Over the weekend CNN posted this interview with my good self about spoon bending and other weird stuff.

On Friday I set this puzzle….

During a high stakes poker competition preceded by a sit-down dinner, Dick, Tom, Harry and Fred played together. At the end of the evening, all four had more cash than when they arrived. In other words, none of them lost although they were playing for money. How could this be?

If you have not tried to solve it, have a go now.  For everyone else, the answer is after the break.A lateral one this week……Dick, Tom, Harry and Fred are all musicians and play in a quartet. Did you solve it?  Any other answers?

I have produced an ebook containing 101 of the previous Friday Puzzles! It is called PUZZLED and is available for the Kindle (UK here and USA here) and on the iBookstore (UK here in the USA here). You can try 101 of the puzzles for free here.

71 comments

    1. this is what i thought, maybe those four plus another four in one game, with all of them doing well.

    2. Nowhere in the puzzle does it state this is a knock-out competition where all players bar the winner lose money. In fact there are many poker competition formats where there are many players that make money, not just the overall winner.

      You are making an unwarranted assumption about the format of the competition. With these sort of problems, where there are many answers possible, the best one is usually that which makes the least number of assumptions.

    3. Same answer I got. Adding the line “but no one else played with them” would have narrowed it down to the musician’s answer or something similar but in it’s absence, this is the most parsimonious answer by far.

    4. Same here. Richard’s answer is cute but it comes down to what is essentially a bad pun. Also, who’s ever been at a poker competition with a string quartet playing? It seems like that one would distract from the other.

    5. absolutely as funny as dick tom harrry and fred lost all money in the poker competition and afterwards robbed a bank…

    6. That’s what the ‘sit-down dinner’ hint was for — the quartet played during the meal, I think.

  1. I preferred the simpler solution if there being other poker players there from whom Tom, Dick, Harry & Fred won money. The musical answer is convoluted.

  2. A poker competition would normally suggest more than 4 people, so my initial thought was that there were others playing. But the puzzle states “none of them lost”. At least 3 of them had to lose if they played poker “together”. So it has to be playing something other than poker.

    1. “all four had more cash than when they arrived”, Suggests that they had won over all. They might have lost the odd hand but be up in total.

    2. It could be that every hand they were involved in was a split pot between those four, so at least in theory it is possible that none of them even lost a single hand, and they were eventually knocked out of the tournament because of the size of the blinds.

      I didn’t much like the musician answer, my thought was the same as others here, they were in a poker tournament and all made it to the final table, so they all won more money than the entry fee

  3. The bit that says ‘played together’ surely means they were not in separate games? Musicians was the first and most obvious answer. Occam’s Razor people….

    1. “Played together” does not exclude additional people playing in their game. Further, the puzzle does not state “knock-out poker tournement” therefore it is quite possible for more than one person to walk away better off. It is not obvious that musicians would be at such an event, ergo I dispute that this is the most obvoius answer.

  4. The official answer is pretty ridiculous. Rather than making wild assumptions about what “playing” means, the simple answer is the four played in the same card school as a number of other people, these four all won some money whilst others in the card school lost. Nowhere did it state that only those four played together, nor did it state the type of poker competition.

    1. Note that those who take “Dick, Tom, Harry and Fred played together” as meaning that only those four played together are making an assumption. If the puzzle was meant to say only those four played together, then it should have said so.

  5. I reckoned one had paid the meal on plastic and been reimbursed by his friends.
    Then there is “cash” to be shared out…

  6. That was my fifth answer.

    Some answers were already given. One of my other answers is that they left at home without money and that they withdrawn some money from their bank-account that evening to play with.

    But how about teenagers steeling a bottle of water “during” the riots…

    1. If they lost at poker but were given cash for some other reason then the following would not be true: “none of them lost although they were playing for money”. But it would make no sense if they were playing music instead of cards because there could be no sense in which they could lose. I make furniture for money and I’ve never lost!

