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smoothgrh
smoothgrh
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March 16th, 2018 at 10:45:45 AM permalink
The death of Stephen Hawking this week got me running to YouTube to watch his appearance in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

I hadn't paid attention to the poker play in this episode, but did this time and noticed this scene, like many others in TNG, has nonsensical poker procedure. It's so rife with error that I won’t even bother explaining it. I will say that it certainly *sounds* like a rousing game of poker! Here's the action:

Clockwise at the poker table from Data are holograms of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Sir Isaac Newton.

—Einstein recalls that Hawking raised Data 4. He mistakenly calculates that the bet is 7 to him.
—Newton corrects Einstein by saying the bet is 10 to him. The sound of a clinking of chips indicates that Einstein calls.
—After some discussion, Newton says the action is to Hawking, who now raises 50.
—Newton and Data fold.
—Einstein, sensing a bluff, calls.
—Hawking shows quad 7s.

During the poker craze of the 2000s, my friend and I watched with more scrutiny over what the crew of the Enterprise-D was doing in the episode Cause and Effect. Yes, I know it's television and the writers are just trying to tell their story for the non-poker-playing masses (for extra flair, they often make the obligatory string bets). They're even playing 5 Card Stud for goodness' sake! I don't fault them for errors, but I would have been really impressed had the show got the game right. (One pet peeve was always that Worf turns over his hole card for all to see—definitely a poker faux pas!)

Because this is the Internet, here's an overanalysis of their game from an unedited transcript of the emails my friend and I exchanged. You're welcome!


So I'm watching TNG right now with a deck of cards....
Data: _ 4 9 6 9 (I'm assuming everybody has a rainbow)
Riker: _ 8 10 J 7
Worf: 3 A 7 4 J (yeah he did turn over his hole card
right before turning everything face down)
Beverly: _ Q Q 2 8

1 rd, no bet
2 rd, Bev opens with 10, everyone calls
3 rd, Bev leads with 20, Will raises "and 50 more",
everyone calls
4 rd, Bev leads with 20, Data folds, Will raises, Worf
folds, and Bev reraises, Will reraises, and Bev calls.

Data shows a pair of 9s, I doubt he has 2 pair since
he didn't go against Bev's 2 Q's at the end, unless he
thought Bev had a Q in the hole. Why did he call
Will's first raise when he only had the first 9? If
he had a 9 in the hole, why fold at Bev's rd 4 lead?

Worf should also have folded with Will's raise, but
Klingons have gaul, so I can see him staying in.

Will was bluffing one of 2 9's (gut shot straight
draw), since Data was showing the other 2 9's. Bev
could have had either of the 2 other Q's (3 Q's), or
one of the 3 2's or one of the 2 8's (2 pair); or not
and just a pair.


My response was:
You watched that in quite detail. I wonder if the writers had each round of betting scripted. I doubt it, though.

Data's betting doesn't make much sense. He woud have needed either an A or K in the hole, and hope he pairs one of those to beat Crusher's pair of queens after the second up-card. It's possible data had a 4 in the hole, in which case he would stay in hoping for a 4 to make three-of-a-kind. But since Worf got one of his 4s, he was facing long odds to win the hand. Perhaps Riker's raise put enough money in the pot to make the "pot odds" correct for him to try for the last 4, but I doubt it. If he had 9s and 4s after the last round (he definitely didn't have three 9s) he would have at least called Crusher on the last round, even with Riker's straight draw showing. With 2 pair, calling a bet of 20 with a pot that big is the correct play, and calling Crusher would also prevent Riker from trying to bluff *two* players.

Dr. Crusher definitely should have reraised Riker's raise of 50. At that point, he was without question trailing Crusher's 2 queens, and the correct strategy would be to make it expensive for him to try for his straight.


