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Subject: Card counting in Schnapsen rss

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lotus dweller
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Having two keen players active here I thought I'd ask about how others remember ;
their score,
their opponents score,
and
what cards have been played.

If there is more that you remember please share that too. And how.
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Peter Asimakis
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Don't mean to be flippant, but it's straight out memory work.
One just keeps a running tally in ones head of both scores.
I keep repeating it internally, along with thinking about the cards played in groups of suites, and trying to think of each suite slowly filling as the play proceeds.
It's especially important to keep a tally of all the Kings and Queens, particularly in the trump suite, as marriages can hurt you badly.
(Just like real life!)
The more one does it, the better one gets at it.
The older I get, the worse I get at it!
I have written in other forums that Sixty-six is a good anti-Alzheimer's
tool.
Hope that helps.

Irini Pasi.

PLB.
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Martin Tompa
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Pinook wrote:
what cards have been played

As Peter says, it's memory work. And, with practice and discipline, it's not all that hard. I've written a section in my strategy document on the tricks I use myself to do this, which you can read at http://psellos.com/schnapsen/strategy.html#rememberingcards . Like Peter, I find that visualizing the cards, as they fit in with the cards I'm looking at, is an effective way of keeping it in my head.

Pinook wrote:
their score,
their opponents score

I've also got a short section about this in that same document, at
http://psellos.com/schnapsen/strategy.html#trackingpoints , but there is less I can say here other than that I repeat it to myself after each trick.

Pinook wrote:
If there is more that you remember please share that too. And how.

Yes, there is one more thing to remember: the cards your opponent currently holds that have been shown to you. These are either a trump that was exchanged, or a marriage partner that was returned to the opponent's hand. If you are visualizing the cards played and not yet seen, it's not hard to fit this extra information into that visualization.

As I said at the start of this reply, it's mostly a matter of discipline and determination. When I started playing avidly again about half a year ago (against our new iPhone app), I got very discouraged that I couldn't remember the cards played the way I used to when I was young. I decided I wanted to work on that and, honestly, it only took me about 2 days of following my own written advice to recover the skill. And that in itself felt like a nice accomplishment, and the first necessary step toward playing expertly. Once you can remember the cards, you're suddenly playing in the light.

Good luck with it, Pinook, and let us know what works for you.
Martin.
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Eugene
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Players are supposed to keep the running score in their heads? That seems a little excessive.
 
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Martin Tompa
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garygarison wrote:
Players are supposed to keep the running score in their heads? That seems a little excessive.

There are two different scores, the trick points (how many card points -- toward the goal of 66 -- you and your opponent have in your tricks during the current deal) and the game points (the points you score after winning a deal). The game point score is written down for all to see. But you're not allowed to write down the trick point score, nor write down what cards have been played so far; these things you have to keep in your head.
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Eugene
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What does committing the running trick point score to memory serve?
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Martin Tompa
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garygarison wrote:
What does committing the running trick point score to memory serve?

It's a good question. You could allow the players to write down the trick point score. Let's be even more generous and allow the players to write down the exact cards that have been taken in each player's tricks. To speed up the game, we can avoid writing down anything and just leave the past tricks face up for both players to see. That way they can review the cards that have been played and recalculate the trick point scores at any time.

I think the game could still be fun played this way. I've never tried it. You could really focus on the strategy of how best to play your cards, without having to worry about remembering what's been played.

But most card games aren't played this way. In bridge, past tricks are face-down and good bridge players have to remember what's been played (much harder with a 52-card bridge deck than with a 20-card Schnapsen deck). Even in "less serious" card games such as Hearts or Gin Rummy, you're not allowed to look back at previously played cards and it's a benefit if you can remember them. In Stud Poker, it's a benefit to remember the exposed cards that were mucked.

I don't know how this tradition of not looking back at played cards started, but it's pretty pervasive in card games.
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lotus dweller
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garygarison wrote:
What does committing the running trick point score to memory serve?
Cognitive load.

