-We’ll take a few minutes to prepare. Contestants, please feel free to take a break.
As the voice spoke, one wall of the main hall swung open. Masked staff entered with tables and tools, and in an instant the empty hall was transformed into a venue fit to play the game.
The rule to keep silent had been lifted, but there wasn’t much talking since they all knew each other’s information.
Who would come out on top?
Minho had no choice but to think of Minsoo Baek since he was a famous professional gambler. He was a middle-aged man who looked gentle but his experience was more extensive than anyone’s.
‘He’s definitely number one to watch out for.’
It was certain he would be an expert in psychological warfare since he was a professional Go player and also the winner of the poker championship. On top of that, he was a card shark recognized by the whole nation. And there was a high probability that he would have a cherished object even if it wasn’t out in the open.
‘Who will be number two?’
The people he could be damaged by colliding with.
The people he could win against.
As a professional gamer, Minho always enjoyed contemplating strategy.
He began to recall everyone’s information that he had seen on the screen just now.
“What is this? They said they would only film the opening but they’re starting all of a sudden.”
It was comedian Dongmook who broke the silence.
“Darn. There’s only one person who looks like an easy target.”
Dongmook looked around and his gaze stopped on Seoyeon.
“Look over there. Doesn’t he look so easy? Hmph. Not a good impression.”
He was pointing to a mirror.
Dongmook winked at Seoyeon in the mirror. Seoyeon was taken aback but laughed as she covered her mouth.
Those who were watching smiled as well. The atmosphere in the main hall softened like a fair breeze with Dongmook’s self-deprecating joke. Thanks to him, chatter swelled up here and there like a dam bursting.
“Ah, Dongmook, you’re humorous. But it’s me that’s the easy target.”
Sangchu, who was a businessman and also an old singer, began to unfold his complaints.
“I blew all the money I earned as a singer, and I have no skill.”
“Hyungnim, I became penniless trying to set up a PC bang. You know.”
“Well you’re still the president. Let me try to pay off the debt. Support me.”
“Support? We’ll give you a cup ramen on the house if you come to our store later. Hey part time, remember this hyungnim’s face.”
While Dongmook and Sangchul had an in-depth conversation about who was worse off, Minho’s gaze turned to the man in his 40s with slicked-back hair.
Attorney Habi Park was having a friendly conversation with Hyejoo who stood next to him.
He had to be number two to watch out for since he was an achiever who had supposedly never lost once in 100 cases.
‘Logical reasoning? Deductive skills? Whatever he may excel at he won’t be easy.’
Jin Q walked over to Minho’s side as he was contemplating. Most of the contestants’ faces were filled with nervousness wondering what type of game they would participate in but Jin Q naturally didn’t seem a bit worried.
“Minho. We’re the youngest here. What month is your birthday?”
Jin Q asked. They weren’t close but Jin Q spoke informally so Minho candidly replied informally as well.
“I’m a bit older. August. That makes you the youngest.”
“August? Let’s see…….”
Minho stirred his memory and recalled Jin Q’s profile that he had obtained for the radio show.
“Your birthday is January. You’re younger. When you search ‘Argentine Jin Q’ your whole profile pops up.”
Jin Q’s eyes grew wide. Minho tapped Jin Q’s shoulder.
“Let’s deal honestly. If you’ve started living in society you need to wake up. Who calculates their age like that these days? Work hard dongsaeng.”
“Hey, that profile is wrong.”
Minho shook his head as if it wasn’t worth listening to and walked over to Minsoo Baek who was standing quietly.
“It’s an honor to meet you, sunsaengnim.”
“What do you mean sunsaeng? Nice to meet you, Mr. Minho. Professional Go player is a professional gamer in a broader sense, so we can say we’re colleagues.”
He gave Minho a warm smile.
“You’ll be good at ‘The Smart Game’ too, since you’re a gamer.”
“Well, it’s a different field.”
Minho laughed awkwardly.
Pentastorm could be considered a mental sport where one is constantly in psychological warfare with the opponent throughout the tournament. Minho was confident he wouldn’t fall behind anyone else in games of mental sport.
“No, Mr. Minho. I think differently.”
Minsoo spoke shrewdly as if he had read Minho’s thoughts.
“Someone who has mastered one thing will be good at other things with similar principles. I believe that will be true for you as well.”
He was different from the expected image of a gambler, but this was before the game had started. After encountering him in person, Minho felt that he should be careful not to let his guard down.
Heojun walked over to the two people.
“Huh, I didn’t know such impressive people would be here. Hello, Baek sunsaengnim. Player Minho.”
Heojun chuckled “Ho ho.” He had an amusing accent to his speech and didn’t feel anything like a doctor. Minho wanted to be wary of him but felt his guard lowering. Such an innocent demeanor didn’t seem to suit a sharp-minded doctor.
Heojun eyed Minho up and down as the three of them greeted one another.
“Nice suit! Where did you buy it?”