His response:
I would think the betting was scripted; and then the
cards were then scripted to match the "action". The
important part was the play between Will and Bev.
Leading to Bev calling Will's bluff; because she
"remembered" what he had. When we first see the poker
game, the Enterprise had already exploded once
onscreen.*

And since Worf and Data ultimately folded, their hands
weren't important. Come to think of it, Worf should
have lead out with the first A (bluffing that he had
an A in the hole).

*I come up with about 46 times through the causality
loop. Worf says that their chronometers are off 17.4
hours. I assume the poker game was at 9pm and the
crash occurred just after the 6am morning meeting
(9.078hr loop).

Wait, it could be *47* times (the loop being 8.88
hrs)! Owing to the inside joke about 47 with the TNG
writers!


My response:
excellent analysis!

did you notice how Data's cards are neatly lined up in front of him, while everyone else's cards are just kind of piled about? (though, he *is* the dealer and would more likely place the cards, rather than drop them)

one last poker note: usually in stud games (5-card, 7-card), the last card is dealt face-down.


His response:
Didn't notice the neatness, but it fits Data's
character. I did notice that Data looked at his hole
card right before he folded. Not like he can forget
what card he had...

I was wondering about the amount of face up cards!
Hard to bluff when the rest of the table knows 4/5 of
you hand!

But it moves the story along much faster. A 7 card
game would have taken longer to "play", and only
showing 3 cards would have made it harder to show that
Will was bluffing a straight. Although they could
have given him an open-ended draw. And with Bev
showing her pair [chuckle] and two hole cards, I think
it would be harder to bluff.

Also, Troi is normally at these games. I'd think she
was omitted for time.


My response:
Yeah, I remember him looking at his hole card, as well. That's probably a cultural sub-routine, where he's observed that although players clearly remember their hole card(s), they look one more time to admire their hands before folding.
Yep, they made a simplistic game even simpler with that "house rule." Probably not much of an exciting game in the long run.

And finally, I agree for storytelling purposes they probably kept the poker table simple. It usually takes 5 or 6 people to make poker interesting. Good poker players will fold most of the time, so 4-handed, it'll be rare to get a good pot going. Unless everyone calls like in this scene.


His response:
I'm surprised I haven't found any analysis of ST poker
games online.

[Editor's note: you have now!]
AcesAndEights
AcesAndEights
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 11:24:20 AM permalink
As an avid TNG fan and sometime-poker player, I never noticed any crazy inaccuracies that bothered me. Usually, the script of the episode mandated that someone got bluffed or called on a bluff etc. and generally the action was "accurate enough" for the casual player not to notice. I always forget that string bets aren't allowed since they are pretty much REQUIRED to be in any TV/movie about poker.

But good analysis. Well done.
"So drink gamble eat f***, because one day you will be dust." -ontariodealer
TigerWu
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 11:29:06 AM permalink
Before the poker boom in the early 2000's, I never played in a casual game where betting was consistent or made sense as far as raises and re-raises and all of that. Even nowadays when I (rarely) play, outside of a tournament setting or for any real money, nobody really pays attention to that stuff. Super-casual poker players like me don't think about odds or pot odds or check-raising or any of that other poker math that constitutes "good" play, so I guess that's why I never thought the poker scenes in TNG were all that unrealistic. Keep in mind they're not playing for money, and they rarely play at that (I think Picard says in one episode something like he hasn't played in months).

As far as Data looking at the cards he would obviously have memorized, you're right in that it's a specifically programmed sub-routine. It's been mentioned throughout the series that Data has been programmed to act more human and do things he doesn't need to do to better fit in with people around him.
gamerfreak
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 11:34:14 AM permalink
Wouldn't Troi's empath abilities allow her to know immediately whether or not someone was bluffing (except Data)?
Dalex64
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 11:34:54 AM permalink
Some of the things that bugged me about those was splashing the pot and string raises.
AcesAndEights
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March 16th, 2018 at 11:35:15 AM permalink
Quote: TigerWu

Before the poker boom in the early 2000's, I never played in a casual game where betting was consistent or made sense as far as raises and re-raises and all of that. Even nowadays when I (rarely) play, outside of a tournament setting or for any real money, nobody really pays attention to that stuff. Super-casual poker players like me don't think about odds or pot odds or check-raising or any of that other poker math that constitutes "good" play, so I guess that's why I never thought the poker scenes in TNG were all that unrealistic. Keep in mind they're not playing for money, and they rarely play at that (I think Picard says in one episode something like he hasn't played in months).

