When You Shuffle A Deck Of Cards, You're Creating A Sequence That Has Never Existed Before
Let's say you're the dealer at a casual Friday night poker game. Let's also say, for the sake of argument, that you're an expert shuffler, and not one of those people who just clumsily swirls cards around like an infant. You expertly riffle the cards, toss them hand to hand, juggle them, throw them into a hat, etc., until eventually you're confident that you've fully randomized the cards.
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But be sure to placate the one asshole who insists on cutting the deck.
What are the chances that the configuration of the deck you now hold is the same as one that you've shuffled before on a previous poker night? One chance in 1,000? One in 10,000? We mean, there's only 52 cards, so how many can it really be?
You should feel special, because it's almost certain that the configuration of the deck you hold in your hand has never been held by any human being in the history of mankind, on this Earth, or on any one of its many parallel universes. You currently hold in your hand something that will never again be seen, from now until the end of time itself.
It's true that 52 cards doesn't seem like a lot. But if you try to count the number of possible combinations of those cards, you better have a few evenings free. The total number of statistical combinations of a 52-card deck is what's known as "52 factorial," sometimes referred to as "52!" or "52 shriek." Written out in full, that number is:
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Fine, matholes. Maybe 52! is a little easier to write.
That's a giant-ass number. To put into into perspective, it's been calculated that "if every star in our galaxy had a trillion planets, each with a trillion people living on them, and each of these people has a trillion packs of cards and somehow they manage to make unique shuffles 1,000 times per second, and they'd been doing that since the Big Bang, they'd only just now be starting to repeat shuffles."