On making games between friends more even

Suppose friends of unequal ability play games on a regular basis.  How can one make the games fair?  A classic approach comes from golf.  Each person subtracts his or her handicap from the score.  In principle this evens up the game.

Here is an alternative approach.  Suppose that A plays B and that A is typically 10 strokes better than B.   So, the first game, the discount for player B is set to 10.  That is, B is permitted to subtract 10 from his score.  If B wins the game, the discount is reset to 9.  If A wins, the discount is reset to 11.   In the long run, A and B win approximately the same number of games, regardless of their relative skills.

This strategy applies to any game that is determined by a final score that is played by friends who want to even the odds.

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2 Responses to “On making games between friends more even”

  1. JR Says:

    This will work as long as friend B can swallow his pride and accept that he is in fact, 10 strokes worse.

    I don’t think many of my friends would appreciate it if I gave them a 5 second head-start on Mario Kart.

    If your initial guess about the difference in scores is wrong, I wonder how many games it would take to reach true correct discount. Furthermore, would B just stop playing with A because A always won?

  2. PJO Says:

    I have been playing Scrabble online with an acquaintance. We have played 5 games. She beat me by about 100 points in each of the first 4 games. It was a testament to my tenacity and mental health that I played a 5th game where I beat her by 100 points. (Maybe now would be a good time to quit.)

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