HomeGames & TechHow to use and understand Game Theory 

How to use and understand Game Theory 

If you visit an online casino, you will realize that the number of casino games you can play today has grown immensely. This wide variety of games means that there are more ways than ever you can make some money gambling online. But, doing so requires a strategy that improves the odds of winning in your favor. One such strategy is game theory.

In the simplest terms, game theory refers to the mathematical study of games. It only applies to strategy games with clear rules and involving two or more competing players.

How can you use this theory to improve your chances of winning at online gambling? Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding Game Theory

Per the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ definition, game theory is “a branch of applied mathematics” that provides people with analytic tools for evaluating situations in which the involved parties make interdependent decisions. The interdependency of the decisions motivates every party to consider the other parties’ possible moves, strategies, and decisions when creating their own strategy.

Simply put, game theory involves observing other players to understand how they play a game and using this information to develop a better strategy. It is ideal for multi-person gambling games like those you will come across if you Go to, such as poker and its various variants. Applying it to your strategy can increase your advantage over your opponents by allowing you to exploit the social aspects of the game. Essentially, your success in using game theory will depend on:

  • The nature and rules of the game.
  • The other players, their skill, and level of strategy.
  • How well you can read and predict their actions.

Zero Sum Games (Poker)

Game theory is commonly applied to zero-sum games. This is a game where the total final score of every play is zero or where the total wins of one player equal the total loss of the other player. Naturally, poker is a zero-sum game if you discount the house rake. This and the fact that it involves two or more competing players makes it prime for game theory. 

In typical poker games, players make their moves based on their hand and the probability of that hand improving over time. They also stay true to a specific style of play and make decisions on how other players perceive them. Game theory is the opposite. It involves playing based on your perception of the other players. Generally, you study your opponent’s ticks, tells, and decisions and devise a strategy to beat theirs. This requires a very keen eye for non-verbal cues.

Pure Vs Mixed Strategy

Every zero-sum game with two players has an optimal strategy. This is a strategy that cannot be beaten, even by a highly skilled opponent. In simple terms, if you use the optimal strategy of a game, you can never lose even if you tell your opponent how you play.

An optimal strategy involves selecting a playing choice out of two or more moves at random but with precise probabilities. The randomness prevents your opponent from taking advantage of a too-predictable strategy. In game theory, it is referred to as mixed strategy. It is the opposite of making the same move in every identical scenario, otherwise called pure strategy. 

The key to applying game theory to poker is determining the optimal strategy based on your opponent’s style of play and following it perfectly. This, however, only applies to a two-person game.

Equilibrium Strategies

If you add one more player to the mix, a poker game is no longer zero-sum and the optimal strategy disappears. You don’t have a “best” way to play the game anymore. However, you may still have an equilibrium strategy. Called the Nash equilibrium, this situation presents a scenario where one player cannot unilaterally change their strategy to do better than their opponents. But, two or more players can change their gameplay to better their odds.

In multiple-player poker, this means that you will never have one strategy that always wins the game. You have to keep adapting your gameplay to your opponents and their current strategy. You also have to account for your opponents trying to adapt to you and other players at the table. In this case, it becomes easier to find a variation of the game you excel at or play a two-person game.


Game theory is a great way to improve your gambling strategy based on the social aspects of the game. Its most basic rule is to play the player as much as the game. At its core, game theory is built on adaptability. You have to study how your opponents are playing and devise a superior strategy.  

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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