As we note in our 2012 working paper The Poker-Litigation Game, the process of legal litigation shares many important features in common with the game of poker:
1. Both poker and litigation are strategic games, that is, competitions in which the players/litigants must make their choices and decisions independently of each other.
2. Both activities are zero-sum or non-cooperative games in which the economic interests of the players/litigants are opposed. (Of course, although both parties in a given legal case may have a strong interest in settling rather than going to trial, we submit that this does not change the overall adversarial nature of the legal process.)
3. Both are games of incomplete information–just as a player in a game of poker does not know with certainty when another player is “bluffing,” a litigant in a civil or criminal case may not know with certainty the strength of his adversary’s case during pre-trial negotiations. (As an aside, there is no doubt that pre-trial discovery rules are designed to reduce this level of uncertainty in litigation, but it’s not clear to us by how much this uncertainty is reduced by modern discovery.)
4. Both games involve substantial elements of chance or luck: e.g. random assignment of the cards in poker; random selection of judges in civil and criminal cases. (Even the process of jury selection is somewhat random, based more on guesswork and hunches than anything else.)
Can you think of any other similarities or differences between the game of poker and the process of litigation?