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How To Lose With Style

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Wrapping up my week of Las Vegas blog posts, I thought I'd finally mention gambling. I am not a gambler. However, I am a nerd. So when my brother and I sat down in front of the simplest, lowest-bet (5 cent) video poker machines we could find, my first thought was: what is the optimal strategy for this game? If I knew what to do for each set of cards that came up, could I make money at this? (And yes, I am a naive nerd...more on this in a moment.)

Web to the rescue, of course. Optimal Blackjack strategy can be expressed as a chart comparing your current hand against the dealer's visible card. So that's pretty simple, and a normal human being has some change of learning the rules. However, poker has more cards involved, and more complexity in the winning condition. Texas Hold 'Em Poker Strategy is often expressed as a calculator requiring you to enter your hand as well as the cards on the table to get a recommendation on next steps. But none of this was what I really needed -- my brother and I were playing five-card video poker. Here's an encyclopedic "Jacks or Better" strategy...no offense to the strategist, but utterly incomprehensible to me. The simple strategy is better, but still requires a lot of homework.

After a little thinking, it occurred to me that even playing the optimal strategy, you're still losing money -- it just takes longer. So I just spent my remaining few bucks on Megabucks, which involved pulling a big lever and yelling "Megabucks!" -- well worth the $1 per play. (Note to purists: you cannot win the Megabucks jackpot without betting at least $3, which as you can see, reduces your lever-pulling by 2/3, which makes it totally lame.)

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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest
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Design
Learn All About Fonts by Playing With These Poker Cards
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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

Want to learn about fonts? Try playing poker with the Font Deck, a pack of cards designed to help users learn the finer points of typography and font design.

The deck is the work of Canadian designer Ben Barrett-Forrest, who runs a graphic design studio based out of Ontario and the Yukon. In 2014, Barrett-Forrest designed the precursor to the Font Deck, a product called the Design Deck that aimed to teach users about the ins and outs of graphic design. Some of the Design Deck cards feature typography lessons, but the Font Deck—available for $17 a deck on Barrett-Forrest’s website or on Kickstarter—gives the topic a deeper dive.

A male hand holds fanned-out cards next to a Font Deck box and a stack of playing cards.
Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

The deck includes topics like letter anatomy, old style typefaces, the difference between a font and a typeface, and profiles of specific typefaces, like Helvetica. The cards themselves are printed by the same company that makes popular playing cards like Bicycle and Bee, so they’re gambling ready, if you feel like betting your fortune on that slab serif card.

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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iStock

Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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