In the vast majority of card games the deck is usually cut, often more than once. This is usually done immediately after the dealer shuffles the pack, where the deck is offered to the player to his immediate right to cut the deck. But why and how is this done? Read on to find out.
What is the Cut:
The cutting of the deck of cards is a procedure in which someone removes a portion of the deck, usually from the top of the deck and places this portion under the remaining cards. Almost every card game contains rules requiring (or at least suggesting) a cut be made, usually right after the dealer shuffles the deck in preparation for dealing.
There are a variety of reasons given by players to cut the deck of cards. The most common is to alter the current specific arrangement of cards in the deck in an effort to help prevent possible cheating from a stacked or ordered deck of cards. The cut also helps modify the specific position in the deck of a particular card, which is especially important if a player may have spotted a card (often the bottom card in the deck) during the shuffle.
How To Cut:
There are several different methods to cut the deck, but the basic cut is quite simple.
It usually occurs after the shuffle and before the deal. The dealer, who is usually the player to shuffle the cards, offers the deck, face down to another player to cut.
Although this is usually the active player to his immediate right, in some games or areas it might be to another individual (in the certain areas of the world the deck is offered to the player to the immediate left instead) or the dealer himself may perform the cut.
After completing the shuffle, the dealer will lay the squared deck face down on the table near the individual who is intended to cut the deck.
This player will then take hold of a pile of the cards from the top of the deck. They usually strive to pull a stack of approximately one half of the full deck. This pile is then laid, face down next to the remainder of the deck. This player or the dealer then places the untouched, bottom portion of the deck on top of the remove pile to complete the cut.
The deck is then picked back up and squared up by the dealer to begin the appropriate dealing procedures for whatever game is then to be played. All these actions must be done in such a way that neither the dealer, cutter or any other individual is able to catch a glimpse of any of the cards in the deck. To help achieve this, the entire cutting procedure should take place on the table rather than when holding the deck which helps keep any cards, particularly the bottom one in the packets from being exposed to view.
Variations of the Basic Cut:
There are a number of variations on the standard cut, all of which serve a similar purpose to the standard cut. These include some of the following:
- Multiple Packet Cuts:
Similar to the standard cut, however in this version, instead of just one pile, the deck is divided into several piles. Each pile is a number of cards pulled from the main pile and placed on the table. The piles should be roughly equivalent in size, containing approximately the same number of cards. The deck is then reassembled from these piles, in different order then they were removed. Usually this is done in three or four piles. This type of cut is disallowed in some games or with certain groups of card players.
- Scarne Cut:
This cut was developed by card expert and game inventor John Scarne during World War II to help servicemen defend against cheaters and card manipulators. To perform the Scarne cut, first square up the deck face down on the table. Pull a packet of cards from the middle of the deck and placed on the top of the deck. After this is repeated a number of times, the deck is then squared up again, and a normal cut performed (top portion of deck pulled off with the bottom portion placed on top). The deck is then ready for dealing.
- One Handed Cut (Charlier Cut):
This is not really a variation of the standard cut as the end result is basically the same but rather a fancier way of performing a standard cut. Essentially, this is performing the cut of the deck while holding it and using just one hand. Usually used more often for doing card tricks and sleight of hand with cards. Performing this cut does require a bit of dexterity and practice to work flawlessly. This cut is also often called the Charlier cut.
- Using a Cut Card:
Sometimes in formal games a special "cut card" is used. A "cut card" is a special device, usually made of slick plastic, approximately the same size, thickness and shape as the normal cards in the deck. However this cut card is of a bright color such that it will easily stand out.
There are two ways a cut card is usually used, depending on the particular game being played.
For many games when such a cut card is used, the dealer will retain the deck of cards, but hand the cutting player the "cut card". This player will then insert the card at a location within the deck in which they want to have the cut. The dealer will then himself cut the cards at the position of the cut card and then remove the special cut card. This also helps prevent the cutting player (or any other) from seeing the bottom card of the deck.
In other games, the cut card is used not so much as to aid in the cut, but rather to help prevent any player from viewing the bottom card of the removed pile. Thus, when the top pile is removed from the deck, it is placed on top of the cut card instead of just on the table in an effort to help prevent anyone from seeing the new bottom card of the deck.
So, should the deck be cut?:
Yes. It is recommended that the procedure of cutting the cards should be performed when allowed. In addition to being a normal, expected procedure in most games of cards, it also helps prevent any type of actual or perceived cheating by changing the cards that would normally appear in a specific location in the deck. In addition, if the whereabouts of any specific card in the deck is known (due to its accidentally being seen by any player during the shuffle) this procedure will again make the specific location of that card unknown.
Cutting For High Card:
In many games the first dealer or player to have the first turn are determined by the cutting of the highest card. This consists of each player taking the deck and cutting somewhere in the deck (requiring at least 10 cards in the top and bottom packets) and displaying the bottom card of the top packet they pulled off. The player who shows the highest card (although for some games it might be the player drawing the lowest card) is granted the privilege of being this first dealer or the player to make the first turn in the game. For purposes of this cutting for high card, the ranking of the cards is as follows: (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2). The pack is often shuffled between each players draw. If there is a tie for the highest draw, all the players who tied for the high card draw again, continuing this until there is a clear winner. Since each player will have the opportunity to cut for high card, there need be no specific ordering for the players in making this cut for highest card.
Additional Information About Cutting the Deck:
It is important to remember that the standard cut in no way changes the actual ordering of the cards. Thus, the cards will remain in the same ordering, cutting will simply change the particular positioning in that order for the top and bottom cards in that ordering. Thus, while the cut may not change the actual ordering of the cards, it does change which player will receive which specific cards. In games where the entire deck may not be distributed, it will also drastically change the cards in the initial player's hands. Because it does change this top and bottom card position in the deck, it is recommended that the deck be cut when offered.
As an illustrative example, if the suit of clubs was previously ordered and then cut in the middle, the resulting stack would have the same ordering, but the top and bottom positioning of this ordering would be different.
In most games it is not mandatory for a player, if offered the deck, to perform the cut. To indicate a player wants to decline he simply taps the top of the deck indicating he does not intend to cut. The dealer then usually takes the deck back into his hand for the deal, however in some cases the deck may be offered to another player for the cut. However, in more formal games, it is usually mandatory for the deck to be cut. In situations where the cut is mandatory, if the first player refuses the cut, the deck is then offered to the next player in a counter-clockwise direction to cut the cards. If this player also refuses the cut, this continues to each active player in rotation. If all other players refuse to cut, the dealer himself must then perform the cut.
Most games have a minimum for the number of cards in the individual packets used when cutting the cards. For the standard cut, this consists of the top and bottom packet, however when multi-packet cuts are done, this would pertain to all packets used in the cut. Most games require at least 4 to 5 cards be in each of these packets to make it a legal, valid cut. It is recommended, for best results, to try to ensure at least 10 cards are in each of the cut packets.
At any time before the initial cards are dealt any active player in the game can ask for the opportunity to cut the cards. If asked, the dealer must allow this cut, using the normal cutting procedures.
The direction the deck is passed for the offer to cut should be opposite that of the normal direction used for dealing and the rotation of players turns. Thus, in areas or when playing a game where the normal direction of the deal and play of the hand is clockwise the deck would be passed to the player to the dealers immediate right, while in locales where the normal direction is counter-clockwise the deck would be passed to the first player to the dealers immediate right.
The player who is offered the deck to cut is usually the player to the dealers immediate right, while the player to receive the first card in the deal and make the first play is usually the player to the dealers immediate left. These two actions are sometimes confused with each other or reversed.
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