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Solution: Fortius
Answer: TACO DUMBBELL

#### Written by Xue Heng

We might first notice that answers are all thirteen letters long (suggesting that they correspond to thirteen cards of different ranks given the texas holdem poker theme), and that there are six answers corresponding to six poker tables. The answers start from A-F, which gives us a natural way to match them to tables A-F. “Before the river” in the flavor text, as well as the four question marks on the table where the community cards should have been suggests that exactly four cards (except the river) have been dealt.

Each answer has a combination of exactly four ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘H’, ‘S’ in total, representing the four suits. The position of the ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘H’, ‘S’ in the answer tells us the rank of the cards, from ace (leftmost) to two (rightmost) in descending order (i.e. (left) AKQJT98765432 (right)). Hinting at this are the players’ names: Alice starts with ‘A’ and 2pac starts with ‘2’, with Alice sitting on the left of each table and 2pac on the right. For example, the answer AIRCRAFT CRASH corresponds to the four cards: Two of Hearts, Three of Spades, Six of Clubs, Jack of Clubs, as the ‘H’ is in the rightmost position, corresponding to ‘two’; the ‘S’ is in the second position from the right, corresponding to ‘three’; and the two ‘C’s are in the fifth and tenth positions from the right, corresponding to ‘six’ and ‘jack’.

Next, the flavor text suggests to us that both Alice and 2pac would like to beat each other and the dealer, but the dealer has the current strongest hand… so how can they win? Of course, they can only hope that they get lucky on the river (the last card yet to be dealt helps their hand become the best hand)! “Count them out” in the flavor text suggests to us that we should count the number of “outs” for each of Alice and 2pac, i.e. the number of possible river cards that can help each of them win. We then index into each puzzle answer twice, first using the number of Alice’s outs, and second using the number of 2pac’s outs. The outs for each player are summarized below:

Answer | Community Cards | Alice’s outs | Number of outs | Extract from answer | 2pac’s outs | Number of outs | Extract from answer |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

AIRCRAFT CRASH | H2, S3, C6, CJ | C4, C5, C7, C8, C9, CT, CK, CA | 8 | T | C2 | 1 | A |

BIOSTATISTICS | S2, C3, S6, SJ | S3, C4, D4, H4, S4, S7, S8, S9, ST, SQ, SK, SA | 12 | C | H3, CA, DA | 3 | O |

CIRCUIT DESIGN | S5, D7, CJ, CA | C3, D3, H3, S3, C8, D8, H8, S8 | 8 | D | D4, H4, CK, HK, SK | 5 | U |

DIAMOND BROOCH | H2, C3, D8, DA | H4, C5, H5, S5 | 4 | M | D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, DT, DJ, DQ | 8 | B |

EVIDENCE BASED | D2, S4, C8, DJ | D4, D5, D6, D8, D9, DT, DQ, DK, DA | 9 | B | SQ | 1 | E |

FISCAL DEFICIT | C4, D8, CJ, SQ | C6, D6, S6, CK, DK, HK | 6 | L | C7, D7, H7, CA, DA, HA | 6 | L |

Reading the extracted letters in the given order of the poker tables and within each table taking Alice’s letter before 2pac’s letter, we get the answer: TACO DUMBBELL.

## Author's Notes

The double extraction and “stronger” theme made writing this meta extremely difficult for me; I ditched multiple ideas (pokemon, kings, rock-paper-scissors) one after another before deciding to go with this one. The way of encoding poker hands is inspired by this Galactic meta, which unfortunately does not allow me to have multiple cards of the same rank amongst each set of four community cards. Thankfully I wasn’t too constrained by this restriction.

## Appendix

Table A: H2, S3, C6, CJDealer: DJ+HJ

Alice: C3+CQ

2pac: D2+S2

2pac has only one out, C2, to get quads and beat dealer’s trips.

Alice has only the flush outs, so any C excluding the C2 (if C2 comes 2pac wins) gives us 8 outs.

Table B: S2, C3, S6, SJ

Dealer: DK+HK

Alice: S5+C8

2pac: D3+HA

Alice has 12 outs, 9 spades to get a flush and 4 4’s to get a straight (spade 4 is double counted).

2pac has 3 outs, 2 non-spade aces to get 2 pair and 1 non-spade 3 to get trips.

Table C: S5, D7, CJ, CA

Dealer: SA+SQ

Alice: H4+H6

2pac: DK+C5

Alice has 8 outs, 4 3’s and 4 8’s to get a straight.

2pac has 5 outs, 3 K’s and 2 5’s to get respectively 2 pair or trips.

Table D: H2, C3, D8, DA

Dealer: HA+DK

Alice: C4+S4

2pac: D7+D9

Alice has H4 as an out to get trips, D4 doesn’t work as it will give 2pac a flush. Alice can get any of the 3 5’s except D5 to get a straight, and D5 doesn’t work as it will give 2pac a flush. So Alice has 4 outs.

2pac wins if and only if he gets a flush, which is a total of 8 diamonds.

Table E: D2, S4, C8, DJ

Dealer: HA+SA

Alice: D3+D7

2pac: CQ+HQ

Alice needs to make a flush with any of the nine remaining diamonds, so she has 9 outs.

2pac needs the SQ to beat the dealer, the DQ doesn’t work as it gives Alice a flush, so 2pac has only one out.

Table F: C4, D8, CJ, SQ

Dealer: D4+S5

Alice: SK+H6

2pac: SA+S7

Alice needs a pair, 3 6’s and 3 K’s gives 6 outs.

2pac needs a pair, 3 A’s and 3 7’s gives 6 outs.

There are online solvers like https://www.cardplayer.com/poker-tools/odds-calculator/texas-holdem which may also help.