5

Between the usual players, Data, Riker, Worf, or other occasional people to visit their table, how do they compare? Riker seems like the stock person to fulfil the card-sharp role, but I seem to recall him being occasionally trounced as it would be too predictable.

  • 2
    How do you define "best"? If you're asking about who is shown to win more often, then the question is answerable. Otherwise, the question is too subjective. – gnovice Dec 24 '11 at 5:19
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    @gnovice surely best in the context of poker is unambiguous. – Nick T Dec 24 '11 at 5:34
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    I assume you're joking. – gnovice Dec 24 '11 at 5:40
  • 1
    The best poker player wins the most. What other possible metric is there? The most chatty? Best dressed? – DavidW Jun 13 '19 at 21:40
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    @NickT: no! “Sharp” got there first! Prescriptivism forever! – Paul D. Waite Jun 14 '19 at 8:17
19
  • If you mean, the luckiest, TVTropes has this to say:

    Whenever a poker game is shown in Star Trek: The Next Generation, you can bet that Riker will always turn out with a possible straight that he's bluffing about. Whether or not the bluff is called, though, depends on which would be more dramatically convenient.

  • If you mean, the best player, Riker again.

    This article quotes Picard from "The Price" episode:

    “Commander Riker conducts master classes in poker,” explains Picard.

    As a nice illustration, see the game in "All Good Things...", after which Worf asks of Riker:

    “Four hands in a row, how does he do it?”

  • If you mean can theoretically be the best player if he used 100% his full abilities, it would possibly be LaForge.

    In “Ethics”, he admits to being capable of reading everyone's cards with his "Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement" (VISOR), though he claims he never actually uses that ability in their competitive games.

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    At some point, possibly "Ethics" (I don't remember), Geordi's comment to Worf implies that the other players specifically bring cards he can't see through – Izkata Dec 24 '11 at 5:54
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    @Izkata Yes it is during that episode, he warns Worf to not bring cards that are translucent in the (infrared I believe) spectrum – NominSim Feb 9 '12 at 20:39
8

Riker, Geordi, Troi, and Data all have bonuses going for them:

  • Riker is great at bluffing, and has rather good luck
  • Geordi could see through the back of the cards
  • Troi is an empath, and can generally tell when someone is bluffing
  • Data has memorized an immense number of games and can easily calculate probabilities

But they also tend to check and balance each other in various ways:

  • Troi can't read Data
  • Data starts out unable to tell if anyone's bluffing, but gets better as the series goes on
  • They usually play with cards that have a special backing that Geordi can't see through (said to Worf after a game once)
  • Troi and Riker were once quite close, and still retain the empathic link - she can almost certainly tell when he is bluffing, even if she has some difficulty with the others
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    Troi is out of contention even with no Data in the picture. This was discussed on SciFi.SE previously. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 24 '11 at 6:15
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    @DVK Ah, now I remember that question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/6515/… - Still, as per my second set of bullets, it still seems like she would have an easier time on Riker than the others. – Izkata Dec 24 '11 at 7:21
  • No such thing as luck – Wayne In Yak Feb 22 '17 at 14:05
2

Data seems the most able to fill that role given that he is shown to clean house with the players in "Time's Arrow". He mentions at some point during the series that he initially memorized virtually every book on the subject but found that the actual game was different than the mere "book" knowledge. Given that he can simulate games in his head with actual data culled from past games as well as being able to precisely recall each player's appearance or gestures at any given moment and weight that against the numerical performance of that player and the game as a whole.

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    I thought his Achilles heel was that he had a tremendously poor ability to handle bluffing so Riker could blow him out of the water. – Nick T Dec 24 '11 at 5:33
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    At first that was true as I alluded to. Evidence by Time's Arrow points to him resolving that issue. – World Engineer Dec 24 '11 at 5:34
  • @WorldEngineer - Riker was also luckier in cards. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 24 '11 at 5:46
-1

Data would have to be thrown in there-as a machine of his capability, memorizing and watching where the cards are shuffled would guarantee he knows which card is where at all times.

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  • 1
    His incapacity as a player is explored in great detail in the show. He's exceptional as a card-counter, but unable to (reliably) determine when a bluff is happening – Valorum Jun 13 '19 at 19:59

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