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Forced Win, Forced Loss, or Neutral? (Posted on 2008-02-08) Difficulty: 4 of 5
Professor Paradoxicus has invented a new game. A single card is dealt to each of two players. The cards are consecutive and come from a 9 card deck, each card bearing a distinct integer between 1 and 9. Each player then holds his card (number facing outward) against his forehead; ie, each player can see his opponent’s card, but not his own. The players are then asked whether they want to bet, and if both agree, they examine their own card, with the player who drew the lower card paying his opponent the amount on the higher card.

Professor Paradoxicus has invited three students to analyse the game.

Simplicimus notes that the game is symmetric and zero sum. He asserts that players will be indifferent as to whether or not to bet.

Optimisticus points out that whenever a player sees his opponent holding a 9 he can count on losing. On the other hand, Optimisticus reasons, if the opponent is holding any card N<9, then that player has a 50% chance of winning N+1 and a 50% chance of losing N. Optimisticus asserts that a player will quit when he sees his opponent holding a 9, and choose to play otherwise.

Finally, Sceptisimus expresses the view that a player will refuse to bet unless he sees his opponent holding a 1. He justifies his peculiar opinion as follows: Suppose a player sees his opponent holding a 9. He will certainly refuse to bet. Now suppose a player sees his opponent holding an 8. Clearly, he himself will be holding either a 9 or a 7. In the former case, he can be sure that his opponent will refuse to bet. He concludes that he has nothing to gain by agreeing to bet, but could have something to lose. He therefore should refuse to bet.

Sceptisimus next reapplies this argument repeatedly, with 7 (,6,5..) taking the role of 8 (,7,6..).

What’s your view of these three arguments and how do things change if the players, while still aware that the deck is finite, don’t know what are the lowest and highest numbers?

See The Solution Submitted by FrankM    
Rating: 1.5000 (2 votes)

Comments: ( Back to comment list | You must be logged in to post comments.)
re(5): Zero Sum Confusion Comment 16 of 16 |
(In reply to re(4): Zero Sum Confusion by Steve Herman)

I have been at fault by not specifying that when I used the term zero sum, I was using it as short hand for as it had been presented by Simplicimus, “symmetric and zero sum.”  If the probabilities are not equal between the win and loss payoffs for each player, the rational player would choose not to participate.

As requested, I looked up the defintions of zero sum and non-zero sum.  To summarize, the definition given about non-zero sum games is where the participants begin with unequal resources, where an abstract or real property is involved that can not be assigned a relative value, or where different conditions or limits are placed upon the participants.   As such, when we involve a human, without placement of any conditions, there may be no certain true zero sum game, as each person may have their own distinct evaluation of the resources.


  Posted by Dej Mar on 2008-02-19 12:11:01
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