Game Changers by Rudlf Taschner (book review).

No, ‘Game Changers’ has nothing to do with your desire to change computer games, other games are available. The sub-title of Rudlf Taschner’s book is ‘Stories Of The Revolutionary Minds Behind Game Theory’. As he explains in his introduction, he adds dialogue to aid the presentation and I suspect it helps because I found myself picking out the facts but not in a stuffy fashion.

I do have to wonder if the treble cleft, that’s the symbol used at the start of a musical score, presented as a curve has more in common with a Möbius strip in the way it curves over itself.

In case you through game theory only really came to its own in the last century, Taschner starts off in 1612 when Claude Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac wins a numbers game by outsmarting his opponent. Taschner points out that a lot of game theory verges on con games when it’s possible to turn the odds in your favour. If anything, it does tend to show most gamblers don’t really think about the games they are playing. You only have to look at certain casino games that favour the house to realise, in the long term, you will lose so try not to hang around after a big win.

Of course, the real game analysis came from Karl Menger whose book on hostile factions then taught Oskar Morgenstein. He, in turn, wrote with John von Neumann a book on game theory in 1944 and then things sort of exploded with John Nash. Through all of these, Taschner gives easy to understand statistical patterns enabling the odds to be figured out and how so many resemble each other although I don’t think you want to play two card poker.

At the back of the book, Taschner has ten of the game logic problems laid out on their own so you can study them sans background stories. Understanding betting logic and by working out the edge you could lose by should make you stop and think. More so, as this is what casinos do to ensure they have an edge where they can win in the long run. Understanding some of the statistical anomalies, even if you don’t think you’re good at statistics, might at least prevent you betting your shirt on anything.

GF Willmetts

October 2017

(pub: Prometheus Books. 237 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN), £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-373-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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