Just anyone can walk 20km. Put 45kg on their back and its a different story.
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Eugene
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So does the game have anything interesting to offer if this cognitive load were completely eliminated?
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Martin Tompa
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garygarison wrote:
So does the game have anything interesting to offer if this cognitive load were completely eliminated?

Absolutely! I tried to convey that in my previous reply: if you left all the tricks face-up on the table, you could focus on the very interesting strategy of finding the best next move to make. Please take a look at any of the columns in my blog called The Schnapsen Log (http://psellos.com/schnapsen/blog/), where all cards are exposed, no memory is required, and yet the endgame strategy is utterly fascinating, and sometimes quite difficult.
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Peter Asimakis
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Gary,
I've never played it this way.
Would be much less challenging, I'd imagine.
That may be good or bad, depending on your point of view.
One would certainly know if one had reached 66.
Whether or not this would be fun...
PLB.
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Eugene
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mtompa wrote:
garygarison wrote:
So does the game have anything interesting to offer if this cognitive load were completely eliminated?

Absolutely! I tried to convey that in my previous reply: if you left all the tricks face-up on the table, you could focus on the very interesting strategy of finding the best next move to make.

Yes, your comment above alludes to that:

Quote:
Once you can remember the cards, you're suddenly playing in the light.

My question then is if we assume that players will reach that state of full knowledge, why not just drop the pretense and simply play in the light with open information from the get-go?
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lotus dweller
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Most people can keep some info in their heads. Till they get distracted. By anything that distracts them. And then its, "The Fog of War". Schnapsen allows you the opportunity to fail at keeping your focus on the game. I just about always take this opportunity. I can't say I've perfected it yet. But practice makes perfect.

Playing in the light would deny me this opportunity.

Its like walking on a tree trunk across a stream. Sure I could avoid the whole, "fall off and get wet" thing by going up to the bridge, but the thrill is where the falling might happen.
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Craig Duncan
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Pinook wrote:
Its like walking on a tree trunk across a stream. Sure I could avoid the whole, "fall off and get wet" thing by going up to the bridge, but the thrill is where the falling might happen.


I think this is the perfect analogy.

As has been said, you can play Schnapsen without having to keep mental track of the score by writing down the card points in the deal down as they occur. Or better yet, just peg them on a cribbage board.

The mention of Cribbage allows for an interesting point of contrast. One reason a cribbage board is so key in Cribbage is that the scoring is in frequent drips and drabs. By contrast, in Schnapsen, because there are a maximum of 10 tricks, there are only 10 scoring opportunities maximum per deal -- and most games end before the 10th trick. So, there is not SO much to have to remember scoring-wise in Schnapsen. (And recall Martin's point from above: you don't have to remember the game score -- that is recorded -- just the current score in the current deal.)

Having to keep mental score in Cribbage would be like walking a tight rope instead taking the bridge. In Schnapsen, it's just like Pinook said; it's taking the tree trunk across the stream.

Speaking of Pinook and his original question: I find I have an easier time remembering the score than the cards played. I struggle with the latter.

I'll admit to giving names to the Aces, e.g. the Ace of Clubs is "Clubsy" and then I say in my mind, "Oh, hello Clubsy" when it is played. That seems to help me remember the aces played. If the 10 of clubs is then played, I'll mentally say to myself, "King Club is top dog" or something like that, to keep track of which is the top card for a given suit for the time being. And if a king or queen is played solo (i.e. not melded in a marriage), I'll say to myself "the Queen of Hearts is a spinster" in the hopes of remembering that the King has been played.

All that said, I'm not very good at it. I'm a bit better at counting cards in Tichu, since suits don't really matter in Tichu card play. So to remember how many kings and aces have been played in Tichu, I use a number. The tens column represents the number of Aces I haven't seen and the ones column represents the kings I haven't seen. So for instance, say I am dealt 1 ace and 2 kings. Then I would remember the number 32 -- there are 3 aces and 2 kings out there. If someone plays an ace, I change the number to 22, and so on. (In some cases I decide to count queens too, and then I use a three digit number.) But that nifty trick doesn't work here in Schnapsen since suits matter greatly, and I have not found a nifty substitute.
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Peter Asimakis
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garygarison wrote:
mtompa wrote:
garygarison wrote:
So does the game have anything interesting to offer if this cognitive load were completely eliminated?

