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On a sunny Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1988, a young man from Chattanooga, Tennessee sat down to play UNO for the first time. It was in Lincoln park, just down the road from the Confederate Cemetery. In those days, there used to be a group of old-timers who would get together on the picnic benches and play UNO to pass the time. The young man walked up to see what they were doing, and one of the kind old men showed him how to play.

In an instant, he was hooked. As the summer progressed, the young man began to play UNO day and night, challenging anyone who would play, and within a few weeks, he was playing (and beating) the old UNO masters who would play at the park. You should have seen it: there he was, not twelve years old, playing five games of UNO at once, against men five times his age.

The old masters at the park noticed that the boy was something special. Not arrogant, not aggressive; just a steady player who had a keen sense of the game's subtlety and rhythm. The crowds that formed to watch the young man at work would come and go, but the masters were always there, watching the young savant as he skipped, reversed, and wild-carded his way to victory after victory.

The young man didn't say much, but word spread quickly, and a graduate student named John Kristof from UTC came by to see what the fuss was all about. An UNO player himself, Kristof wanted to know how the game could be mastered so quickly. He started to take notes, watching the young man negotiate the complicated actuarial ladders, bluff his way to victory, and read the faces of his opponents. Over the course of a few weeks, Kristof filled up an entire spriral notebook, front and back, with observations, insight and valuable lessons about the game.

As the summer came to a close, Kristof arrived at the park to find that the young man was gone. Nobody had seen him that day, and nobody saw him again. Some say he just wandered down Cleveland Avenue, hopped the fence, and jumped on a train. To honor the young man's memory, John went home that night and typed up the notes from his field studies. In a fit of inspiration, John photocopied his type-written summary: fifteen pages of UNO insight, single-spaced, typos and everything, and sent copies to every UNO player he knew. His hope was that someday, somehow, the young man from the park might know that his inspirational playing had changed lives forever.

Kristof's manifesto spread like wildfire. It was copied and re-copied, faxed and folded, occasionally re-written or transcribed by hand. Eventually, the original copies disappeared, but the message lived on.

In 1993, portions of Kristof's creed were some of the first posts on the now-defunct alt.rec.UNO newsgroup. From there, as they say, the rest is history.

UNOtips today

Incorporated as a 501(c)(7) organization in 2001, UNOtips is an active network of UNO enthusiasts who organize events, competitions, training camps, and other UNO-related evangelism. To find out more, please contact us.

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