theory sounds like a theory about games, but it is
actually a branch of mathematics dealing with the
decision-making process. While it applies to games,
as we shall see, it also applies to such disciplines
as economics, international relations, social science,
and military science. Essentially game theory attempts
to discover mathematically the best strategies against
someone also using the best strategies. Against an
opponent you think is weaker than you are - and it
can be in any game whatsoever - you would usually
rely on your judgment rather than on game theory.
However, against an opponent you think is better than
you or against an opponent you don't know, game theory
can sometimes enable you to overcome the other's judgmental
To show how game theory can work in this regard, we'll
employ the children's game of odds and evens. Each
of two players puts out one or two fingers. If the
total is even, one player wins; if the total is odd,
his opponent wins. Now mathematically this is an absolutely
even game. However, over a long series it is possible
for one person to gain an edge by outwitting the other,
by deciding whether to put out one or two fingers
on the basis of what the other person put out in the
previous round or rounds, by picking up patterns -
in a word, by figuring out what his opponent is thinking
and then putting out one or two fingers in order to
Suppose someone challenges you to this game. Feeling
confident about his judgment and ability to outguess
you, he is willing to lay you $101 to $100 per play.
We'll assume you too feel your challenger has the
best of it in terms of judgment. Nevertheless, by
employing game theory, you can gladly accept the proposition
with the assurance that you have the best of it. All
you have to do is flip a coin to decide whether to
put out one or two fingers.
multiway I mean more than two active hands. Most hands
end up being played multiway. Games that don't have
most hands competed for multiway are usually tight
games that aren't going to last long.
Strong draws should usually be played aggressively
in multiway hands.
By draw, I mean a flush draw or a straight draw with
overcards. Flush draws are almost always strong draws.
Straight draws not always. If you have two to a straight
or flush in your hand and two on board, then assuming
your straight cards have no gaps, you have eight cards
you can catch to make your straight, or nine cards
you can catch to make your flush.
It looks like there isn't much difference between
a flopped straight draw and a flopped flush draw,
right? Wrong. There is a world of difference between
the two draws. Flush draws are almost always stronger,
for three reasons:
1. There are nine ways to complete a flush draw, versus
eight ways for a straight draw
2. A flush beats a straight
3. The card that makes you a straight might give someone
else a flush or flush draw