The Sopranos and Game Theory

#1
As a teacher of introductory game theory, I often think about the moves from each of the crews/individuals from a game theory perspective. For those who don't know, game theory looks at what a person/groups best action would be, given what you EXPECT the other parties response to be.

For me, the best hint that Tony was shot in the near future was the scene when they were in the safe house, and someone came in with an envelope that was light, because some was already being kicked up to NY. From a NY perspective, they have already had a taste of the extra cash they could make, the NJ crew is in tatters, take out Tony and they could virtually take over the crew (which was Phil's original plan). Given the state of the NJ crew, a violent response would be unlikely. So given the likely NJ response, their best action was probably to take out Tony. Whether or not NY thought along those lines is a different matter.

However, I digress. The point of this thread is that I think it would be interesting to get people's views on what they think Tony's biggest strategic mistake was.

THIS HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TONY LIVED TONY DIED ARGUEMENT.
The strategic error may be anywhere from series 1 to the last series.

At the moment, I think his biggest strategic mistake was to agree take out Rusty, but I may change my mind!! I also think it was a mistake to not cultivate soldiers like Chris was in the first few series. He was cultivating Bobby to replace Chris, but there still seemed to be a lack of hard core soldiers at the lower level who could do the business.

Does anyone else have any views??

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#2
That's an interesting perspective. To be honest, one could easily say Tony's biggest mistake was following his father into the business and not finishing college. But once he's entered the life, I dare say his biggest mistake was the way he handled Ralphie. I've often thought that he went apart from "the rules" when he dealt with Ralphie, first the smack in front of the other guys and then the eventual murder based on nothing but pure emotion (and some frustation, to be sure.) In acting such, he basically caused a great deal of financial unrest, not to mention tended to bring things upon himself he could have otherwise avoided. Look at Vito - as Sil once told him, he couldn't take orders and refused to deal with the Vito situation only because he wanted to do what he Tony wanted to do. Tony B. is another example of this.

Many of the problems Tony later ended up dealing with, dead or not when it was all said and done, could have likely been avoided by being a better boss. He lamented the days gone by but then refused to act with those old time values. No wonder he must look over his shoulder.
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Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#3
In the chaotic and treachorous world of mobster life there are so many variables that a good strategist and tactician should be prepared for all possibilities. But I think sometimes circumstances are beyond the control of even the Don.

I agree that probably his first and biggest mistake was choosing this way of life.

Along the way he was also given opportunities to reject this but it is harder to get out once you are in (thanks Silvio and Al!)

So where did he make his next biggest mistake?

When he let his guard down and he believed that everything was under control especially for both his families.

Maybe naively assuming that the threat from New York was dealt with.

There was an air of hubris about Tony as they sat around the table.

On the other hand I guess you can never know who your real enemies are especially if they turn out to be closer than you think. I think he should have given more credit to Patsy then he did. (But I actually think Patsy would probably make a better boss).

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#4
conkom wrote:In the chaotic and treachorous world of mobster life there are so many variables that a good strategist and tactician should be prepared for all possibilities. But I think sometimes circumstances are beyond the control of even the Don.

.


Sorry, I don't think I made it clear at this start of this thread that when I said strategy I meant with some game theory thrown in. From our point of view, we have seen the outcome of some decisions, and we can easily say if they were good or bad based on the outcome. Game theory relies on you determining your best strategy based on what you THINK the other party's response will be. So often the circumstances are beyond the control of the party concerned, but you choose your strategy based on how you THINK the other party will respond. I don't think Tony was particularly good at this, he let his emotions control him too much. He wasn't a very clinical boss, as DH mentioned above based on how he dealt with Ralphie.

There are times when you can make a good decision based on the information you have, but it still turns out badly. I just think Tony was too emotional, and didn't really think about how the other party would respond.

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#5
In that case I agree. Although Tony had shown quite good judgement in the past where he did anticipate the other side. However in some, maybe not so critical times, he did let his emotions get the best of him. But I can imagine that would be par for the course for a lot of Dons. Why would so many be lying prone?

