Beach Day by Rodger Bliss
April 2024

Wild West

In a wild west town, a scoundrel was caught cheating at a card game at the Dirty Dog Saloon. A quick but honest trial was held and he was of course found guilty. In this town cheating at cards was a very serious offense punishable by death. The judge could simply have ordered the man to be shot but he knew the citizens of the town enjoyed games of chance so he came up with an unusual sentence.

Speaking to the condemned man, the judge proclaimed, “At high noon tomorrow, you will be tied up to the flagpole in the middle of town. The Marshall, an expert pistol marksman who never misses, will load two bullets into his six-shot revolver and spin the cylinder. He will then aim directly at your chest from 20 paces away and pull the trigger. If the chamber should happen to be empty, he will pull the trigger one more time. If after this, you are still alive, you will get on your horse and ride away, you lucky devil!”

The next day, high noon arrives. A crowd gathers on Main Street to witness the proceedings. The condemned man is tied to the flagpole as a lonely tumbleweed blows by. The parson recites a solemn prayer while the Marshall loads two bullets into his trusty Colt 45 and spins the cylinder. The clock in the courthouse tower chimes 12 times. The crowd holds its breath. The Marshall takes 20 paces, turns towards the prisoner, takes aim and click! The chamber is empty. The gun does not fire. At this point, the Marshall says to the condemned man, “You’re a gambling man, so let’s make this more interesting. Before I take my second shot, I’ll give you a choice. Should I take aim and fire, or should I spin the cylinder one more time before pulling the trigger?”

The condemned man thinks about it and he says, “Just go ahead and shoot.” Now is he being brave? Is he being stupid? Or does he know something that might improve his chances?

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5 guesses to Wild West

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  • when uou spin the chamber the bullets are heavy, and will settel on the bottom so chances are the 2 chamberd are empty. Sounds good to me.

  • det

    If we assume that the marshall placed the bullets into two following slots, he made a good decision.
    Probablility of surviving withouth second spin: 75%
    Probablility of surviving with second spin: 66.6%

    with random bullet placing:
    his decision doesn’t change anything, ha has 60% chance to survive.

  • det

    ok, I was wrong with the second part, correction:

    with random bullet placing:
    Probability of surviving without second spin: 60%
    Probability of surviving with second spin: 66.6%

    Cause the first scenario is more plausible, I said he made a good decision.

  • Det, you nailed it, but I like your first answer better. Here’s how the RiddleDude sees it:

    With two bullets in the cylinder and four empty chambers any spin of the cylinder would mean a four out of six (or two out of three – 66%) chance of his walking away.

    What our condemned man saw was that the marshal had loaded the bullets into two adjacent chambers in the cylinder. So that the four empty chambers were all in a row. Let’s label the chambers one through six.

    Let’s say the bullets are in chambers one and two, when the marshal took the first shot, the first spin must have landed on chambers, three, four, five or six, right? If it landed on one or two he’d already be dead, Capice?

    Now, of those four chambers, three are followed by other empty chambers. Only one chamber, number six, is followed by a loaded chamber, which would be number one. So if the cylinder is not re-spun, the odds are three out of four (75%) that the next chamber will be empty. And his odds of walking away alive improve from two out of three, to three out of four.

    Nice job. You’re today’s winner.