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Pandering Frivolity

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollJuly 6, 2006 7:56 PM


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The baleful eye of the establishment media has once again turned our way, and judged us to be sordid muckrakers. Declan Butler at Nature has written about the largest science blogs, and we were happy to find CV in the top five, along with Pharyngula, The Panda's Thumb, Real Climate, and The Scientific Activist. (Plenty of room to complain about methodologies, but whatever -- suffice it to say that prize money was distributed quite equally.) The Technology Chronicles, however, has poked a stick at these would-be science blogs, and found that they succeed not by "politely debating the fine points of string theory" (ahem), but rather by "channel[ing] the static and political undercurrents in their fields." Nonsense! We have succeeded by writing about martinis and theWorldCup. To cement our reputations as light-hearted bons vivants, today's post is about poker. In particular, a quiz. For those of you not addicted to Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, the game that has swept the public's consciousness is Texas Hold'Em. It's just a particular variety of poker, in which each player gets two hole cards that only they see, and then five cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. The winner is the one who can construct the best five-card hand out of seven -- their hole cards and the five on the board. Complications arise from the baroque betting structure (two players to the dealer's left are forced to bet on the first round, which is after the two hole cards are dealt; further betting rounds after the first three board cards are dealt, another after the fourth, and a final one after the fifth), but basically it's just that simple. So, consider the following three possible pairs of hole cards:

  • Jack-10 suited (e.g., a Jack of diamonds and a 10 of diamonds)

  • Ace-7 unsuited (e.g., an Ace of spades and a 7 of clubs)

  • Pair of sixes

The quiz is extremely simple, and should be easy for experts: assuming you don't know what anyone else has, or yet what the board cards will be, which possibility is most likely to win at the end of the hand? And (a subtly different question) which is the best Hold'Em hand? Please show your work; answers will be revealed tomorrow. Winners will receive a free lifetime subscription to Cosmic Variance, one of the most popular science blogs on all the internets.

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