Imagine playing second: obviously, if you're confronted by a bet, there's no reason to call if you're holding the Jack and no reason to fold with a King (maybe, just maybe you'd consider the stone-cold bluff of re-raising with a Jack, but you'd need a pretty solid read that your opponent is holding Queen and not King--mathematically, it's a bad idea). But what do you do if you're playing second and holding the Queen?
And you can probably imagine what to do if you're holding the Jack or the King and playing first (mathematically, you're right: check or bet, respectively, but with enough variation to remain mysterious). But what do you do if you're holding a Queen and playing first?
This classic poker variation was published in the very cool Contributions to the Theory of Games in 1950 by the good doctor Harold Kuhn. And here's the thing: it's been solved. Meaning that there's one and only one correct way to play for each player. And even cooler: tomorrow I'll post the answer, which you will then know and of which your poker buddies will likely remain ignorant. The next time you get to "call the next game" split the table into Kuhn poker pairs and clean up. (Who can solve Kuhn poker before tomorrow? Comment your answers below.)
Okay, I've got a little admission: I blog every Saturday, but THIS is the stuff I actually love. If Random House would let me write a book simply about Game Theory puzzles and the cool things people have done with 'em, I'd be a proverbial pig in schist. Until that happy day, I squeeze into my books as much behavioral economics and game theory as I imagine will go just under the radar. No! Forsooth! I didn't sign a contract for a book of brain science and then surreptitiously write a book of game theory puzzles! Why would you think that? If you want to check for yourself, click here.
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