Wednesday, September 14, 2005

RoShamBo and Randomization

I almost forgot to talk about the conclusion of ESPN's "The Nuts" segment on the RoShamBo World Championship, which they did a TREMENDOUS job providing sarcastic, overhyped footage of.

Don't be fooled - although RoShamBo, aka Rock-Paper-Scissors is a game of luck, there is skill involved also, in the form of psychology. I had the privilege of playing with former RoShamBo World Champion and Tiltboy Extraordinaire Rafe Furst in my homegame. When we were done with poker, I challenged Rafe to a RoShamBo. I quickly thrashed him, and collected my bounty: five bucks - but it was the glory that mattered - I had beaten a former world champ, and did a victory dance in my kitchen. However, Rafe was clearly setting me up, as he then RoShamBo'd me for the dinner check, which I lost, for considerably more than $5.

Annie Duke made the final four of the tournament by taking all psychology out of it - she used the serial numbers on dollar bills to randomize her decisions. The reason RoShamBo is a game of skill if you don't use a method like Annie's, is that I think we humans are actually very bad at randomizing decisions. We may THINK we are randomizing decisions, but we always compensate to make series of events appear like WHAT WE THINK RANDOM SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

I actually wrote a paper on this in college, and I don't want to get into it here, but if you ask someone to write down a random sequence of ten "heads and tails" coin flips, he will naturally try to come up with an answer that contains a roughly equal number of heads and tails. Furthermore, you are very unlikely to see a response like: HHHHHTTTTT, even though it's just as likely as TTHTHHTHTH. You will find that a massive number of people will come up with responses like the second, "random looking" string. You are unlikely to get TTTTTTTTTT as a response, although it should occur with the exact same frequency as the other strings.

Anyway - RoShamBo, without the aid of randomizing agents like dollar bill serial numbers, the second hand on your watch, etc. Is a game with a not-so-insignificant amount of skill.

If you don't believe me, I'm sure Rafe will play you for any amount you choose.

On another philosophical tangent - Josh Arieh was ranting a bit on his 'blog about how he never saw a penny from his appearance in the Milwaukee's Best Light Hold'em or Fold'em segments. At first I though - "Hey, I'm sure he signed over the rights to his image when he made the final table," - but then I thought - "Fuck that - he gave ESPN the right to use his image - if ESPN is going to SELL his image to someone else like the Beast, he probably has a legitimate beef and deserves a cut of it."

As someone once said... "Mo' money, Mo' problems."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your analysis, according to the World Rock Paper Scissors Society. The real World Championship event takes place in Toronto (Oct. 22nd, 2005).