It seems like a simple thing; 52 pieces of cardboard that nearly everyone knows about.
Of course, even as children we learned many card games like "Go Fish", "Battle", "Slap Jack" and all the rest. As we grew older, Poker and Blackjack replaced the childhood games and card playing became a much more serious endeavor. But what about the history of the cards themselves? Ever given much thought to the simple decks we use and all that they represent? Here are a few facts about the card decks that you may not know and just may surprise you!
There are more possible arrangements in a deck of cards than there are stars in the known universe. The full number is 52 factorial, which is (very, very roughly) an eight followed by 67 zeroes.
The standard 52-card deck has been around for 500 years or more. What is rather unbelievable is that there are so many possible arrangements of the cards, it is statistically unlikely that any two have ever repeated in all of history. There are in fact 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000 arrangements.
The above number, while impossible to get your head around in any conventional manner, is 52 factorial, the possible orders of a shuffled deck. While enormous, the number is rather simply arrived at, by multiplying 52 down to 1 (52 x 51 x 50 . . . ). There are more possible arrangements of cards than there are atoms on Earth.
With such an astonishing range, the science of “card counting,” or predicting the next cards to be dealt in a hand, seems more magic than math. There are, however, well-known formulas to tip the odds in a player’s favor. In American casinos, card counting is not illegal, though casinos frown upon it and employ various countermeasures to keep professional players from raking in huge pots!
Maybe the next time you sit down to a quiet hand of Solitaire or a friendly game of Gin Rummy with a neighbor, this little fact will pop up as a topic of discussion. Who knows?
Want to have coffee out on the patio this morning? It's not too bad yet.