Absolutely! I tried to convey that in my previous reply: if you left all the tricks face-up on the table, you could focus on the very interesting strategy of finding the best next move to make.

Yes, your comment above alludes to that:

Quote:
Once you can remember the cards, you're suddenly playing in the light.

My question then is if we assume that players will reach that state of full knowledge, why not just drop the pretense and simply play in the light with open information from the get-go?


Gary,
1) Your assumption is invalid; not all players will reach that state of full knowledge.
2) If a player does reach that state, can track all cards (an extra 4 in Sixty-six, one reason why I prefer it to Schnapsen) and keep mental tally of both players trick scores, he will quickly lose that skill if it isn't maintained with practice. Playing with open information from the get-go will stop you developing the skill.
You may ask what good does it serve to possess this skill.
Apart form the mental rigor, probably not much, other than keeping ones mind active being a very good thing in general, part of the reason we all game I'd have thought.
The main reason why I, a few million Austrians and the odd German play the game this way is because it provides a challenge and above all is great fun.
3) There is no pretense involved. Playing the game with the memory element makes it easier to play, in the sense that it isn't an out and out luck fest as some card games can be. It helps one anticipate and plan. I think that is what Martin meant by playing in the light. It becomes a contest between two players memory and skill, rather than just the luck of the draw.
Finally, you could remove all the challenge and play with open hands as well as face-up tricks and real-time written scoring.
Would turn it into a puzzle to solve together rather than a game between two players. An interesting exercise and good for teaching, but not what I'm looking for.
Irini Pasi,
PLB.




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Eugene
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Pierre Le Bear wrote:
There is no pretense involved. Playing the game with the memory element makes it easier to play, in the sense that it isn't an out and out luck fest as some card games can be. It helps one anticipate and plan. I think that is what Martin meant by playing in the light. It becomes a contest between two players memory and skill, rather than just the luck of the draw.

But Martin suggests that even when a player has complete knowledge of all cards played, skillful play is still demanded.

I pose this question: If Schnapsen/Sixty-Six were playable online against another human, would you find it an interesting game, knowing full well that your distant opponent may be keeping track of cards and score on a piece of paper? And given that Martin said that it's entire possible for someone to rely solely on memory to keep track of cards and score, how would you be able to detect it either way?
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Martin Tompa
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garygarison wrote:
I pose this question: If Schnapsen/Sixty-Six were playable online against another human, would you find it an interesting game, knowing full well that your distant opponent may be keeping track of cards and score on a piece of paper?

Schnapsen is playable online, both against other humans and against the computer. The computer opponent for sure is keeping perfect track of cards and score, not on a piece of paper of course, but in its transistors, which comes to the same thing. And yes, it's incredibly interesting to play. As one piece of evidence that I find it interesting, I've played over 1200 games against our iPhone app Master Schnapsen/66 (http://psellos.com/schnapsen/) and another 270 games against Doktor Schnaps (http://schnapsen.realtype.at/).
 
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lotus dweller
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I have played Schnapsen with full paper record keeping to get a sense of what it would be like to have all available info.

Comparing the periods that are commensurate, being the starts of games before I loose track after getting distracted, my memory is that the experiences of mental record keeping and paper record keeping were surprisingly similar. One involved marking lots of info onto paper and the other involved updating a mental record.
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Martin G
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Why do you need to keep paper records? Can't you just leave all cards won in tricks face up on the table?
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lotus dweller
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qwertymartin wrote:
Why do you need to keep paper records? Can't you just leave all cards won in tricks face up on the table?
Not according to the rules of the game. But yes otherwise. Though you still need to get the necessary data from the displayed cards.

