Cut That Out

By Ron Smalec

Remember that first time you attended a Pokemon:TCG tournament, or maybe the first time you sat down with a group of friends who really knew how to play well? Remember the excitement, mixed with a little bit of nervousness, as you shuffled your deck and hoped your first seven cards would be the ones you needed most? Then, you opponent slides his deck toward you and asks if you want to cut his deck. Cut his deck? Was your answer, "Uhm… sure?"

If it was, you aren't alone. Your opponent probably divided your deck into two piles and then placed one back on top of the other. Maybe you were thinking, "Ok… that's weird. Does my opponent think I'm cheating?" Probably not. Your opponent was simply following an old card-playing tradition.

You might be asking, "Tradition? Why? Does that make it harder for me to win?"

There is a very good reason for cutting each other's deck, and it's not to give you an extra advantage.

The most important reason to have your deck cut by your opponent is to demonstrate good sportsmanship. It shows your opponent that you trust him or her and that you haven't got any tricks up your sleeve. It's always a good idea to ask politely, "Would you like to cut my deck?". Your opponent may choose not to. That's ok. If he or she doesn't offer their own deck, you can politely ask, "Do you mind if I cut yours."

You might be thinking, "Aha, now I've rearranged his cards and messed up the strategy he was going to use." Or, you might be thinking, "Well, that will help her shuffle." Unfortunately, niether of these are entirely true. In fact, if you aren't cutting the deck properly, you may not be doing anything at all. Let's look at the proper way to cut a deck.

Cutting a deck is easy. Simply take the deck, face down, and decide where you want to cut it. It's probably best to cut the deck as close to the middle as possible, for reasons we'll explain later. Split the deck in two piles by picking up the top portion of the deck and leaving the bottom half on the table. You must keep both halves face down! Lay the top half to one side of the bottom half. Pick up the entire bottom half. If you leave any cards behind, or divide the deck into more than two halves, you're not cutting the deck and your opponent might be offended because it looks like you are doubting their shuffling. Place the bottom half directly on top of the top half to form the deck again. Be sure that when you place the bottom half onto the top half, that you have not rotated either pile of cards. If you did, your opponent's deck might not have all of its cards facing the same direction. Some people find it frustrating when they draw cards into their hand upside-down. A common mistake when cutting a deck is to split the deck in two and then place the top half back onto the bottom half. Guess what? You didn't cut the deck at all.

As of Rules Version 2.0, cutting your opponent's deck is not a mandatory step. However, there are several times during the course of a game you may want to cut your opponent's deck or offer your own deck to your opponent to cut. The first time you should cut decks is after shuffling, before you each choose your seven card starting hand. This includes any time you or your opponent has to re-shuffle because there were no Basic Pokemon in the seven card starting hand. However, you won't need to cut decks after the seven card starting hand is drawn, before you draw your six prizes. In fact, you may not need to cut decks at any other time during this match. As a basic rule, you will want to cut your opponent's deck immediately after they shuffle for any reason. Typically, this will be following some action as described on a Trainer card. In fact, it isn't a good idea to ask your opponent to cut their deck unless they've just finished shuffling.

Now that you've got the basics, you may still be wondering how cutting a deck affects the game. We already said that it doesn't give you a definite advantage. Sometimes, you may even be bringing your opponent's best cards to the top of the deck. The easiest way to understand the full power of cutting the deck, is to think of your deck as an Open Circle. The cards on the top of your deck are at one end of the Open Circle, and the cards at the bottom are on the other end. If you take the top card from your deck and place it on the bottom, the Open Circle is still intact but has a new starting point and a new ending point. If these two points were connected to form a closed circle, you'd see that the order of your cards, in the deck, are still exactly the same. In fact, you can take as many cards as you want from the top of the deck and place them on the bottom. Eventually, you'll come back to the very first card you moved and the deck will look exactly the way it did before you moved any cards. Did you realize that each time you moved a single card, you were cutting the deck?

Because of this Open Circle, cutting the deck never really alters the order that your opponent's cards are in, it only changes the starting and ending points. The only way to change the order of the deck, and create a new Open Circle, is to shuffle. For this reason, it's best to only cut your opponent's deck once after they've shuffled. Let's pretend that you are down to the last ten cards in your deck and you've just played a Trainer card that asks you to shuffle. You now have a ten card Open Circle that your opponent can cut. If your opponent cuts your cards into two equal piles of five cards each and then places the halves together correctly, the sixth card from your original deck should now be on top. If your opponent decides to cut your deck again, and splits the deck into two equal halves of five cards each, he or she will be putting your deck back as if they'd never cut it at all. To see this, try it using a deck of regular, numbered, playing cards. Order the deck 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, Jack(10), Queen(11). Cut the deck twice, using exactly five cards in each pile, both times.

Obviously, you won't always be cutting your opponent's deck exactly in half. However, the same idea is still at work. For this reason, it's sufficient to cut your opponent's deck once, directly in the middle. What happens if you cut the deck near the top or the bottom instead of the middle? It's still a legal cut of the deck, only you haven't moved the end points of the Open Circle as far, but there's still no reason to cut the deck more than once. In fact, cutting the deck twice, at the top, will get you roughly the same result as cutting the deck once, at the bottom, and vice-versa.

Here's a fun card trick that illustrates the Open Circle. Or, use it to amaze your friends.

The first 2 steps should be done without your audience's knowledge…

Step 1. Create a 60-card deck with the following guidelines;

10 Energy cards

10 Trainer cards

10 Psychic Pokemon

10 Fire Pokemon

10 Water Pokemon

10 Colorless Pokemon

You can substitute any group of 10 cards with any other group, the point is there should be six groups of ten cards that all have something in common. Psychic-themed cards work the best if you're using this as a 'magic trick'.

Step 2. Arrange the deck so that the cards are in this order;

1 Energy Card

1 Trainer Card

1 Psychic Pokemon

1 Fire Pokemon

1 Water Pokemon

1 Colorless Pokemon

The rest of the deck should follow this pattern until you have 10 groups of cards 'in order'.

Step 3. Show your deck to the audience.

You can fan a few of the cards from the top of the deck if they're concerned about shuffling but do not mention shuffling the deck.

Step 4. Cut the Deck

Allow any member(s) of your audience to cut your deck as many times as they want, at any point in the deck. Make sure that they cut the deck properly, though, or the trick may fail.

Step 6. Speak your magic words and invoke your psychic powers…

Step 6. "Table Suffle" the deck.

Table Shuffling is accomplished by taking the top card and placing it, face down, on the table. Then, take the new top card and place it next to the first, and so on until you have six face down cards and one deck. The face down cards are the start of piles.

Take the new top card an place it on the first pile that you started.

Continue placing cards, one on top of each pile, in order, until you have six piles of 10 cards each. If you placed any one card out of order the trick will not work.

Step 7. Flip over each of the piles. You should see that all of the Energy, Trainer, and Pokemon cards have grouped themselves back together as if you never cut the deck at all!

Why does it work? It's the Open Circle. Once you set up the deck in order, any number of cuts to the deck did not change the order of the cards in the Open Circle, only the starting and ending points (the top and bottom cards).

Next time you're at a tournament and your opponent settles in across from you and asks if you'd like to cut his or her deck, just grin and split it down the middle, and hope your best cards didn't get put into your prizes!

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