As far as Data looking at the cards he would obviously have memorized, you're right in that it's a specifically programmed sub-routine. It's been mentioned throughout the series that Data has been programmed to act more human and do things he doesn't need to do to better fit in with people around him.


Picard only played in the game once, in the last scene of the finale!
"So drink gamble eat f***, because one day you will be dust." -ontariodealer
TigerWu
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March 16th, 2018 at 12:59:24 PM permalink
Quote: AcesAndEights

Picard only played in the game once, in the last scene of the finale!



That's right... I forgot about that! So he played even less than I remembered...haha...
Mission146
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 2:32:46 PM permalink
Quote: AcesAndEights

Picard only played in the game once, in the last scene of the finale!



Yeah, but he, "Should have done it a long time ago."
Vultures can't be choosers.
AcesAndEights
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Mission146
March 16th, 2018 at 6:14:05 PM permalink
Quote: Mission146

Yeah, but he, "Should have done it a long time ago."


I do always get a bit dusty at that scene...
"So drink gamble eat f***, because one day you will be dust." -ontariodealer
DJTeddyBear
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smoothgrh
March 16th, 2018 at 9:10:43 PM permalink
Wow. Incredibly detailed analysis in that first post. Can’t we just remember that ST is supposed to be entertainment? LOL

I love the Hawking scene too. It’s the only time in ST that a cameo appearance is of someone who is playing them self.

Troi: I seem to remember her mentioning at one of the poker games, the telepath thing is something she can turn on and off, and promises to keep it off during the games. They’re all friends and such, it was accepted, and that was that.

5 card: Remember that this was before the poker boom. Most people haven’t heard of Hold Em, in fact most people haven’t heard of a game that has more than five cards. So, for an unsophisticated TV audience, 5 card makes sense.

Stud: I remember poker scenes in other episodes that were draw. Don’t know why the game in the original post was stud. In the Hawking episode it kinda makes sense since we don’t see anyone putting cards in his card holder.

Splashing the pot: Again, it’s a friendly game. Also, wasn’t it a relatively small table?


String bets: Now that’s a whole other can of worms. And again, it can happen in friendly games. And, yeah, it’s almost required whenever there’s a poker game on a TV show.

As some of you may remember me saying, I am a dealer in a pub poker league. So I have to respond to a lot of these kind of issues. I tell new players that although they see it all the time on TV, you’ll never see it on a poker show. Bottom line, when you say “I see your bet, and...” there’s no ‘and’.

Rounders: Rounders is often held as an example of a dramatic, but realistic, presentation of poker.

The biggest example of rules being broken is at the judge’s game. When Mikey starts betting for the dean, that’s two man on a hand. Absolutely forbidden.

And there are string bets. I can think of a couple But the way they did them, the way the scenes played out, they were perfect example of string bets that could have happened in real life.

There were the games vs Teddy KGB, particularly the last hand. (Everybody remembers this one.) Not only is KGB splashing the pot, he is doing it one stack at a time, string bet, while saying, “I ... bet ... it ... all.” Of course Mike isn’t gonna object, he has the nuts!

I tried to find a YouTube clip, but failed.

In the scene where the opponent says “I bluffed the big ringer!” Right before that he says “You’re raising me $300? I call your $300. How much is in there Whites?”

Whites replies, “Um, $1,500”

“$1,500? Here’s $1,000... $500... I bet the pot limit, kiddo.”
I invented a few casino games. Info: http://www.DaveMillerGaming.com/ ————————————————————————————————————— Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁

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