How to Play

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It struck Gary that one kuai per bet was the perfect amount, for him being cheap and careful with his remaining money, for the two barmen, for the majority of people out there who were playing – right now – it wasn’t too much, but more importantly it wasn’t too little either. A big win would thrill anyone. How had that happened? Did the scoring system change along with the currency? That is, inflation, the shifts in bills and coins in circulation. The rules themselves, the speed of the game, all dictated deep internal by economic base, by how much a man could afford (and then a little more). This was a Chinese game, he knew it and wouldn’t forget, and right now the price to play seemed spot on – a one-to-one correspondence between one bill, one Yuan, and the basic unit of the game, the simplest, undividable bid. Maybe forty or fifty years ago it would have been one mao stakes, that would have been appropriate to the era, but what about in between? Times must have come when the two aspects didn’t fit, when it didn’t all lock together so neatly.

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