.

slot machine second angle

In 1894 Charles Fey (09.09.1862 -10.11.1944) simplified the game mechanism of the Brooklyn progenitor and presented to the world a device that both accepted money (five-cent coins) and gave out winnings. It consisted of three drums on which were applied 5unique symbols (horseshoes, bubi, worms, spades and Liberty Bell) in the amount of only 15 units. Called the slot machine "Liberty Bell" - the very first one-armed bandit, which laid the foundation for all slot machines. Directly this is nowhere stated, but it is more than likely that it was attempts to create the perfect shuffle-machine and led to the invention of slot machines at the end of the XIX century.

star wars I am your father meme

I'm pretty sure that attempts to create a shuffle machine led to the invention of slot machines.

The history of gaming machines from that moment went their own way, and the best minds begin to think about how to create a real random number generator to deck shuffle really random and unpredictable way.

In 1932 Laurence Hammond patents the first shuffle machine, the shuffling mechanism of which is driven by an electric current. And in 1934 Ralph Potter invented a machine that used punch cards and generated a random sequence of distribution. Real cards were not dealt - the numbers of cards were indicated by lighting up different bulbs next to the player. In fact, it was the first computer for gambling, the first game console, and the machine itself was one of the first attempts to create a computerized pseudo-generator of random numbers.

Shortly before in 1923 in Germany, Arthur Scherbius produces a famous cipher machine "Enigma", the principle of which was based on random shuffling of letters of the alphabet. In effect, a shuffling of a deck of cards. To understand the encrypted text it was necessary just to “collect the deck in its original order”.

Up until the 1980s, attempts continued to be made to create shuffle machines that would shuffle the deck as randomly as possible and still produce cards. The machine as we know it now, only less computerized, was introduced by Edward Samsell in 1985.

Technology has not come very far since then. As before, modern shuffle machines use a pseudo-generator (as well as, incidentally, in slot-machines). The cards are shuffled according to a programed algorithm, which is almost impossible to predict. However, some patterns to trace is real, but we will not talk about them.

Attempts to create a full-fledged random number generator continue to this day. After all, the element of randomness, unpredictability is what distinguishes a living intelligent being from a soulless machine. Artificial intelligence, no matter how powerful it may be, will not be able to compete with man until this "randomness" is incorporated into it. It is possible that the formation of the great artificial intelligence of the future will also be influenced by the simple card game Pharaoh.

As we can see from the history, an ordinary attempt of people to secure themselves in gambling influenced the development (if not to say more - influenced the very fact of existence) of gambling machines, cryptographic devices, computers. And I'm sure this is not the end.

Ilon Musk should take a closer look at gambling, ideas and opportunities behind them. And we, mere mortal gambling enthusiasts, in our turn will do our best to make the future of mankind not so boring!

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