game theory, game design, gambling, and mathematics


Some units of time (18 months? Four years? Does it matter?) ago I was in Virginia visiting relatives. I got to hang with my cousin's three kids. They were playing the card game bullshit--which they called something else, because they were very proper children. (I still yelled "BULLSHIT!" when appropriate. They were shocked.)

After they switched to war---the worst card game ever---I refused to play. Instead, I taught them to play hearts. The youngest (maybe seven at the time) never developed any strategy for the game, and the middle child's meds wore off halfway through the game, but I enjoyed playing a real game.

Why am I thinking about card games recently?

Last month, I wandered through the Westside GenericMegaBookstore and I saw a book, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Texas Hold'em (Should be The Idiot's Pocket Guide to ...). I bought it and enjoyed it a lot. It stressed the mathematics behind the game of poker. (Do not ever play a betting game if you are unfamiliar with the concept of expectation value.)

Last semester, we played Set in my methods class.

My boss at the pizza place quit smoking recently. He immediately took the money he saved and bought lotto tickets. I almost explained the notion of expectation value to him. Instead, I just told him that if I am going to gamble, I prefer to play games where skill can make a difference.

This all got me thinking about invented games, like William Shroyer's Clubs. (All games are invented. I just was friends with Wes in High school.) Webb reminded me of his game Sparts. We didn't like Sparts because it was to baroque.

So I've been thinking about game theory, game design, gambling, and mathematics.