The Austrian guy that contributed about hard and soft and house rules may have something to add as to "open info". If house rules are an accepted feature then perhaps open info can be a house rule.
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Queen Carlotta
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Am I that Austrian guy?

If you're playing with tournament rules, yes, you will have to run a tally in your head. If you're playing by the friendly "soft" rules you simply check your score by looking at your tricks whenever neededwhistle (not after ever trick, that'd be against etiquette. Once, usually is quite enough - there aren't that many cards /tricks in play.) Additionally, you may even take a peek at the first trick taken by your opponent!

Ah yes, I see that the revised Pagat rules still explicitely forbid all of the above... However, I doubt that my version is just a houserule played in an Alzheimer pocket of Lower Austria - The German Wikipedia for 66 and Schnapsen (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sechsundsechzig) explicitely allows the above for "soft Schnapsen":

Quote:
Es ist daher wichtig, die im Laufe eines Spieles gesammelten Augen mitzuzählen. Beim so genannten weichen Schnapsen (s. u.) darf ein Spieler allerdings während eines Spieles die eigenen Stiche durchsehen und kann sich den ersten Stich des Gegners zeigen lassen – beim Turnierspiel ist es jedoch nicht gestattet, einmal abgelegte Stiche später durchzusehen.
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lotus dweller
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Not the one I was thinking of.

But you have a superior quality:
You're here! (Sharing your knowledge of Schnapsen as it is played.)
Hope you stick around.
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Martin Tompa
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Alois_Schimmerlos wrote:
Ah yes, I see that the revised Pagat rules still explicitely forbid all of the above...

Hi, Alois. The revised Pagat rules do allow for looking back at your own tricks, in the section http://www.pagat.com/marriage/schnaps.html#play: "In informal ("soft") games, it is legal for a player to look through the cards in the tricks that she has taken. However, when a trick is won by an opponent, you are only allowed to see it until the first card is played to the next trick."

However, as you can see from this quote, Pagat doesn't say anything about looking back at the first trick taken by your opponent. I have seen this rule in just a few rules sites, but many sites don't mention it. (I have great faith, though, in the de.wikipedia site that you quote, which seems to me extremely reliable.)

My father didn't teach us that you could look at your opponent's first trick, though he did allow looking back at your own tricks. I'll submit that as a vote for how the game might have been played in Vienna, where he lived.
 
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Peter Asimakis
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Alois,
My dad taught me Exinta-exi, Greek for Sixty-six.
Now I know it was actually "soft" Schnapsen, but included the 9's.
The first trick taken by each player remained in front of the player FACE UP, so that both players could see those two tricks throughout that hand.
All subsequent tricks taken were kept face down, as is usual,
BUT, each player could look at the cards in the tricks they had won at any time.
Just another way of playing and accounting for the cards.
PLB.
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Queen Carlotta
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Quote:
The revised Pagat rules do allow
Should have read beyond the introductory paragraph...
Quote:
I have seen this rule in just a few rules sites, but many sites don't mention it. (I have great faith, though, in the de.wikipedia site that you quote, which seems to me extremely reliable.)

My father didn't teach us that you could look at your opponent's first trick, though he did allow looking back at your own tricks. I'll submit that as a vote for how the game might have been played in Vienna, where he lived.

Yes, most likely this rule resides in the grey area between house rules, localised variants and what one might call - only nowadays, in our information age - "official" rules for the informal version.

I just checked in an old "official" ruleset (in as far as it had supra-regional distribution) , the "Perlen Reihe - 20 Kartenspiele" booklet by Hans Löw from 1963 - there the "looking into your tricks 'at any point'" is mentioned as the standard approach to the game, looking into your opponents tricks is expressly forbidden however, and no exceptions made for the "first trick".


Pinook wrote:
(Sharing your knowledge of Schnapsen as it is played.)
Hope you stick around.

I have to put up a disclaimer then: I only ever played in the informal context of family, so can hardly speak for "Austrian Schnapsen" (though when you asked for clarifications a while back and with Martin's input I went through some of the rules sites to check for discrepancies and it turned out that the family was treading on official ground after all)


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