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I was reading this article about marbles and came across this line about determining who goes first.

When I played, we used a common practice of the past where each player at the count of five would display one to five fingers. The person who displayed the lowest number of fingers went first.

How does this system work? Wouldn't everyone always show 1 finger and then it would always be a tie?

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I believe the crucial word that is missing is "unique":

The person who displayed the lowest unique number of fingers went first.

i.e. if two players both showed one finger, they would be "skipped" and anybody who showed two fingers would then go first - unless of course, there were two players who showed two fingers as well, when you'd move onto three fingers and so on.

This game (at least without the upper limit) is a reasonably well studied academic problem; see e.g. Beck and Bernhardsson, 2010.

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