Cory Leonard

Game Theory for the Win: Explaining Ted Cruz

In politics on July 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Some might say that Ted Cruz is a traitor. Others see him as a spur in Trump’s saddle. Another, more satisfying explanation is that Cruz is a rational actor (champion debater, actually), and had a strategic goal in standing up to Trump at the RNC Convention.

With that in mind, think of the GOP speakers as poker players. Trump has led the betting, and they are all holding bad cards. How will they respond? Poker pro Phil Hellmuth once reduced all poker players to five distinct types: the mouse, jackal, elephant, lion, and eagle. We don’t need to discuss all of them here, but suffice it to say that Trump is a jackal—he always bets big, regardless of the hand he’s holding. Jackals can be difficult to play against because, as in Nixon’s Mad Man theory, they don’t abide by the rational rules of poker. This makes it hard to tell if they’re bluffing, but it also makes them vulnerable to an opponent who catches good cards and isn’t afraid to bet them, because they’ll never fold but just keep raising until they’ve bet all their chips on a losing hand. But so far, Trump’s opponents have acted as mice: fundamentally weak players who are too timid to take a risk on less-than-perfect cards and fold against a more aggressive player. When mice face jackals, they tend to wait too long to make a move while the jackal slowly eats up their ante bets. Eventually they are forced to make a last-gasp bet with bad cards before they run out of chips.

via How Poker Theory Explains Ted Cruz’s Convention Speech | WIRED

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