Tag Archives: poker

Staging the Dead Man’s Hand

Dead Man’s Hand Photo Shoot

This is it! Photo shoot coming up at the Cenote Lounge Sunday, May 31st 2:30-4 with appys and drinks on the house afterwards. The Cenote Lounge is next to the Odeon Theatre and down a flight of stairs. Thank you to the owner for opening up a few hours early so that we can do the shoot. And thank you also to all the volunteers who are taking a big chunk out of their Sunday afternoon to help out. Don.t worry, it.s time well spent: when the book on tragic art theory sells ten million copies, you will be a star!

Not sure what I.ll wear to the shoot, thinking about trousers with collared shirt, no jacket no tie. But jeans and t-shirt would be equally appropriate. LH is thinking about wearing classic black dress and word is MR is going to break out the mighty cowboy boots and hat. Baseball caps (might work out well with poker brim) and bow ties have been mentioned. To me, best fit for the shoot would be something that is your style in a subdued colour. The centrepiece of the painting is the dead man’s hand and people.s astonished reactions to the loud entrance. Lots of options for attire.

There.s a cap of 10 people, we.re at 10 adults and one child (understandably the owner isn.t looking for the restaurant to be overrun!). Of the adults, 3 women and 7 men. Had wanted balanced numbers but couldn.t get it to go this time. Here.s the roll call:

1 LH

2 MT

3 Es

4 OZ

5 CR

6 Ei

7 MR

8 DR

9 SB

10 Ro

11 EW

I hope everyone can come, it.s going to be a blast! But if something comes up (which is the way of the world), please drop me a line so I can fill the spot.

Dead Man’s Hand Cue Cards

What.s everyones’ roles during the shoot? Good question! The talented artistic team nailed it down last night at Cenote over a few cold ones. Thank you to SB, MR, and Ro for their enthusiastic input. There.s seven roles. Everyone can play as many roles as they like: nice thing about digital photography, we can take lots of shots and select the best afterwards. I.ll have little cue cards made up for the day of the shoot so as you rotate into different roles you.ll can see what that character is up to. The backstory is that Wild Bill Hickok is playing poker with his back to the entrance, pulls out the dead man’s hand (pair of aces on eights). At that moment, the gunman enters and shoots him in the back of the head. The moral of the story is never to underestimate the unexpected. The dead man’s hand is the visual representation of the unexpected that.s made its way into common folklore (i.e. Dylan has a song about it, Motorhead sings about it, and so on).

Here are the roles:

Dead Man's Hand Concept Sketch

Dead Man’s Hand Concept Sketch

1 Bartender. Action: cleaning a mug, looking at gunman apprehensively. Thoughts: ‘Something bad is about to happen (but I.m not sure what quite yet)’. Personality type: experienced, seen it all.

2 Barstool customer. Action: turning head slightly towards gunman, looking with corner of his eye. Smoking cigar. Thoughts: ‘Make my day!’. Personality type: ornery, not impressed with what.s about to happen.

3 Server. Action: walking into kitchen, startled by sound of gunman entering, contorts body/head to look, carrying tray. Thoughts: ‘Shit!’. Personality type: easily frightened.

4 Gambler #1. Action: playing with poker chips, arm on chair, disinterested smirk. Thoughts: ‘Hmmmmm’. Personality type: cool, indifferent

5 Gambler #2 Action: hand on table, tilting body, about to get up, looking directly at gunman. Thoughts: ‘Shit!’. Personality type: interested in self-preservation.

6 Gambler #3 Action: focussed on game, turns to gunman with poker face. Thoughts: ‘A distraction to the game of poker’. Personality: stoic.

7 Dog: Action: sleeping, perks up ear.

8 Wild Bill Hickok: Action: startled, about to turn around. Thoughts: ‘Damn I shouldn.t have sat with my back to the door’. Personality: grizzled

There you have it. Comments and suggestions by assiduous readers always appreciated and welcome!

Until the Sunday shoot, I.m Edwin Wong and I am always thinking of ways of Doing Melpomene’s Work.

