Wednesday, November 22, 2017


This is a placeholder for something I want to think about in more depth later. Had a really good couple of days. BK and KK were in town visiting. BK and I brainstormed some variations on ConCom that will probably make a book. Synergistically, started reading Jane Austen: Game Theorist  yesterday.

In poker, you can play the cards, the opponent, or the table. Same in life. Or fighting. Or whatever.

Playing the cards. There are four suits and thirteen of each type of card in a deck. If you have four cards that make a straight, the odds of getting one of the cards that will end it is slightly higher than 2/13. Trying to fill an inside straight? 1/13. Need one card for your flush? Instinct says it should be a 1/4 chance of drawing the right card, but you already have 4 of the 13 cards in your suit, so 9/52.

The life or fighting equivalent is playing from your own skillset. To go into a situation, counting solely on what you know, ignoring other information.

Playing the opponent. In poker this is reading tells, getting to know the other players so well that you can read how strong their hands are. You can read what they desire and what they fear. You can read the draw (a draw of 2 cars in 5-card draw usually indicates they are holding three of a kind, for example).

The fighting equivalent. From Maija Soderholm I got exposed to the late Sonny Umpad's  exhortation to first learn to read your enemy, then learn to write him. This one is deep. It ranges from simply feinting to gather information or to draw a response; to getting so far inside a threat's head that you are effectively gas lighting the threat. You can control not only what they perceive, but how they interpret their own perception and whether they can trust their own perception.

Same in life. If you understand people and can read them, you can use those insights to manipulate them. You can control the game. A lot of people glitch on this. "Manipulate" has negative connotations in current usage. But really, manipulation is just acting with skill. I'd rather have good people be skillful than not.

Playing the table. Too many people who play cards just play their own. In stud, you can calculate how the cards showing change your odds. Need a jack? 1/13 chance... but if two jacks are showing, it's now 1/26. If all of the fives and tens are showing, you'll never fill any straight. (note: in this post I'm not talking about Hold 'em. Talking about what my dad would call "real poker"-- draw and stud.)

To me, in fighting, playing the tables working all the auxiliary stuff-- environmental fighting, accessing social possibilities. The asymmetrical battle of bringing in the law or HR when it suits you.

Tying it back to game theory. To be successful you have to know yourself. Your mind, your resources (including skills) your goals and your parameters. You also need enough empathy to get into your opponent's head and discern the same things from the other point of view. To approach expertise in the subject, you have to understand how all of the seemingly extraneous stuff interrelates-- the social dynamics, environment, physical and communication skills... the whole bit.


hjkl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geoff Nelson said...

Update your book links, Rory!

Anonymous said...

C'mon Rory, it's been long enough. Give us a post! :-)

Judi said...

That's the game, all depends on the cards that are shared. Not much different from the fate of one's life, we must accept what we are

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