That quantitative investing is some pretty heady stuff doesn't surprise us. But backgammon?
Mike Munson, co-founder and vice president of portfolio management for Denali Advisors LLC, La Jolla, Calif., knows both. He started playing the game at age 12 and studied mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., where he wrote his undergraduate thesis on using probability to make smarter backgammon moves.
Today, Mr. Munson is more of a bridge player. But his adviser at Harvey Mudd, Art Benjamin, a competitive backgammon player, brought Mr. Munson's paper together with another student's. The result was recently published in the book, Optimal Play: Mathematical Studies of Games and Gambling (or, for most of us, Taking the fun out of gambling), a compilation of 32 peer-reviewed articles published by the University of Nevada, Reno.
But calculating probability during a game of backgammon (even if, as in our case, it requires using one's hands) isn't considered cheating, the way it is at the blackjack table.
For serious backgammon and bridge players, a lot of the fun is calculating the probabilities and determining the best play to make, even if it does not end up as the winning play, Mr. Munson said. In gambling, people often say, "I'd rather be lucky than good,' but serious backgammon and bridge players would rather be good than lucky. Drew Carter