Saturday, July 30, 2022

How to Avoid People You Don’t Like

Sometimes, people just get on your nerves

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

At World of Card Games, if someone is behaving in a way that annoys you, you can hit the “dislike” button next to that player. Once you do that, you won’t be seated with them again.

If only real life were that simple, eh? Sometimes, you’re put in situations where you have to interact with someone who bugs you. Maybe it’s a relative, a coworker, or your boss. There’s no dislike button in life! But there are things you can do about the problem.

One thing that can work is to recognize that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to them. So, if you’re letting someone get under your skin, but they’re not actually harming you, then it might be worth looking deep into yourself to try to understand what is bugging you so much about their actions. Is it really something that should upset you? Is it possible that you’re actually the one causing yourself more trouble than the other person? For example, if someone is being rude or disrespectful to you, your first reaction might be to get upset, and to try to force them to be respectful in some way. But unless their rudeness is actually causing you to be endangered, then what harm does it do to you? In fact, in many cases, rudeness just reflects poorly on the person being rude, and it’s not worth wasting your time on. Ignoring people who bother you is a great way to avoid unnecessary stress, if you can find a way to do that.

Another option seems a bit of the coward’s way out, but can be very effective. Just do your best to avoid those who annoy you. Don’t like a coworker? Make an excuse to leave the room when they appear, or be extra busy to stay out of their way. Don’t like your boss? Make a serious effort to get a new job so that you don’t dread getting up in the morning.

Some people find that confronting the people who annoy you can work. Is a coworker tap-tap-tapping away, destroying your focus? Don’t wait for it to become so irritating that you explode in a rage at them. Instead, politely explain the problem. In many cases, people don’t even realize that they’re causing someone else discomfort, and will immediately work to improve the situation — but ya gotta tell them!

Just so it’s clear, in every case above, I’m talking about those who annoy you — not when you’re in real danger. If you’re in danger, seek help from the authorities! We’re talking about annoyances here, not danger.

Do you have a favorite tactic to remain unstressed by the behavior of others? Please share your ideas. And thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Cheating at Cards

Worried about cheating? Play against bots — they do not cheat!

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Are you worried that someone at your card table is cheating at the game? You’re not alone! Periodically, I get an email from someone who is convinced that someone is cheating. I’m told I should ban this or that person because they are “too lucky”, or “blatantly cheating”.

In case it’s not obvious, it is possible to cheat at cards online 😃 Look, for whatever reason, some people consider it more important to win than to play fair. I am not one of those people, and I think most people are not. But, you’ve got to realize it can happen. This comes under the category of “things I learned in kindergarten”, sad to say.

This behavior has been going on since time immemorial. There’s an entire Wikipedia page that outlines the different ways that people have cheated at Poker. Among the most obvious things? Unethical types will try to peek at another player’s cards, or mark the cards. And there are plenty more obscure techniques.

Most recently, Ali Imsirovic — a World Series of Poker participant — has been accused of cheating. Sadly, cheating is apparently rampant in the card game Bridge! As soon as something is at stake — large sums of money, or even something silly, like being called #1 — some people won’t blink an eye at doing whatever they can to get that reward. In that NY Times article about Bridge cheaters, we see this quote from an admitted cheater: “I didn’t do it for money, glory, results, victories, some sort of fulfillment, or masterpoints,” she said, referring to bridge’s ranking system. “I did it because it was so, so easy, and so tempting.” If you’re like me, you’re rolling your eyes at this admission.

Marking cards and stacking the deck just don’t work online, but people have discovered other ways to cheat, much to the annoyance of those who prefer a straight, aboveboard game.

Unfortunately, in most cases of online cheating, it’s just too difficult to tell if people are truly cheating, or if they are just really good at the game. If you see someone playing cards in a way that just seems too good, consider that after having played thousands of hands of a specific card game, some people have developed strategies — such as counting cards — that makes them better at the game than your casual player. As much as I find cheating pathetic, I hate the idea that an innocent person might be accused of cheating when they’re simply very good at a game.

What can you do if you are convinced that someone is cheating at your table? Fortunately, at World of Card Games, you can hit the dislike button next to a person to avoid being seated with them in the future. Many Guests (unregistered users) are quite nice, friendly, and decent people. But some people are suspicious of Guests. Any registered player can avoid playing with Guests by setting up their Options that way. And if you just think everyone is out to get you, you can still play against the “bots”. The bots don’t have the best reputation and they are not stellar partners, but let me tell you, they definitely do not cheat.

