Liar Game so far:
In the first round of the Liar Game, Kingdom of Sun tied with Kingdom of Moon – after Nao schmoozed Fukunaga into giving up the lead – resulting in a slight marginal gain. The second round, 17 poker, kicked off soon after. Akiyama Shinichi won the first two hands, but his opponent dominated the game hereafter.
The rule, as iterated before, is the follows: two players each toss in five chips as their startup bid. Cards are dealt and distributed. Player A then bids a second time. Player B acts accordingly by choosing 1) “Raise” to elevate the initial bid if he is confident.
Or 2), “Fold” when the opposite is true. If “Fold”, the game stops and the agency collects the startup bid from both players.
However, if player B chooses none of the above and decide to wait for the wheel of fortune to turn in his favor, he can request to “Call” and move the game to its next stage. In this stage, players can change cards. Once the change is completed, they must bid for a third time and the choice to “Raise”, “Fold” or “Call” is up to player B again. If B calls a second time, the players will show their cards. The higher hand wins.
Like all other games encountered, 17 Poker is not one without a strategy. And the opponent, Kikuchi, here has found it.
According to him, since the agency uses a new deck of cards for each round of poker, the cards must be sequentially ordered before shuffling. Through card tracking, he has determined the position of the joker — it’s the first card on top. How does he track the cards? He has dynamic visual acuity, which allows him to follow the card through motion. (Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing: Lame. C’mon, impress me.)
In the next two rounds, Akiyama continues to lose. The 100 chips lead is soon reduced to a mere 22.
On the fifth round, Akiyama finally stirs. He stops the hostess from dealing and calls Kikuchi out for cheating. It may seem an act of desperation, but Akiyama reasons that since the dealer picks the card up during Hindu shuffle, it creates a small window for cheating to occur. Riffle shuffle however, runs no such risk. He then suggests that the agency do away with Hindu shuffle all together and use Riffle shuffle exclusively.
Akiyama’s suggestion is derided upon by members of Kingdom of Moon. They regard it as a childish complain driven by frustration. They scoff that with only Riffle shuffle, it’ll be just as easy for Kikuchi to track the joker. Little did they consider, if it’s easier for them, it’s certainly easier for Akiyama as well.
At this time, Nao calls for a five-minute break. She runs to the lobby and pleas for attention. She explains that her goal isn’t to win – that’s why the first round of the game turned out a tie – she only wants to help everybody come out of the game debt free and return to their normal lives. Her proposal has little real effect but presents an alternative to the group nonetheless.
The game resumes. As the players quietly await the hostess to deal, Kikuchi starts, “About what that girl said… was it true?” Akiyama frowns and says nothing. “Is she really going to save us?” the opponent continues and, after a pregnant pause, adds, “I… I believe her.” With that, he puts down the highest bid allowed. Akiyama looks up and studies his opponent. Then, he calls. Encouraged by Akiyama’s cooperation, Kikuchi places 30 chips — the highest amount allowed — as his bid for the next round and adds a few urgent words of persuasion. He finishes the act with a calculated gesture — he bows. Akiyama considers the risk he faces for a beat. Before deciding, he stands up and turns to looks up at his teammates.
Up in the rest area, Nao looks on with encouragement while Fukunaga frantically waves in warning. Turning back to face his opponent, Akiyama calls.
Cards are turned and… An explosive laughter echoes throughout the room. (Try as you may with the long, maniacal laugh. But no one tops Fukunaga’s triumphant cachinnation.)
Akiyama is deceived and a whopping 78 chips are deducted from the lead.
However, Akiyama is impassive about the prospect of losing. On the contrary, he’s quite certain that he will win. If anyone else makes a claim as bold as this at a time as unfavorable as this, (s)he would receive a pat on the back and be advised to stop with the useless struggle. But Akiyama is a man of laconic disposition. When he did talk, as he sometimes do, it’s often worth listening.
True to his claim, Akiyama wins the next round, shortening the point gap to eight.
The turn of events stuns Kikuchi, but he contributes it to sheer luck. True, he thought, Akiyama ended up with a hand of four cards but he won’t be so lucky next time. Except, Akiyama is.
In the next and last round of poker, Akiyama “catches” Kikuchi cheating — or so he claims to see — and requests the hostess to shuffle three more times. To Kikuchi, Akiyama’s complain sounds childish — he’s losing and doesn’t know why. So he accuses his opponent — Kikunchi — of cheating as a last resort to delay the inevitable failure. Thus established, Kikuchi pays no further heed to Akiyama and concentrates on luring Akiyama into placing higher bids.
As hoped, Akiyama bids high for both rounds. So sure the victory is his, Kikuchi jumps up and paces to and fro excitedly, berating Akiyama for his inferior intellect all the while. Such is the irony that when the cards are shown at last, the idiotic victory dance moments before only magnifies the impact of the loss.
How did Akiyama do it? How did he end up with two hands of four cards in a row?
Simple. When Kikuchi was fixating on the joker, Akiyama was looking at the bigger picture. He noticed that when the hostess shuffled using Riffle, it was always the perfect shuffle. A perfect shuffle is when cards are split evenly and shuffled so that the two piles interweave in an alternating manner. Observable patterns start to emerge according to the number of Riffle shuffles done. For instance, on the 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 14th shuffle, all four J’s, Q’s and K’s will align side by side. Knowing that, Akiyama can easily take a hand of four cards. So can Kikuchi.
Fortunately, Kikuchi’s attention was solely focused on the joker and noticed nothing. Unfortunately, Hindu shuffle presented an extra variable to the equation and made it difficult to count the cards. To preserve the ordering, Akiyama intentionally raised the issue of fairness and did away with Hindu shuffle. He then dinged Kikuchi for cheating in order to manipulate the hostess into increasing the number of shuffle just enough to benefit him.
As to falling for Kikuchi’s trap, don’t make me laugh! Akiyama knew Kikuchi was lying from the start — it’s not that he distrusts people in general, he is simply a better judge of character (than Nao). The reason Akiyama went along with it was a plot device to figure out the ordering of a new deck of cards.
The meantime Akiyama is divulging his strategy, Katsuragi Ryo, the most promising finalist, is dominating her game.
Objectively, I think the 17 poker game shouldn’t be stretched into one and half episodes. The solution was apparent from the start. To win, one would have to count the cards. The key then is the how (how to count cards) not the what (what to do to win). Unfortunately so much of the time was focused on the what and not on the how.
The most disappointing aspect, to me, was the imbalance between the two opponents. I would’ve been wowed if Kikuchi were a master gambler and Akiyama somehow outsmart him. But between acute eye sight and genuine superior intellect, the competition was so lopsided it verged a disappointing blandness.