Minho in his suit stood out since Heojun looked like a country man standing next to him.
“This is from a sponsorship so I have to wear it around.”
“Sponsorship from Armani?”
Actor Suwon Yoon was surprised and jumped in.
“How does a professional gamer get sponsorship? They don’t give that to just anyone.”
“It was through the company.”
“Ah, ah. KG! Of course, they’re on another level.”
He was acting surprised but his face didn’t really look that surprised. He was a horrible actor, if he was acting, but Minho was confused since his voice was so serious. Was he acting like a person who’s bad at acting surprised, or was he really surprised?
‘Well I guess he would do well in a game that needs memorization since he said he’s good at memorizing scripts.’
Minho was about to tell Suwon they were clothes that his stylist had picked up, but a movement on the screen in the middle of the hall caught his eye and he turned his head.
A man in a white mask appeared. The voice that flowed out from the motionless video was distorted, as if the figure were hidden behind a veil.
-Before you enter the main match, we will reveal the gold each contestant holds.
Everyone’s name and [Gold 1] popped up on the screen.
-The gold you have obtained through ‘The Smart Game’ will be awarded to you as prize money once you reach the final victory. If you have 100 gold it will be one billion won. It can be more than one billion if you have more. This is not the only way you can obtain the gold.
A billion won was no small amount but everyone began to murmur when they found out they could earn even more.
-After each round, you will receive a rating vote from the viewers.Everyone will receive a score poll from the viewers through the video that is revealed after every round finishes. They will choose the most impressive player for that round. The top-ranked contestant will be awarded on the spot in the amount of the gold they possess. For instance, if one player possesses 20 gold in round three and ranks first, they will be given 200 million won. If they continue their impressive play and do not lose their place in the poll for rounds 4,5,6,7,and 8, they will be able to obtain 1.2 billion won or more.
Everyone’s eyes lit up at the chance to earn more than the winning prize. It meant they could earn more than two billion won if they won the game and swept the polls as well. The producer’s mindset was ‘Try and take everything if you can.’
-If a player who gets disqualified ranks the highest in the poll, then the reward will be fixed at 100 thousand won. The disqualified contestant will be removed from the main game but still remain on the viewer poll. If they are disqualified in the first round but leave a strong impression, there’s a possibility of earning 900 thousand won through the nine rounds.
Minho thought this was a very reasonable system for inciting competition. With the number of contestants it would be difficult to make an impression on the viewers by just tagging along in the middle of the pack.
And this was a fact that everyone was aware of. Even Minsoo, who had been keeping up a warm smile, wasn’t smiling at all once the range of prize money was revealed.
-I will explain the main match you will be entering now. The name of this match is ‘Influential Game.’ In this game you will show how much influence you have as a person.
Five types of cards popped up on the screen. There were five cards of each type for 25 cards in total.
Written on them were [Civilian], [Rapper], [Lawyer], [Gambler], [Actor]. They were cards that showed occupations.
-Please look at the screen. This is only a distinction for the game and is unrelated to your occupations. The cards will be shuffled and you will each receive two. If you lose both of those cards due to your ‘Influential Score,’ you will lose the game immediately.
A detailed explanation of the game rules was given by the man in the mask.
All contestants will receive two cards along with two coins.
The contestant may do one of the following in their turn.
1. Obtain coin: receive one coin from the dealer.
2. Double obtain: receive two coins from the dealer. (However, you may be blocked by the Civilian)
3. Strike: Pay seven coins to deduct one point of ‘Influential Score’ from someone else. (One must perform a strike if they have more than 10 coins.)
4. Use the ability of the Influential card.
-Civilian: [Commute] Obtain three coins. (Can block anyone from double obtaining.)
-Rapper: [Diss] pay three coins in order to forcefully deduct someone’s Influence.
-Lawyer: [Defend] Doesn’t have other abilities but cannot get their Influence deducted by the Rapper.
-Gambler: [Trickery] Steal two coins from another contestant. (However, you cannot steal coins from another Gambler or an Actor.)
-Actor: [Exchange] You can change your unrevealed card. (You may look at it and not change it.)
All contestants must play without revealing their cards. You may lie and pretend your card is a different card. If someone acts upon their Influential Card’s ability, one may shout ‘Suspicious’ to check the card if they are suspicious.
If the person told the truth, the challenger loses one Influential point
If the person told a lie, then that player loses one influential point.
The contestant that loses one point must reveal one of their Influential cards. If both cards are revealed, that person is out of the game.
‘The game in itself is simple.’
But the problem was the people playing it.
Minho understood the most important thing was the fact that he could pretend to have a different card while keeping his own cards hidden. Not increasing his own score, but protecting his identity in the fight to reduce the scores of other players.
If he gathered seven coins, he could deduct from a person’s score, but that would be possible with only three coins if he had the Rapper’s ability.
