Decision Making

The Dimensions of a Decision

Late on a Friday night a game of poker is in progress. Three old friends sit around a table, making small banter with each other. Smoke drifts up to the ceiling as the cards are dealt.

Jim receives a seven of clubs and a two of diamonds. Tonight is Jim’s first time playing, and he doesn’t yet know this is the worst hand you can be dealt. He bets two chips, excited to be playing poker with his friends.

Tyler sits across from Jim. He just received a pair of aces and inside his heart skips a beat. Tyler is an old pro and knows well that a pair of aces is the best starting hand. He matches Jim’s two chips, feeling confident in his decision.

Sean sits next to Tyler. He was dealt a seven and a two also. Sean’s a novice as well, but he’s also a math genius. He quickly calculates the odds of winning in his head and determines that playing this hand would be foolish. He folds, confident in his decision.

Three cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table: the two of hearts, the king of spades and the queen of clubs. Jim bets again, excited that he has a pair of twos. Tyler matches his bet and another card is dealt: the seven of spades. One more round of betting and the final card is revealed: the seven of hearts.

Tyler and Jim flip over their cards. Tyler has two pairs, but Jim has a full house and wins the game.

Did Jim make a good decision to play out his cards when he was dealt a seven and a two? Did Sean make a bad decision by folding? It depends on how we define “good” and “bad”.

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