By the same token this is why I think Patsy would have been a much better boss as one quality he does display is patience, guile and cunning with just the right blend of ruthlessness. And I can see that he would be very clinical in his decision-making.

Need to brush up on Game theory. Any suggestions for beginners?

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#6
conkom wrote:Need to brush up on Game theory. Any suggestions for beginners?


Don't know about beginners, but Ronald Coase is a biggie in game theory. John Nash is as well (both won a Nobel prize for economics).
The movie A Beautiful Mind depicts Nash (Russell Crowe) coming up with his theorem, later to be known as the Nash equilibrium, but it is depicted incorrectly in the movie (typical Hollywood).

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#7
turangawaewae wrote:Sorry, I don't think I made it clear at this start of this thread that when I said strategy I meant with some game theory thrown in. From our point of view, we have seen the outcome of some decisions, and we can easily say if they were good or bad based on the outcome. Game theory relies on you determining your best strategy based on what you THINK the other party's response will be. So often the circumstances are beyond the control of the party concerned, but you choose your strategy based on how you THINK the other party will respond. I don't think Tony was particularly good at this, he let his emotions control him too much. He wasn't a very clinical boss, as DH mentioned above based on how he dealt with Ralphie.

There are times when you can make a good decision based on the information you have, but it still turns out badly. I just think Tony was too emotional, and didn't really think about how the other party would respond.


Veeeeery interesting thread- finally i hope to hear more of these economic theories that we started to explore back in the Lady or Tiger thread! Unfortunately i am a complete dunce on this topic, but i'll jump in anyway.

SO- Tony devised a strategy to handle Vito's murder which also considered Tony's expected response from Phil and his crew.

But if Tony's strategy was BASED UPON his expected response from Phil, would that be applying Game Theory? In other words, if Tony had based his strategy on Phil's expected response, rather than just considering it- would the outcome possibly have been better or more succesful? Is it more practical to base a strategy on the other party's (expected) response?

Maybe Tony didn't even realize who the "other party" is in the situation in order to make a determination of assessing an expectation of response. He could have thought that New York's response was the party to have an expectation to base strategy decisions on. In other words, Tony could have argued that if he didn't take out Phil, NY might have thought he was too weak and moved in on him anyway.

Oka, i see lots flaws in my first attempt here. And in any event, its not answering your main question about Tony's biggest strategic mistakes. And further, the avenging of Vito's murder thru the Phil hit probably wasn't his main or biggest strategic mistake- or even a strategic mistake at all. --Could be that he applied Game Theory well, and killing off Phil is what allowed him to enjoy onion rings yet another day...:icon_mrgreen:

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#8
badabellisima wrote: --Could be that he applied Game Theory well, and killing off Phil is what allowed him to enjoy onion rings yet another day...:icon_mrgreen:


Or he should have anticipated some other players in the game. In fact regarding the Vito issue the only player who did redeem himself and effectively stood his ground was Patsy.

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#9
conkom wrote:In that case I agree. Although Tony had shown quite good judgement in the past where he did anticipate the other side. However in some, maybe not so critical times, he did let his emotions get the best of him. But I can imagine that would be par for the course for a lot of Dons. Why would so many be lying prone?

By the same token this is why I think Patsy would have been a much better boss as one quality he does display is patience, guile and cunning with just the right blend of ruthlessness. And I can see that he would be very clinical in his decision-making.

Need to brush up on Game theory. Any suggestions for beginners?


Seems like your response to desweeney's "whacking" over in his last thread (http://www.thechaselounge.net/showthread.php?t=2407) shows you are getting a good start on it!!

Desweeney's self-inflicted whackjob: What a great example of someone not excercising a good strategy based upon an expected response!! :icon_mrgreen:

Re: The Sopranos and Game Theory

#10
conkom wrote:Or he should have anticipated some other players in the game. In fact regarding the Vito issue the only player who did redeem himself and effectively stood his ground was Patsy.


Okay, so tony did not base or consider his strategy with enough inclusion of the Patsy angle? Patsy sure is turning out to be more interesting than he comes off at first. Now remind me how Patsy redeemed himself, etc.?

This is interesting.
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