Game theory is essentially the mathematics of strategy. John Von Neumann, a Hungarian born mathematician, is credited with being the father of game theory. The sometimes poker player was inspired by the game to develop this branch of mathematics in the late 1920s.
Game theory, which psychologists refer to as the theory of social situations, studies decisions made in an environment where various participants interact. It takes into account the variety of choices that each person has at each point in the process and determines optimal behavior when weighed against the costs and the benefits of each action.
The choices that a participant has in any stage of a game – unless the game consists of only one player – will be colored by the actions and behaviors of other participants. The games studied by game theorists consist of a set of players, a set of moves, or strategies, and a specification of the payoffs (benefits) for each combination of strategies.
Games fall under different categories. Poker is considered a zero-sum game. This means that the total value of the game stays the same or goes down. Zero-sum games provide benefit to only some players and always at the expense of others.
In general, game theory can provide great insight into strategy and behavioral possibilities. It is a branch of mathematics that has moved forward in recent years with the popularity of poker, especially computerized applications of the game.
However, it’s important to remember that theories are always at their most potent in a controlled, experimental environment. In real-world situations, there are way too many valuables to consider. You can’t be a winning poker player by following game theory alone. It’s just another tool you can use to improve your understanding of the game.
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