-We will divide the rank with a total of five rounds. The person with the highest combined rank will be granted immunity and 10 gold. The second ranking player will be given five gold, and third ranking will be given three gold. The person of the lowest rank will be in danger of being disqualified and will choose another player to enter a deathmatch with them.
The doors opened and dealers entered, neatly dressed as if they were working in a casino.
“Contestants please take a seat.”
There were 10 places around the table with space for two cards each. They sat down in no particular order, so on Minho’s left was Minsoo Baek and on his right was Heojun Choi.
One dealer spread out 25 cards and shuffled them smoothly.
“I’m getting nervous.”
Dongmook spoke from the other side of the table, and it felt as if he were speaking for everyone.
Minho looked at Sangchul and Seoyeon who were next to Dongmook. On the left side were Jin Q and Suwon, with Habi Park and HyeJoo Cha on the right. It looked like they had divided into four teams in the short time it took to set up.
After the card shuffling ended, the dealer spoke.
“I will give out two cards each. Please be careful not to reveal them to the other players.”
After two cards were distributed to each person, the five remaining cards were put in the middle of the table. They all began to check the influential cards they had received.
Minho discovered a small camera located on the bottom of the spot where the two cards were placed and nodded to himself.
‘We can’t see it but I guess the viewers can.’
The psychological state of the contestants would be revealed plainly to the viewers since they would see who made what decision and the true cards everyone had. It was evident that someone would be disliked if they showed poor bluffing or game playing skill. This would make it difficult to receive high scores in the poll.
Minho peeked at his cards.
He would have liked to have a good combination to make an aggressive offense, but these weren’t bad.
The game preparation finished as the dealer distributed two coins each.
“For the first round we will start with the oldest player.”
It was Minsoo’s turn for action.
“I’m going to double obtain.”
When he said this the dealer announced,
“A player with the Civilian card may block this.”
It was the first turn of the first round of the first match. Everyone was busy gathering information so no one was quick to reveal they had the card or to pretend they had it.
The dealer gave Minsoo two coins. He took the coins calmly and stacked them next to him.
Then it was Minho’s turn. He chose to obtain one coin which wouldn’t risk exposing his character or rouse suspicion.
The first turn ended with everyone receiving one or two coins as they carefully glanced at each other.
It was Minsoo’s turn again. He pointed to one of his cards and spoke.
“I’m going to use ‘Commute’ on the Civilian card and obtain three coins.”
It was the first use of an influential ability. Habi Park shook his head as he observed the situation.
“If he gets those he’ll have seven.”
Seven coins meant that someone could have their influence deducted. But there was no one who challenged him out of suspicion. No one felt the need to sacrifice themselves. Plus Minsoo’s relaxed expression gave the assurance that he would never lie.
Minho’s turn came next. Seeing the situation right next to him, he pointed to a card that was flipped down.
“I’m going to use the Gambler’s ‘Trickery’ to steal two coins from Jin Q.”
Jin Q’s eyes grew wide.
Everyone watched Jin Q’s reaction with amusement as this first attack began.
The dealer asked,
“Mr. Jin Q, will you suspect him?”
Jin Q stared at Minho’s eyes with a piercing gaze.
Minho was pretty sure that Jin Q would suspect him. He had provoked him a bit ahead of time, which would make him want to strike back. Jin Q’s pride wouldn’t let him just take the abuse.
“It’s not a bad idea to use one point to check since the influential score would be two. Suspicious!”
A game freely enabling the use of lying meant one could inversely use the truth as a trap.
Minho flipped the Gambler card and spoke.
Jin Q hesitated. The dealer spoke as he handed over two coins to Minho.
“Mr. Jin Q who failed to suspect, please reveal one card. Mr. Minho please hand in your gambler card and take a new one from here.”
Jin Q turned over one card with a blazing glare. A Civilian was revealed.
Dongmook spoke with frustration.
“Man, Jin Q. If you had a Civilian, you should’ve blocked people from taking two. Look now. Almost everyone has seven.”
Dongmook’s words suggested he didn’t have a Civilian card himself.
Minho had to discard the Gambler card due to the suspicion process and drew a new card.
It was Suwon’s turn next. He looked at his own cards and shook his head.
“I don’t think I can do anything with these. I’m going to use the Actor card’s ‘Exchange.’”
There was no one to stop him from handing in his two cards and taking two new ones from the cards in the center.
It was Jin Q’s turn. He glared at Minho as he spoke.
“I’m going to use the Gambler card’s ‘Trickery’ ability to take Minho’s coi….”
Minho grinned and spoke before Jin Q finished his sentence.
“The new card I took is also Gambler so you can’t steal mine.”
The dealer looked at Jin Q and asked,
“Mr. Jin Q, will you suspect?”
He was at a crossroads; would he put his remaining influential score on the line and suspect or would he play it safe? The look on Jin Q’s face showed that he’d been properly trapped.
“…I will not suspect.”
Jin Q slouched his shoulders as his turn ended without success.