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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Nim » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Jordan Piper
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Are you framiliar with the con game Nim in which two people take matchsticks(up to three at a time) from a pile with the person who takes the last stick being declared the winner? The books I have read about this game give confusing details and I was wondering if you could reccommend a book or website that gives clearer instructions and perhaps an example of some patter to use.
Thank-you very much, Jordan.(thekernel)
Whit Haydn
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The Secret of Nim

The game of nim is not a con game. It is a puzzle that once you know how to work the math, you can win every time. Therefore it can be used to play for money, with the advantage going to the one who knows the correct moves to make in each situation.

There are many variations in the way the game is played. Almost any kind of counter can be used--such as matches, coins, pebbles, etc. These are arranged in rows with varying numbers of objects in each row. Two players alternate in taking counters from a row or rows. Sometimes the idea is to take the last object, other versions of the game have the winner leave the last object.

The game originated in ancient China, but the name is from the German word "nimm" which means "take."

The solutions are a little complicated, usually involving translating the rows of matches or coins into binary numbers.

Do a search in Google or Yahoo and you will find page after page of information, playable games, and mathematical solutions.

Nim makes a great bar bet, but I don't think it is something that can be presented as an exhibition successfully. It is too complicated to present that way, and the secret to the game is so self-evidently mathematical.

Patter would simply be an explanation of the basic rules.

I don't have a simple method to the mathematical solution, but perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I in math or puzzles on the forum will. Darwin Ortiz?
sleightly
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Hey Whit!

Simon Lovell has a section on Nim in his forthcoming "Billion Dollar Bunko" soon to be published by L & L Publishing. This work has got a lot of information on various con games (or, in this instance, advantage games).

Would certainly agree with Whit that this would make for a difficult focused live exhibition, however, incorporated into a broader demonstration, Nim certainly has its place...

Enjoying the discourse Whit, keep up the good work!

Andrew
MarkusT
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there is a chapter on NIM in
Trost, Nick: Expert Gambling Tricks

Markus
Bill Hallahan
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I first learned the algorithm used to win this game from the book, "The Magic House of Numbers", by Irving Adler. Despite the title, this is a book about mathematics, not magic.

A very detailed analysis of this type of game is in "Applied Combinatorics", by Alan Tucker.

This is a fun game to play when you know the algorithm to win. People are impressed when you defeat them over and over again, especially when before you start playing each game, you let them decide whether the last person who moves wins or the last person who moves loses, and you also let them decide who makes the first move.

The game is much better with more than three rows of items. With only three rows, people start to notice the patterns that you leave after your moves. Eventually they can win by moving to arrive at these patterns without them actually understanding the game.
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John Smetana
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I believe that Bruce Bernstein published a little known booklet(sorry I'm not near my files and the title escapes me) and subsequent addenda regarding the game 31, which I believe is a variation of NIM.The book is very thorough in it's explanations and includes a variety of methods/subtleties that work even if your opponent(mark) knows the game.

Best thoughts,
John Smetana Smile
Whit Haydn
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Thanks for the help, guys.
KingStardog
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'Beat em, Cheat em and leave em bleeding' is a booklet that covers the moves for '31" with both dice and cards.

same principle in knowing your moves.
...think not that all wisdom is in your school. You may have studied other paths,but, it is important to remember that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always more to learn.
sashain
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I have extensive references and notes on NIM, as well as the game of 31 (played with dice and/or cards).

The best simple discussion on Nim that I have found is in The Mathematics of Games, by John D. Beasley (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp 99-101. Beasley explains the winning strategy as well as the relation of Nim to many other games. He avoids the mathematical proofs, while stating and illustrating many interesting properties of the game. The most interesting (and astounding!) of these is the fact that any game which must terminate, and in which the same plays are available to both players, is equivalent to Nim. (This applies only to the game of "straight" Nim in which the player taking the last counter wins (see Beasley, pp 106-107)).

If you saw the movie Last Year in Marienbad, you know how menacing the game of Nim can be. In the movie, the protagonist repeatedly plays Nim with the croupier of the casino. The croupier is symbolic of death, and since the protagonist always loses - well, you know that it isn't going to end well. (And you thought we were only going to play to determine who will pay for the drinks?)

The script lines are something like:

Croupier: I know a game I never lose.
Player: If you can't lose, it's not a game.
Croupier: Well, I can lose. I just never do.
Steve Shain
Houston, Texas
Whit Haydn
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What an education this forum has been. Thanks to everyone.
King Of Pop
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I must agree with whithaydn, really educational topic. It was nice to follow this one here. Thank you all for posting! Smile
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Jordan Piper
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Thanks for the info everyone.
chappy
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A version of Nim is covered by Darwin Ortiz in his book Gambling Scams. There isn't much in the way of patter but is a effective and well explained version otherwise.
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Whit Haydn
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That is a wonderful book. It also has some very interesting observations on the monte. I am a big fan of all of Darwin Ortiz's work.
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Nim » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes)
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