    2. This is my answer too. May be all four lose their respective games but with the money they earn…

  7. My 3 answers were
    That they arrived with ‘chips’ but traded them for cash before leaving.

    They were playing other people

    And the the correct answer that they were a band.

    1. Waiters playing together? You don’t know what waiters get up to in the kitchen?

      I guess it’s all for the best – you’d be more hesitant to order the soup of the day if you did

  8. I’m not fan of this puzzle.
    Basically, it said :
    4 people were playing poker, they didn’t loose any money.
    So during the evening ‘some’ money came to them.
    Try to find a story to explain it.

    Then any story would suit.
    * In the spirit of the official anwser, I though they could be the cooks / barmen for the competition.
    * It could be that they were playing and winning with other players
    * they could have found a bag full of money
    * Maybe Santa Claus came and gave them some money

    Any story that brings some money in their ‘4 players ecosystem’ should work…

  9. There were other players, and among them were the losers. That answer is the simplest. The ‘musicians’ answer is just punning.

  10. My first thought was that they played at a table with other people, and won money from those other people. But I don’t know enough about poker to know whether that would work. Then I read the comments to the puzzle, and saw people hinting at an answer that was to do with ‘playing’. After that, it was very easy, obviously. I liked the puzzle, I love riddles that hinge on puns or double meanings.

    1. Me too, I puzzled over unsatisfactory poker playing scenarios, then thought they may have played hopscotch with each other, then realized they could have played music to get their money. Criticalbounce’s comment suggested he thought that too. Sorry if Jeremy thought “Clever Dickery” spoiled it, but happy that you got it.

  11. A card school is simply a colloquial term for a group of people that play cards together, very often for money. It’s usually used to refer to an informal group of people that play together regularly, so maybe “table” would be a better term in the context of a competition.

  12. They could be playing as a syndicate so divide the spoils…that way only one would need to cash and they all leave with more cash. Also they would all have played a splendid game of poker.

  13. This is a daft answer, the logic of which implies it could have been absolutely anything.

    “The answer is that at this particular venue a ‘sit-down dinner’ was slang for giving all the players a large amount of money”

    or “After losing all their money playing poker, they withdrew a large wad of cash from a cashpoint before the evening was up thus giving them ‘more cash'”

    or “The high stakes in this game were for posessions, not cash. The chaps played and won posessions which they sold for cash before the evening was up”

    or “Using the encryption key ‘yG6SdrQX6V’ the puzzle as stated was actually asking what 2+2 equals, and the answer as stated, using the same key and algorithm, is 4”

    etc, ad infinitum

  14. Never heard of a poker game with musical accompaniment. Especially a ‘high stakes’ game. Seems like it would be distracting for the players.

    1. That’s why the riddle states that the competition was preceded by a sit-down dinner. Musical entertainment during a meal is quite common in restaurants, so it didn’t seem out of place to me.

    2. “During a high stakes poker competition preceded by a sit-down dinner, Dick, Tom, Harry and Fred played together.”

      Grammatically speaking, there is no getting away from the fact that they “played together” during the high stakes poker competition. The “preceded by a sit-down dinner” is an adjectival clause, describing the competition, it doesn’t say they played during the dinner.

      So no, I don’t see the musician bit as “the obvious answer”, I see it as a poorly formulated riddle, with an incorrect, poorly thought-through answer.

  15. 1. “They were playing” is the only relevant part. They were musicians (or anything else that can “play” for money)

    2. They were playing poker individually but “together” with other players at the table. All 4 of them won while the others at the table lost.

    3. They were playing poker “together” as a team/syndicate. Their team won at the expense of other teams at the table.

    4. The most important part is “all four had more cash than when they arrived”. There are lots of scenarios to “not lose” including the three above, and since it doesn’t specify where their cash came from, you can just insert anything here (ATM withdrawal, bank heist on the way home, etc)

  16. In Spanish, the verb “tocar” can mean either “to play a musical instrument” or “to touch”.

    Thus, there is a children’s joke that starts with “Puedo tocar el piano” (“I can play the piano”). Then the child demonstrates by touching side of the piano.

