Parable of the Game

In college, a friend tried teaching me a game of cards called “Mao.” In this game, only one person knows the rules. That person is the dealer, who is also known as the Chairman. The Chairman deals each player a number of cards with no instruction. After some time passes, the Chairman, at his discretion, may instruct the players to pick up their cards. He will place one card face up. Some time may pass. The Chairman begins by placing one of his own cards on the discard pile and then engages in some kind of action. If the card is a King, he says, “It’s good to be the king.” If the card is a 4 of hearts, he says, “Paul.” Players begin to catch on that for each card played, there is a corresponding action to be taken. If any player engages in the wrong action, the Chairman shouts, “NO!” for each incorrect action until the correct action is intuited and completed. The Chairman may also dole out punishment for incorrect action at his discretion. Play continues until the Chairman indicates the game has ended.

I am not the Chairman.

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