After a deck of cards is shuffled by the dealer, it is often given to a player other than the one who performed the shuffle for a procedure called a cut.
The dealer completes their shuffle, and then sets the cards face-down on the table near the designated player, typically the player to the dealer's right. The player cuts the deck by removing a contiguous range of cards from the deck, and places them toward himself so that the stack of cards to be dealt is closest to the dealer. The simplest form of the cut is done by taking, roughly, the top one-half of the cards, and placing them on the table or a cut card. Either the player cutting or the dealer then completes the cut by placing the remaining bottom portion on top of the cards that have been cut off.
Once the cut is complete, the dealer then picks up the deck, straightens or "squares" it, then deals the cards.
The contiguous section may also be taken from the middle of the deck. This is called Scarne's cut, though in some settings this is considered poor etiquette or against the rules. A cut involving a very small number of cards, such as taking only the top card as a cut, is often acceptable. The same is true when a player takes every top card save for one on the cut.
During informal card games, the dealer is typically not required to offer the cut, and even if offered, the designated player can decline the request. On the other hand, any player may specifically request to cut the cards before they are dealt. If a cut is requested by a player, it must be granted by the dealer.
In formal player dealt settings, such as in a casino or during a tournament, an offer to cut the deck is mandatory and the designated player must perform the cut, generally by inserting a cut card (a plastic card about the size of a playing card, usually solid-colored) into the deck; the dealer then makes the actual cut at that point in the deck. When the dealer is not a player (i.e. a casino employee), the cut is mandatory and is usually performed by the dealer. In this instance, the deck is cut onto the aforementioned cut card, and the cut completed; this prevents players from seeing the bottom card of the deck.
A cut should always be completed with one hand to limit possibility of a false cut.
Scarne's cut was developed by John Scarne during WWII to help protect servicemen against cheating by unscrupulous dealers. First you pull out a portion of the middle of the stack and place it back on top of the deck. Then perform a regular cut described earlier.
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