Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How is it solved?

I'm reading an article about poker in the most recent New Yorker magazine, and I came across a statement that seems like it can't be true.

It says: "Games for which a flawless strategy is known are said to be solved. Tic-tac-toe is solved: blackjack is solved; checkers is solved. Chess is not solved, and poker is not, either. Solutions theoretically exist; they are simply too intricate, so far, to be comprehended. Among mathematicians, chess is regarded as a game of perfect information, because nothing is hidden. If its ideal strategy were discovered, there would no longer be any reason to play it--no move could be made for which the responses was not already identified. Poker is a game of imperfect information, since so much is concealed."

So, my question is: in what way is blackjack solved? Isn't the dealer's hole card concealed? Am I missing something?

You can read the abstract of the article here. You must be a subscriber to read the entire thing.


dave starry said...

Perhaps blackjack is considered solved due to the fact that although there is an unknown (the dealer's hole card), one can rather easily determine the absolute best play (i.e., "flawless strategy") using statistical probability based on the known factors (the player's own cards and the dealer's "up" card).

Eric said...

Your description makes sense. I was interpreting "solved" to mean having perfect information.