Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Using randomization to keep your opponents guessing

by Ian Ayres:

In a recent post, I mentioned that when playing poker, I use my watch as a crude random number generator to tell me when to bluff. While there are lots of sports in which it’s best to play a somewhat random strategy, that doesn’t mean that every possible play is equally likely. But it does mean, for example, that when it’s third-and-2 in football, the offense wants to have some possibility of passing to keep the defense honest.

Levitt and others have tested the degree to which professional tennis and soccer players are successful at playing randomized strategies. But it remains a mystery to me why coaches don’t have random number generators (any laptop would do) to help them pick the next pitch in baseball, or the next play they will call in football.

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