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Gordon G

POW 3: Card Trick


Problem: For this weeks POW, our task was to explain a card trick. In the trick, one person draws five
cards out of a deck and chooses one to set aside. Then they lay out the remaining four cards in a specific
order. Their partner, who hasnt seen the cards before, can guess what the card that was set aside is by
looking at the four laid out cards. The partners had to share a plan before the trick in order for it to
work.
Process: I started by writing down all of the examples that were done in class like this:
2 spades + J clubs + 3 diamonds + K diamonds = 6 spades
A diamonds + 7 clubs + J spades + 2 hearts = 5 diamonds
And so on. In total, I had about six examples to look at. I started by trying to figure out the suit. I soon
noticed that the suit of the hidden card was the same as the suit of either the first or last card laid down
and that the partners would decide which it would be each time.
To find out the card number, I started by thinking that maybe each card represented something
different about the hidden card. If the first card was the suit, maybe the second one had some other
meaning, like even or odd. I investigated, but found no obvious patterns between the different
examples. I also played with the idea that each card corresponded to a letter (a-d) that somehow helped
narrow down the options for the hidden card, but I was unable to find any evidence for that idea either.
Next, one of our classmates gave us the hint that the solution has something to do with binary code.
When I think binary, I immediately think ones and zeros. As such, I tried to assign a code to each card.
My logic went like this: assume that each card can represent one of two things (a one or a zero). When
you have four terms, there are 12 different ways you can arrange them to form different patterns. There
are also 12 options for which number is on the hidden card, as there are 13 cards in each suite and at
least one of them is already on the table. If each number corresponded to a four digit code (for example
7 = 1010), then youd just need a cheat sheet to remember the pattern, which Jessica had during the
demonstration. The only thing that I couldnt figure out in this explanation was how you determine
whether each card is a one or a zero. I started out thinking it could be the color (red=1, black=0), the
number (higher or lower than the middle value of 7), or even vs odd. However, there would be cases
where none of these would work. For example, you could draw all red cards with odd values higher than
or equal to seven. After trying to come up with a pattern for quite a while, I decided that the solution
must be something else as there were no things that you can be guaranteed to draw every time.
At this point, I was pretty stuck, so I went back to my original notion that each card represented a letter.
During the examples done in class, I heard the letters A-C thrown around a few times, but later
dismissed it because there were four cards laid out and only three letters. Then it occurred to me that
maybe the card showing the suit wasnt included in finding the number value. The remaining three cards
would be assigned a letter, either A, B, or C. These three letters could be organized in six different ways.

All that remained was to find a pattern in a 13-card set that included six. After arranging the numbers in
many different ways, I realized that no matter which cards you choose, they can never be more than 6
numbers apart. Therefore, each permutation (abc, cba, etc.) could represent a number from 1-6. That,
when added to the first card (with the suit), will give you the number of the hidden card. The only
problem at this point was to figure out what made each card either a, b, or c. I soon decided that it must
be a=lowest number, b=middle, and c=highest because thats the only thing youd be guaranteed to
draw every time. If you have two of the same card, you use their suits to decide which one was higher
and which lower. In most card games, the order (low-high) is: diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades. All
that your partner needs is a list that says which order of a, b, and c indicates which number.
Solution: When you draw five cards from the deck, you are guaranteed to get at least two of the same
suit. Next, find the shortest distance between the two cards. For example, if you had a king and a two,
the shortest distance would be two numbers, which you would get by adding two to the king. If you
tried to get to a king by adding to the two, youd have to add 11, which is more than the six that you can
demonstrate with the remaining three cards. So, you hide the two and play the king on the table. Then,
you arrange the remaining three cards in order using a pre-determined code to indicate how many to
add to the first card played. All your partner needs to do is memorize that code, and theyll be able to
add the numbers and guess the hidden card.
Justification: I am very confident in my answer because Ive tried it multiple times and it hasnt failed
yet. I used the following code:
A,B,C
+1
A, C, B
+2
C, A, B
+3
C, B, A
+4
B, A, C
+5
B, C, A
+6
The first time I tried it, I drew the following cards: 2s, Jh, Kd, 5s, 10c. The two spades, 2 and 5, are three
numbers apart if you start with two, so I set five aside. Then I laid down the 2 first. The code for +3 is C,
A, B, or high, low, middle, so I laid down the king, then the 10, then the jack. Using the code, its easy to
guess that the hidden card is the five of spades.
Next, I drew 5h, 9d, 10c, 3h, and 4h. I set aside the four of hearts because it is only one number away
from three. Then I laid out the 3 to indicate suit. Then, because the code for +1 is low, medium, high, I
laid out the 5, then the 9, and finally the 10. Because both of these attempts worked perfectly, I am
confident that my answer outlines one way to perform this trick.