Friday, December 03, 2004

The Computer Cheats!

We have a bunch of handheld video games lying around our house and in our vehicles. There's Uno, poker, blackjack, Sorry, checkers, chess, and more. Each works very nicely as a way to pass the time when we're bored. Ocassionally, however, I wonder if the computer cheats in order to win, especially on games like poker, blackjack, and other card games. You don't know for sure how the programmed AI of the game works in deciding what cards go to whom. Maybe it's not random (well, it can't be truly random, unless the video game is using quantum computing, but that's another topic) at all. Sadly, I have found out firsthand that sometimes, yes, the computer does cheat.

We have a video blackjack handheld game in one of our bathrooms at home (lovingly referred to as the man's bathroom) to keep us entertained while we're grunting out some dookie. It resembles actual blackjack very closely. You can double-down, split pairs, buy insurance, and the computer even shuffles the deck after so many hands to ensure that card counting won't help too much.

Sadly, the whole shuffling aspect of the game is a sham. Let me tell you how I found out. As I was playing, it came time for the deck to be shuffled, so the little "shuffle" indicator came on and the game paused for a second while it supposedly shuffled the cards. As I was playing after the shuffle, one of my hands was a pair of queens. Oddly enough the computer's hand also had a queen showing. Being the crappy blackjack player I am, I split my queens. In one of the splits I had another queen dealt to me. Now how often is it that all four of the queens will come out on one hand? Not too often, but I went with it and one on one of my splits. A couple of hands later (remember, there has been no shuffling done between the four queens hand and the hand I now have) I am dealt a hand of 17 consisting of a seven and A QUEEN! All four of the queens had already come out so where did this one come from?

As I did a little more research on the game, I found that the card dealing mechanism didn't adhere to an actual deck at all (I thought maybe it was trying to simulate a multideck game of blackjack, but it always shuffled after about 30 cards, which would make sense for a regular 52 card game of blackjack). Instead the computer would throw out whatever card it's random card generator would pick at the time.

I have a hard time looking at this game the same way I used to, let alone trying to play it. I've been betrayed. It lied to me--over and over again nonetheless! How can I possibly go back to something that deceitful? I just can't. I'm sorry bathroom blackjack handheld game, but our time together is over. I hope you learn to change your ways, but I somehow doubt it. This is goodbye. Don't wait around for me because I won't be coming back to play.

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