Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust – Book Review

Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust – Book ReviewGladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust: How Game Theory, Strategy and Probability Rule Our Lives by Haim Shapira
Published by Watkins Publishing on February 14th 2017
Pages: 176
Source: NetGalley
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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.


Gamification isn’t game theory, but I suspect most marketers are like me and not actually know what game theory is. That’s what I was hoping to learn from Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust.

Mathematician, Haim Shapira, promised to remove the scary math from game theory and make it something everyone can understand. Perhaps it needed the math, or it was the lack of tables and graphs in my pre-release copy, but I feel I understand more of game theory before reading this book. Or maybe I’ve just learned more about game theory and discovered how unrealistic it is? So many questions.

Haim describes game theory as mathematically modeling decision making. Definitely, something as marketers want to understand more of. He then presents a series of situations, studies and models to explain what happens when you apply game theory. There’s an interesting story of behavior when you split the dinner bill. I actually referenced that one at an Instameet yesterday. Then there are several variations of this. You have a box with $1,000 in it and another secret box: which do you choose? You must decide how to allocate $1 million in a group: how is it done?

This is where I have the problem, and without further reading on game theory, I can’t work out if my problem is with the book or the theory. Game theory (according to Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust) makes the assumption that everyone is selfish and greedy and out to destroy everyone else. It tells examples of people having a stand-off and everyone losing rather than being willing to compromise. No one just offers to split the money and declare it done. I know some nasty people but not enough to support the trend of selfishness game theory requires.

So, Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust?

The majority of the book is a series of game theory models and links to when that has occurred in global conflicts and research studies. There’s some discussion stringing it together, but more explaining each model. The last few chapters have a great discussion on how easily statistics are manipulated. By chapter 10, I was skimming the book so I may have missed how it ties in with game theory. I don’t really care because it’s an excellent stand-alone read. The probability of success in gambling was another kind of random addition and missed that the appeal of gambling has more to do with psychology than mathematics.

Who Should Read Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust?

I’m not sure. Game theory is interesting but Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust won’t help you link it to marketing or any decision making that I can use. The only audience I can think of for whom it could be applied is the current US Presidential Cabinet, and that’s not a good thing. If you’re interested in the game theory models, perhaps here’s some bedtime reading for you. If you’re wanting a book on decision making, I recommend Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

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