# TopspinDecember 14, 2017 11:48 AM   Subscribe

a dreidel that came embossed with a picture of Santa Claus

ಠ_ಠ

Next test the fidget dreidel.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

there is an algorithm to correct for this in playing dreidel

I originally read this to mean the act of playing dreidel already includes an algorithm to correct for this, like somehow the rules make it even out to fair over many plays, no matter the bias of the individual dreidl, and I was really fascinated by the thought that a game might have evolved to do such a thing.

Which it turns out is not what the author meant at all, the quoted phrase is meant to signify "there exists an algorithm to correct for this." But it was still was a super fun read.
posted by solotoro at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

We have been spinning dreidels together since I don’t know when, and in all that time (if it is all that time) I don’t suppose either of us was more than a couple of gelt pieces up or down. I hope that doesn’t sound surprising because its very unsurprisingness is something I am trying to keep hold of. The equanimity of your average spinner of dreidels depends upon a law, or rather a tendency, or let us say a probability, or at any rate a mathematically calculable chance, which ensures that he will not upset himself by losing too much nor upset his opponent by winning too often. This made for a kind of harmony and a kind of confidence. It related the fortuitous and the ordained into a reassuring union which we recognized as nature. The sun came up about as often as it went down, in the long run, and a dreidel showed gimel about as often as it showed shin.
posted by kyrademon at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Finally: Mathematical Proof That Dreidel Is A Terrible Game

My family has long acknowledged this, and typically corrects the game in two ways:
1. Socialist dreidel: At the end of the game, redistribution of wealth. Tax the wealthy to provide chocolate to each according to their needs.
2. Time limits: Since dreidel is more of a tradition than an enjoyable pastime, set a strict time limit before starting (Maybe 10 minutes?), then spin as quickly and wildly as you can.
posted by JiBB at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dreidel is the Monopoly of the Hanukkah season: a lousy game even when played correctly, and nobody can even be bothered to play it correctly.
posted by cortex at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

In one of the more bizarre science fiction novels I read as a kid, The Ring of Ritornel, the fate of the universe itself depends upon the spinning of a Dreidel.
posted by jamjam at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2017

It just occured to me, after I looked at this in wonder a few times, that in fact the title is wrong. Dreidels and coins are random. They're just not fair.

I think there's some life wisdom there.
posted by doomsey at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think there has ever been a worse game invented than dreidel. Even Candyland, which is really saying something.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:27 PM on December 14, 2017

all three dreidels tested—a cheap plastic dreidel, an old wooden dreidel, and a dreidel that came embossed with a picture of Santa Claus—were not fair

Unfortunately, these researchers have left open the question of whether the canonical, or true, dreidel - a little one, made out of clay - is also unfair.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:32 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

Ha, doomsey, well quibbled!

To quibble further, we can't even say that they're fair (or not) without knowing what their expected distribution is and what distribution would be fair.

(Some of this has already been summarized on Mi Yodeya, particularly in the comments.)
posted by clew at 1:40 PM on December 14, 2017

Wait, everyone hates dreidel? I kind of like dreidel, although I don't think I've ever played it for more than 10 minutes at a time, and half the fun is when everyone tries to remember how to play it. OK, so maybe it's not an objectively good game.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Instead, I have a different solution: each turn, you spin the dreidel three times, and interpret the outcome according to this table:
Three times? You're solving the unfairness of spinning dreidel by insisting I must spin it more? When in reality the only fair thing to do is release me from my hell prison of spinning this thing?

Look, I just came here to eat chocolate coins. You want to play a game, let's play a good game. But don't come at me with a dreidel and don't pretend you're doing me a favor when you suggest this solution.
posted by cardioid at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2017

I don't think there has ever been a worse game invented than dreidel. Even Candyland, which is really saying something.

Mancala gets pretty tiresome too. I chalk this up to people having pretty low standards for entertainment in the Old Days.
posted by latkes at 4:40 PM on December 14, 2017

Gimmel is OP and is distorting the current North American meta. Nerf pls.

(Alternatively: Internet of Dreidels. Our Bluetooth-enabled dreidel will monitor and actively rebalance ongiong play to ensure a balanced experience even when new players are matched against tournament veterans. Move over, blue shell.)
posted by sourcequench at 5:36 PM on December 14, 2017

Surely the unfairness of dreidels is surpassed by the frequent awfulness of the gelt? I mean, OK, I never turn down chocolate, but gelt is often sub-Hershey's in quality. There must be decent gelt out there somewhere.

Also, I thought they were going to suggest flipping the dreidels in the air to enhance randomization, like the coins, but I suppose that the over-complicated chart is safer.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:49 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lake Champlain Chocolates makes edible chocolate coins, although they're so expensive you might as well use actual money.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:42 PM on December 14, 2017

Again, I'm baffled here, because I love gelt. Are my standards really so low? Not that I'm complaining.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:33 PM on December 14, 2017

wrt candyland. it teaches (with an engaged adult):

- rules
- turns
- playing until the end
- winning and losing gracefully

it's really one best games, if you look at it right.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:42 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

a Jewish friend of mine insisted to me that the point of dreidel was to teach kids that gambling is boring and pointless.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:36 AM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

There must be decent gelt out there somewhere.

The stuff they sell at Trader Joe's is somewhat better than the usual supermarket waxy-sugar (sugary-wax?) gelt.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:30 AM on December 15, 2017

Funny, the cheap cardboard advent calendars we got this year and last year from Trader Joe's contain(ed) the worst chocolate I've ever had, though Mrs. exogenous didn't seem to mind it. But to me, in both years the chocolate had the flavor of fish.

Also, did people look at Table 1 in the cited dreidel fairness study? None of the dreidels were great but two of three were really bad at giving random results: נ was three to five times more likely to turn up than ג.
posted by exogenous at 7:57 AM on December 15, 2017

Oh god, yes, the TJ's advent calendar is appalling. Or was appalling the one year we bought it. Somehow worse than the regular-supermarket one.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:11 AM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I truly look forward to pulling out a copy of the Three Spin Equivalency Chart next time someone says "oh boy, who wants to play dreidel?!"
posted by Secretariat at 10:36 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

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