Playing Card Card Combinations

trI.m in the midst of writing the chapter on ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’. It deals with how the unexpected steals up the the tragic protagonist. Uncertainty, risk, unexpectation (is that a word?–now it is!), and things like that are on my mind. One way of imagining risk would be to graph outcomes onto a bell curve. The fat tails on the extreme left and right sides of the curve could represent unexpected disaster or a happy windfall. Another way of imagining risk would be look at dice or card games.

We.re surrounded by so much probability theory and statistics today that it.s hard to imagine a world without such things. But the science of probability or a theory or permutations and combinations didn.t actually exist before the likes of Cardano and Tartaglia started systematically going through how many outcomes were possible when rolling one die, two die, and so on. That was as recent as the Italian Renaissance in the sixteenth century. Before then, how the dice turned out was all due to Lady Luck, otherwise known as Fortune. If you could go back in time with today.s probability theory and play the ancients, you.d be able to clean house. The odds on a lot of the ancient games rewarded higher outcome scenarios more than lower outcome scenarios. Cicero and Aristotle both thought about ‘likelihood’ and all they could come up with was that it would be hard to roll more than one or two ‘Venus throws’ (the highest throw with knuckle bones) in succession. It didn.t occur to them that such things could be quantified. They were, however, express scepticism that the ‘Venus throw’ would be due to the action of the goddess. But they were not able to offer a better explanation.

Surprising. The ancients gave us geometry, the Hippocratic Oath, democracy, philosophy, ethics, and so many other things but they just could.t get probability. Some say it.s because the dice they used were inconsistent (being polished animal bones). Others say the idea of the hand of god in random events was too powerful for the mind to overcome: the whole industry of divination was based on finding meaning in random events that, well, were not really random but god trying to tell us something. There are those who think they just didn.t have the mathematical capacity with their cumbersome roman numerals. Or they just didn.t like ‘experimenting’ (ie rolling hundreds of dice and recording the results).

That could all be true. But even today, it.s hard to figure out how the theory of combinations and permutations fit together. Last night, I was over at TW.s. As he took out some playing cards, he said, ‘Did you know the chances are that a deck of cards has never been shuffled with the cards in the order the are in now?’. I said, ‘Really?’. He replied, ‘There.s almost an infinite number of combinations so that you.d never in an eternity shuffle the cards into the same configuration’. TW.s into science so I knew he was right. But I was curious. How many combinations were possible?

We couldn.t figure out all the combinations of the 52 card deck. But we could try figuring out the combinations of one, two, three cards and so on. And from there generate a rule to see what the combinations would be for a full deck. With one card there.s one combination. With two cards there.s two. With three cards, we couldn.t do this in our head anymore. So we laid out the cards. Six combinations are possible with three cards. Now with four cards, it gets tricky. Not only did we need the cards in front of us, we had to start writing down the combinations since it was easy to miss one or count one twice. The combinations get bigger very quickly is what we noticed. I was thinking the pattern would be 1 card 1 combo, 2 cards 2 combos, 3 cards 6 combos, and maybe 4 cards would be 16 combos. Wrong. 4 cards is 24 combos. We speculated on the pattern. Maybe you multiply by a number 3×2=6, 4×6=24. But what sort of rule would determine the multiplier? The clear thinking beer we were imbibing was also helping our efforts! So we decided to work out the combinations for five cards to see if more data would lead to an insight (Bacon.s method of induction). But with five cards there were so many combinations… Too much work, we went back to drinking beer and watching a TV show on science instead. But this goes to show, it.s still difficult today to figure out probabilities. TW.s a project manager so he.s good at numbers. Years ago (certainly not today!) I got up to second year calculus.

So I cheated. The next day I googled it. Google is also something that Cicero and Aristotle didn.t have! The combinations are a function of factorials. So four factorial or 4! will give you the combination of four cards. Four factorial would be the equivalent of 4x3x2x1 or 24. Five factorial or 5! or 5x4x3x2x1 or 160 is the number of combinations with five cards. I would hate to even try imagining how big the number 52! generates. It would likely break a gear in the brain. So perhaps this is one of the reasons cards are fascinating: the unexpected is always possible because of the immense number of outcomes that are possible. Or–lurking underneath all the ‘common’ poker hands (full house, pair, two pair, etc.,) there.s always the chance of the dead man.s hand!