19 Best Game Theory Books (to read in 2024)

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Have you ever notice how many games are you playing? If you think ‘not many’, just look into your history and you find countless examples.

I’ll give you one example of a game I played without knowing. In my early twenties, I changed my job a lot. In my search for a better job I never answered others’ ads, I’ve placed my own ads in the paper. That was my first criterion in the game, I choose and pick, don’t want to be chosen.”

Then, at every interview, I wore the most unattractive and boring clothes possible, no makeup, no fashionable hairdos. I wanted to work with people who don’t care how I look.

In an interview they said yes and “You start on Monday”. On Monday when I went to work, the owner of the company looked at me and said “The job is not available anymore; we hired someone last week” and I replied, “I know; you hired me”. He seemed puzzled “Really? It’s you?! You look so different!” “Does it matter?” “No; here is your desk and […]”

I worked with that company for many years, and I never had any issues with unwanted attention. You know what unwanted attention I mean. (Bear in mind, this was more than 20 years ago… luckily, things have changed.)

To be honest, if I knew then what I know today about the fact that we are playing games with each other all the time in most situations, I would have learned more about the game theory so that I can have more and better criteria for the games I must play.

Be warned! If you start learning about the game theory, you’ll fell in love with it because it has so many applications in your day to day, professional and personal life.

For example, no one can have a happy marriage if they play a finite game with their spouse. The same goes for any other type of relationship. Playing a finite game can help you win a few times but not indefinitely.

Learning the game theory not only helps you become a better player but also improves your mental toughness and negotiation skills, increases your tolerance level, makes you more compassionate, and improves the quality of your life in general (day to day life, professional and personal life.)

Discover in the following 19 of the best game theory books how to:

  • become a better player,
  • what games do you want to play and what you want to stop playing,
  • why you should become a better player,
  • how can, game theory, change your life for the better.

Table of Contents

“Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them.” James P. Carse

“Creators generate new ideas and original concepts. They prefer unstructured and abstract activities and thrive on innovation and unconventional practices.

Advancers communicate these new ideas and carry them forward. They relish feelings and relationships and manage the human factors. They are excellent at generating enthusiasm for work.

Refiners challenge ideas. They analyze projects for flaws, then refine them with a focus on objectivity and analysis. They love facts and theories and working with a systematic approach.

Executors can also be thought of as Implementers. They ensure that important activities are carried out and goals accomplished; they are focused on details and the bottom line.

Flexors are a combination of all four types. They can adapt their styles to fit certain needs and are able to look at a problem from a variety of perspectives.” Ray Dalio

“My son Aaron, who is a professor of computer science, encountered just such a careless signal when he was on the admissions committee at Carnegie Mellon University.

One Ph.D. applicant submitted a passionate letter about why he wanted to study at CMU, writing that he regarded CMU as the best computer science department in the world, that the CMU faculty was best equipped to help him pursue his research interests, and so on.

But the final sentence of the letter gave the game away: I will certainly attend CMU if adCMUted. It was proof that the applicant had merely taken the application letter he had written to MIT and done a search-and-replace with “CMU” . . . and hadn’t even taken the time to reread it! Had he done so, he would have noticed that every occurrence of those three letters had been replaced.” Alvin E. Roth

“Although a large branch of game theory is devoted to the study of expected utility, we generally consider each player’s payoffs as a ranking of his most preferred outcome to his least preferred outcome.” William Spaniel

“If you are a gamer, it’s time to get over any regret you might feel about spending so much time playing games. You have not been wasting your time. You have been building up a wealth of virtual experience that, as the first half of this book will show you, can teach you about your true self: what your core strengths are, what really motivates you, and what make you happiest.” Jane McGonigal

“A general ‘law of least effort’ applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action.

In the economy of action, the effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.” Daniel Kahneman

“The customer isn’t always right. Employees have rights, too.” Adam M. Brandenburger

“The discrimination of others may be among the most important of abilities because it allows one to handle interactions with many individuals without having to treat them all the same, thus making possible the rewarding of cooperation from one individual and the punishing of defection from another.” Robert Axelrod

“Leaders often have to decide between great outcomes that might backfire and mediocre ones that work for sure.