And if you’re reading this, and you’re a cheater? Please reconsider and take a good look in the mirror. Why are you doing it? In my view, you are harming yourself more than anyone else. I understand when people steal bread because they’re starving. I don’t understand when people cheat to win a game.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Having trouble signing in? Try this!

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Sometimes, I get an email from a user saying that they can’t sign in to the website.

I know it happens, but I can’t figure out why. Most people do not have this problem. And I’m one of them. I can sign in with no problems in two different web browsers: Firefox and Chrome.

How do I sign in? I click the “sign in” link in the upper right corner of the site. This causes a little panel to open with a place for my username and password, and a button labeled “Sign In”. I click my mouse into the username area, and type in my username. Then, I click the password text input, and type in my password. Then I click the “Sign In” button with my mouse. Voila, I’m signed in!

Here’s a YouTube video that shows how I do this, in case it’s not clear from my description.

One thing I didn’t mention above is that sometimes, a web browser will “remember” my username and password. When I go to the site, and open the Sign In form, those form inputs that I mentioned above will be filled out for me. This can also happen if I’m using a password manager of some sort.

That’s convenient! And I think that in most cases, the browser’s attempt to fill in the form works. However, for some people, it does not, and clicking the “Sign In” button does not work when the inputs have not been filled in manually.

There’s another case where problems can occur. The web browser may “autocomplete” some words for you. For example, you might start to type your username, and the browser fills it in before you can finish typing.

This is another case where a feature of the web browser seems to work for most people, but in rare cases, something goes wrong. So if you’re having trouble signing in, try ignoring the “autocomplete” feature of your browser, and just completely type in your full username and password, and then click the “Sign In” button.

I hope this helps you get signed in to World of Card Games, or any other sites where you’re having problems logging in!

Saturday, July 9, 2022

What Would You Bid? A Hand of Spades

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Here’s a fun puzzle for people who play the card game Spades.

Take a look at this hand of cards that I was dealt recently. Here’s a link to the Spades hand history for anyone who wants to see the full hand.

I was dealt 5–8–10 of clubs, 10-Q of diamonds, 2–3–8 of spades, and 3–4–5–9-J of hearts. I bid 1! Why?

My partner was first to bid. They bid 6, meaning their hand was pretty good. I don’t know about you, but when I see my partner make such a high bid, my mind immediately thinks “Can I bid nil?”

And if you look at my cards, at first glance, there’s a good argument for a nil bid. I’d argue that I might be lucky to even get one trick if I tried!

I’ve got three spades, but they’re all low. I’m long in hearts, five of them, and the highest is the Jack. And I’ve got three clubs, all low.

If I bid nil, it’s unlikely that I’ll get set in clubs or hearts. What about diamonds, though? There’s the catch. I’m holding the 10 and Queen of diamonds. There are eight cards out there that are lower than my 10 of diamonds: the two through nine. On top of that, I’m also holding the Queen. It seems to me that if I bid nil, I’d very likely get set with diamonds unless I got very lucky.

And in fact, if you look at everyone else’s hands in this hand history, you can see that if I’d bid nil, it would have been very risky. Imagine my teammate leading with the Ace of diamonds. That works fine and I’d get rid of my Queen. Eventually, though, it would be likely that one of my opponents would wind up leading with diamonds. If they’re smart, they’d lead with their lowest diamond, and at that point my nil would be toasted! My opponents both hold diamonds that are lower than the 10, and my teammate doesn’t have any higher diamond to cover the 10. So unless my opponents made a bone-headed move, that’d be the end of my nil.

Bidding nil can so often win the game for you that it’s tempting to do so whenever possible. And it’s fun, to boot! But there’s something else to consider here. Look at the scores. You’ll see that this is an end-game scenario. My teammate and I need to take a total of five tricks to cross 500 points and win the game. Our opponents are far behind us and have no chance of winning if the game ends at this hand.

My feeling is that anyone who bids nil in this case is not playing to win, but just loves bidding nil and taking big risks. My safest bet is to bid one. And that’s what I did.

There’s a risk in that, as well. What if I can’t even take a single trick? It’s possible that my hand is so weak that my opponents would set my bid of one! But I do have three spades, and I’m kind of short in diamonds. I’m going to hope that once all my diamonds are taken, I’ll be able to trump in on a diamond trick. And if that fails, I’m hopeful that my teammate’s hand is so strong that they will take an extra one and cover my bid that way.

