Thursday, March 04, 2010

For Four-Color?

Four-Color CardsA new issue of Bluff Magazine arrived in my mailbox this week (March 2010), containing an article by Mike Caro in which he shares what he calls “My Least Popular Poker Opinions.” As we all know, Caro has had a lot of opinions over the years regarding not just poker strategy, but the rules and functioning of the game, too. And being the iconoclast he is, his ideas generally tend to illustrate genuine attempts at rethinking traditional approaches -- one reason why I always find Caro one of the more interesting poker writers.

One of the ideas Caro briefly discusses in the article was his campaign back in the 1990s to introduce a four-color deck -- i.e., a deck featuring blue diamonds and green clubs to go along with the red hearts and black spades. The piece notes how players immediately objected to the attempted innovation, thus forcing him to add it to his list of “failed” ideas.

The story of Caro’s campaign has been told many times in many places over the years. Apparently it was at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in 1992 that Caro first successfully persuaded tourney organizers to employ the four-color deck, the colors of which had been determined following a vote among students at one of his seminars. Incidentally, Caro has insisted that he didn’t “invent” the four-color deck -- in fact, he believes the two-color deck was itself an “innovation” of sorts, borne from a desire to save money on printing costs.

In any event, the new deck was not appreciated at Foxwoods, partly due to the fact that the colors hadn’t been properly shaded, causing some confusion to go along with the general opposition to change. By the second day of the tourney, the decks were removed and the traditional two-color decks restored.

In the Bluff piece, Caro makes reference to a later attempt to introduce the four-color deck, a story that Diane McHaffie describes in more detail in a 2006 article in Poker Player Magazine. There McHaffie tells how Caro tried once more to introduce the four-color deck in early 1995, getting 65 different cardrooms to employ the decks on a single day -- dubbed “C-Day” (or “Color Day”) by the Mad Genius of Poker.

“Although most players seemed impressed,” writes McHaffie, “some were indifferent and then there were those who voiced their discontent rather loudly.” And, in predictable fashion, losing players “took this opportunity to blame their misfortune on the color change” of the decks.

McHaffie quotes Caro explaining how he’d “spent years lobbying, cajoling, and publicizing an event [C-Day] that was intended to change the very nature of playing cards forever and it just resulted in two hours of agony.” The decks were thrown out, and thus ended the experiment. In live poker, anyway. Online poker -- which allows players to modify the playing experience individually in numerous ways -- makes the four-color deck an option which I would venture to guess most players choose to take.

I have trouble coming up with a good reason not to use four-color decks in live play, though I assume some have objections that go beyond the uncritical appeal to tradition. I suppose one could argue that poker is a game that rewards attention to detail, and thus requiring players to make the extra mental effort of distinguishing hearts from diamonds and clubs from spades is yet another way to test that skill. Then again, one could find ways to make the cards even more difficult to read (remember those “Poker Peek” cards from the 2007 WSOP?), providing an even greater challenge -- something no one could rationally argue for, I wouldn’t think.

Printing costs probably remain a factor here, although probably less a factor than in the past. So what other reasons might there be not to use the four-color deck?

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Blogger The Poker Meister said...

I use 4-color decks online. I would love to use them live. If I were able to (and knew where to get them), I would buy 4 color plastic decks. There have been numerous times where I've almost made a blunder because I thought I had two spades (and had a spade & club) or hearts, because of a quick glance at the color.

3/04/2010 10:02 AM  
Blogger gadzooks64 said...

I am a HUGE fan of the four color decks. I even have them in Jumbo index versions.

They make some of my regular players want to hurl so I don't use them anymore.

I do, however, wish that the casinos would switch to the jumbo index cards. Those 10 player tables are pretty big and the jumbo index cards really make it so much easier to see them.

I've been using the Modiano Platinum Jumbo Index 100% plastic cards for my game and they are a huge hit with all the players. They have a yellow field in addition to the large pips.


The Poker Meister should check at Cara Gails for the 4 color decks. Copag and others make them.

3/04/2010 10:48 AM  
Blogger Sean G said...

I've never understood the appeal of a four color deck, and still play with a two color deck online.

Recently I played in a local card room here in Portland, and they employ four color decks in their tournaments. I made a rather bad call when I squeezed out what appeared to be KsJs on a board of Jc6s7s - when I turned my hand over, I actually had KsJd. The little point of the green diamond tricked my quick glance into thinking it was a spade.

If they can come up with a way where the blue and green don't look black when you squeeze them out underneath your hand in a dark poker room, then I might be a little more accepting.

3/04/2010 10:57 AM  
Blogger Heffmike said...

ANYTHING that makes a board easier to read, I'm all for.

Players who grumble about four-color decks usually have a subtext - "it's not my fault some idiot can't read the board, duh" - which often means, "I love it when a villain makes a stupid, yet avoidable mistake that has nothing to do with gameplay which makes me money."

There's a certain angleshooting mindset in that thought process I just can't get behind.

People misread boards/hands, they get embarrassed and look stupid. Embarrassed people don't usually rebuy or stay at the table. That's not good for any game.

I love four-color decks. Unless you're colorblind, why wouldn't everyone love it? Black and red suits are arbitrary anyway, tossing blue and green into the mix doesn't matter one bit.

3/04/2010 12:34 PM  
Blogger Lucypher said...

They cost more than regular decks. Perhaps, that is why they are not more widely used. Personally, I like them.
Poker Meister, Copag makes great cards and sells four color plastic decks. I use them in my home game.

3/04/2010 12:41 PM  
Anonymous CADmunkey said...

Another vote here for 4 colour decks! Our local casinos don't use them but I'd be all for it if they did.

3/05/2010 1:12 PM  

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