hist-games: New Reconstruction of Primero

Jane & Mark Waks waks at attbi.com
Tue Oct 15 09:39:24 PDT 2002

John McLeod wrote:
> I think you have done an excellent job. There are a few doubtful points
> that I would like to ask about.

All good questions; this is why I put it out for comment.

> 1. You write (about phase 1): "Pass -- you may optionally discard one or
> two cards ...". Does 'optionally' mean that you can also simply pass and
> do nothing? If so, your reconstruction differs in this respect from
> Suzuki's, but I did not see anything about this difference in your
> 'Rationale' section.

The reasoning had mainly been lack of evidence: I hadn't noticed
anything that *did* require you to exchange cards. And I'd taken
Suzuki's rule of exchanging when you pass to be an interpretation of the
rule that if no one bids, everyone must exchange cards, which I had
interpreted more literally.

However, on rereading Suzuki's reconstruction, I notice that he's
instead arguing for it as an interpretation of this passage:

"He who, not having announced his primero or fluxus, shall have
increased the deposit, except when purposely changing cards, loses his
deposit; but if he has not increased it, he is compelled at the will of
the others to change cards..."

That's actually not a half-bad argument -- the passage is circuitous,
but his interpretation is plausible. I'll chew on that, and might recant
and switch to his version. (Which would probably involve withdrawing the
rule that everyone must change cards if no one vies -- that becomes
implicit in the draw-when-passing rule.)

I wound up at the "optional" clause because of the case we're about to
get to: if you have *already* Vied or Seen (that is, you've matched the
pot), and it's still going around with the others Passing, Seeing and
Folding, you ought to be able to pass without having to change cards.
That's my best guess of some of what's going on in the Dialogues (where
we have at least one example of someone vying and then passing), and
they do seem to be using the term "pass". Lacking compelling evidence
otherwise, I interpreted the exchange as optional in general. But it
might be specific to that case: you don't have to exchange cards if
you've made or matched the pot, but do otherwise...

> 2. You write: "The rule about getting around to the last player deserves
> a clarifying example. Say you have players A, B, C and D. A Passes; B
> Vies; C and D both Pass. A now must See the bet, even if he doesn't have
> much of a hand."
> But it seems that a player who passes, instead of vying, seeing or
> folding, must have another opportunity to vie, see or fold on the next
> round. So in your example, A is not really the 'last player', since B
> and C have not yet had a chance to see or vie on the basis of their
> improved hands. According to your rules, A should be able to fold now,
> forcing D to see if C also folds.
> Alternatively, since a player is allowed to pass once after someone has
> vied, A can also pass again, and will then be forced to see on the next
> round if C and D both fold.

I think we're getting hung up on wording here; I'm obviously being
unclear. I'm really just describing the same thing that Suzuki does in
his "Forced Staking" clause. (I picked up the term from him.) That is,
if a player vies, one of the others must See it -- they can't *all*
Pass, even though it is the first time through. If the others all Pass,
then the player next to the one who Vied is obligated to See the bet.

It then continues to go around once more. Continuing from my earlier
example, after A sees the bet, B passes (having already made the pot), C
sees the bet and D folds.

I think that all makes sense, but I'm not expressing it clearly enough.
I'll think about how to make it clearer in the writeup.

> 3. I don't quite understand the following rule in your phase 2: "When
> vying, if the bid is numerus or supremus, you must exchange one or two
> cards." When are these cards exchanged? Presumably after the player
> bids.

Yes, that had been my assumption. Cardano isn't clear himself -- this is
an interpretation of, "If the point is simple, or even if it is
superior, they change cards once." These are both cases where you are
presumed to have at least one junk card, so if you're telling the truth
about your bid, you theoretically *want* to exchange a card to improve
your hand. Since understatement is permitted only under very limited
circumstances, I believe that this exchange is mandatory.

Although it does raise an interesting question: what if you vie with a
Numerus, draw to a Fluxus, and everyone sees you without giving you a
chance to revie? In this case, you lose because of the accidental
underbid. Is this what Cardano intends? I'm honestly not sure -- it's
definitely odd, but does seem like it might explain the emphasis on
having to show that you do not have a higher hand type, and introduces a
rather nasty extra twist to the bidding process...

> It is strange that in phase 2 there is the possibility of both
> vying and exchanging cards in the same turn, whilst in phase 1 you can
> only do one or other of these.

Hmm; good point. I'll think about that -- if I don't come up with a
counter-argument, I'll tweak it to make that more consistent...

Thanks for the comments...

				-- Justin

"Forget paint-by-numbers.  Try post-by-numbers."
		-- David Bedno

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