Things could have gone differently. The only way that my team could have lost this hand would be if we got set. We got lucky, and I actually wound up taking two tricks, one more than I’d bid. We won! 😃

This is one of the things that I love about Spades. You often need to think — and think again — to figure out the winning tactic. I might have bid differently if the scores were reversed, and we had nothing to lose. I might have made a more risky bid earlier in the game, too.

I hope you have some fun thinking about what you would do if you were dealt this hand of cards! And if you enjoy playing Spades against the computer or other people, give it a try at World of Card Games!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

How to Play Ranked Card Games

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Did you know you can get ranked for many of the card games at World of Card Games? I thought everyone knew this… but maybe I’m wrong.

Recently, I got an email. Someone said it was taking them a long time to get a ranked game going. They suggested that I write a blog post about ranked games. Surely, more people would play ranked games if they knew about them.

I thought to myself, “but, the site has a big message at the top of the screen that says you can play ranked games at World of Card Games! Everyone sees that, and knows the drill. Don’t they??”

There’s a link at the top of the page to a post about ranked games

Well, just in case some people are not aware, I’m going to explain what ranked games are, how to get to them, and how it all got started.

Ranked games give you a score — an “Elo rating” — that is visible to others. This system was originally developed for chess, but has been applied to many other games, including card games.

When you play your first ranked game, your Elo rating defaults to 1500. It gets higher the more ranked games you win. If you lose a ranked game, your rating goes down. For some people, it adds a little bit of competition and excitement to the game. If a person has an Elo rating, you can see it by clicking on the person’s avatar.

World of Card Games did not originally have any rankings. The total number of your wins and losses was recorded, together with a few other statistics, and that was pretty much it. These stats were only visible to you.

There seemed to be a demand for something a little more official. People would email me, saying that the site really needed a ranking system. I guess some people wanted to prove that they were better than your run-of-the-mill card player!

That was okay with me. However, I also chatted with some people who told me that they were vehemently opposed to rankings! This surprised me. Some people just didn’t want any extra competitive element in their games. They wanted the games to stay friendly and casual.

That feedback is why the default option for the site is unranked. And it’s also the reason that it can take longer for ranked games to start, especially at times of the day when it’s less busy. I wish that there was something I could do about this. However, I think it’s most important for everyone to play the way that they prefer, even if it means games take a little longer to start.

Anyway, after a little research, I developed an Elo ratings system, and in October of 2015, people could start to play ranked Hearts! The formula was modified over time based on feedback from players. You can read the details of the Elo ratings system for team games like Spades and Double Deck Pinochle here, or for Hearts here. Over time, the option to play ranked games was added to Spades, Euchre, Double Deck Pinochle, and Twenty-Nine.

Aside from the rating system, there are some rules that apply solely to ranked games.

First, only registered players can play at ranked tables. Guest numbers change over time, so recording an Elo rating for a Guest doesn’t make sense. And because Guest numbers can change, it’s difficult for others to recognize them. I encourage people to register at the site, so that people can then play with people they recognize and like. I hope that giving registered players the ability to play ranked is a good incentive for people to register.

Second, you cannot play a ranked game until you’ve completed 10 games at the site. This is done to make sure that you’re at least somewhat familiar with the site before you try to play against others competitively.

Third, you won’t get ranked unless you specifically choose to be. You do this by taking a seat at a ranked table. Ranked tables show up as purple in the list of tables.

A ranked table appears in purple in the list of tables

You can also play a ranked game by clicking on the Menu button for your game, and clicking the link to “Play Ranked”. Here’s a screenshot showing the Menu button.

The Menu button

Another way to access ranked games is by visiting the home page for your game, where you’ll see a link for ranked tables. There are separate home pages for Hearts, Spades, Double Deck Pinochle, Euchre, and Twenty-Nine. Those are all the games that can be ranked at World of Card Games.

Since ranked games are competitive, there are some penalties if you do something wrong. Specifically, if you quit a ranked game, and don’t return to it within three minutes, you will get banned from ranked play for two hours and you forfeit the game. This penalty is applied to deter quitters, since that behavior upsets a lot of people!

There’s one more thing to note. If you’re one of those people who really does not want to be ranked, and you want to make sure that you never get seated at a ranked table accidentally, then there’s a setting you can apply. From the home screen, click your name in the upper right corner. A panel opens with various settings. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll come to the “Rank me” area. If you uncheck any of those boxes, you will not be seated at any ranked tables in the future. If you change your mind, you can check these boxes again, but it will be seven days before you will be allowed to play ranked again.

“Rank me” settings are found by clicking your name in the upper right corner

Well, I think this is all you need to know about ranked games! Feel free to contact me or comment if you have any questions.