    That’s how silly I think this puzzle is.

  17. I think it would have been a better puzzle if it had said “preceded by a sit-down dinner with live music”. An irrelevant detail or two could have been added later in the puzzle (such as the total number of poker players, the time the event ended, etc.) to keep this statement from looking out of place or making the answer too obvious.

  18. I just assumed that the puzzle was referring to the movie Primer. Dick1 created the time machine box, realized the implications, and creates a failsafe box in case anything should go wrong. He then starts up another machine and disappears for the rest of the night while traveling back in time, creating Dick2. He records all of the night’s conversations, and replays them through an earpiece so that no one can tell the difference. However, unbeknownst to both him and Tom1, Harry4 and Fred3 have been conspiring together over all of their iterations. They stole the money from their previous selves (e.g. Harry2), and redistributed it, so that everyone had more cash than when they arrived.

  19. The given answer is absurd. Yes, “played” doesn’t necessarily mean “played poker” but the context makes the meaning clear that in this case it does. Instead of the give answer, you could just as well say that the answer is “They didn’t play poker, they were a gang of pickpockets who played Old Maid while waiting for the opportunity to steal from people.”

  20. There are dozens of possible answers because of the vague wording of the question. Additional players, various forms of credit so that they had more “cash” even if they were net losers, a portion of their poker stake could have been prepaid as part of the dinner, they could have worked various jobs such as playing in the band or waiting tables or one or more were dinner speakers earning a cash honorarium, their spouses could have chipped in, Richard Wiseman could have been a guest at the dinner and gave each of them some cash so he could write a puzzler about it, they could have sold something such as a watch or a small child, they could have been playing against the house, and on and on.

  21. I assumed they all had Christmas pudding for the sit down dinner which had coins in it… just like my mother used to make.

  22. So the puzzle revolves around puns and ambiguous language. I suppose it could have been reworded, but adding “with live music” would immediately create a hint that the four were musicians.

    So how could the puzzle be reworded to include a stronger possibility the four weren’t playing poker, but still misdirect readers into thinking that’s what they were doing? Perhaps just rephrase “sit-down dinner” to make it clearer it’s the kind of meal where you may expect live music, without actually stating it.

    In reality, the puzzle is probably fine as is – an example of lateral thinking. Nowhere does it actually state they’re playing poker, although it’s assumed they are. The poker tournament is a red herring included for the sole purpose of misdirecting the reader.

  23. My Answer: They played in someone’s house he arrived with 0 Dollar, Grabbed his piggy-bank and lost it completely except 1 Dollar.. So everyone got more money than when they arrived 🙂

  24. My Answer: They played in someone’s house he arrived with 0 Dollar, Grabbed his piggy-bank and lost it completely except 1 Dollar.. So everyone got more money than when they arrived 🙂

  25. Lighten up, people. It’s for fun, you know. Quite a clever play on words, I thought.

    One of the things I like about these pages is that the puzzles vary in style week by week.

    So you didn’t see the obvious answer – don’t feel bad, just smile and enjoy it, you’ll get another chance on Friday.

    (Although I was a little annoyed at too many clues in the comments. Perhaps I’ll try to lighten up myself)

  26. I noted the words “played together” and guessed they played as a team and split the take. Many a pigeon has been plucked in this manner.

  27. I had the same 2 approaches: Either they _ate_ dinner and player poker, but there were more players, or, in my same-y solution they were chefs/catering folk, _cooking_ dinner, getting paid, then playing poker once the shift was done.

  28. “Four jolly men sat down to play,
    And played all night till break of day.
    They played for cash and not for fun,
    With a separate score for every one.
    When it came time to square accounts,
    they all had made quite fair amounts.
    Now, not one has lost and all have gained –
    Tell me now, this can you explain?”

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