It is what I call “The Leader’s Dilemma.” The issue stems in large part because the game has a fixed order. Because the leader has to act first, followers have time to observe flaws and make criticisms.

Often, the good outcomes need cooperation so they are risky and less likely to win out. In turn, safer but mediocre outcomes rise to the top.” Presh Talwalkar

“It may not be enough to play a game well – you must also be sure you are playing the right game.” Avinash K. Dixit

“The Cooperation Theory that is presented in this book is based upon an investigation of individuals who pursue their own self-interest without the aid of a central authority to force them to cooperate with each other.” Robert Axelrod

“The principal challenge facing masters of ’metrics is elimination of the selection bias that arises from such unobserved differences.” Joshua D. Angrist

“I define game theory as the study of how rational individuals make choices when the better choice among two possibilities, or the best choice among several possibilities, depends on the choices that others will make or are making.” Thomas C. Schelling

“Cooperation and conflict are two sides of the same coin, neither of which can be understood properly without taking account of the other.” Ken Binmore

“Complexity is self-generating. The diversity of our world is understandable because it is possible to design imaginary self-consistent worlds potentially as complex as our own.

This is no mere restatement of common sense. Everyone daydreams alternate worlds, but the imagination soon tires of filling in details. Ulam, Von Neumann, and Conway showed that a few recursive rules can paint in all the details. Creation can be simple.” William Poundstone

Game Theory is a study of the conflict between thoughtful and potentiality deceitful opponents. This may make it sound like the game theory is a branch of psychology rather than mathematics. Not so: because the players are assumed to be perfectly rational, game theory admits of precise analysis.

Game Theory is, therefore, a rigorous branch of mathematical logic that underlines real conflict among (not always rational) humans.” William Poundstone

“Game theory usually assumes rationality and common knowledge of rationality. Rationality refers to players understanding the setup of the game and exercising the ability to reason.” Ivan Pastine, Introducing Game Theory: A Graphic Guide

“As we started working on this book, we saw that the game theory problem known as the prisoner’s dilemma has direct implications for the family.

So does the theory of rewards. And what about the Ultimate Game- which deals with the issue of credible and non-credible threats?

That one does, too. How many times have we told our kids that we will cancel a trip to the beach if they don’t eat their breakfast? They know we’re faking, because we want to go to the beach too – and they know we won’t jeopardize our own vacation over a bowl of Froot Loops.” Paul Raeburn, Kevin Zollman

10 other great game theory books:

  1. Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern
  2. Game Theory: An Introduction by Steven Tadelis
  3. Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Binmore
  4. Games of Strategy by Avinash Dixit and Susan Skeath
  5. Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff
  6. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
  7. The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
  8. Game Theory for Applied Economists by Robert Gibbons
  9. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Game Theory by Edward C. Rosenthal
  10. Rock, Paper, Scissors by Len Fisher

6 best cooperative game theory books:

  1. The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod
  2. Game Theory by Eilon Solan, Michael Maschler, and Shmuel Zamir
  3. Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict by Roger Myerson
  4. A Course on Cooperative Game Theory by Manipushpak Mitra, Palash Sarkar, and Satya R. Chakravarty
  5. Cooperative Game Theory and Applications: Cooperative Games Arising from Combinatorial Optimization Problems by Imma Curiel
  6. Models in Cooperative Game Theory by Dinko Dimitrov, Rodica Branzei, and S. H. Tijs

5 best decision theory books:

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  2. An Introduction to Decision Theory by Martin Peterson
  3. Statistical Decision Theory and Bayesian Analysis by Jim Berger
  4. Decision Theory: Principles and Approaches by Giovanni Parmigiani and Lurdes Inoue
  5. Introduction to Statistical Decision Theory by Howard Raiffa, John W. Pratt, and Robert Schlaifer

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