Vanessa Rousso has so far laid pretty low in the Big Brother 17 house. Not many house guests, save Da’Vonne Rogers and the people’s she’s told, know Vanessa is a poker player. And even if they do know, they might not be aware of how successful a poker player Vanessa Rousso is. Her official Big Brother cast bio says Vanessa has earned $4.5 million playing poker in her ten years as a pro.
So, are there any hints from Vanessa’s poker career about how she might play the game?
In a July 2014 article for All In magazine, Rousso discussed the difference between “optimal” play and “exploitative” play. In optimal play, it’s a sheer numbers game. She uses “Rock, Paper, Scissors” as an example. It makes sense to rotate your choice between the three — rock, paper and scissors — since all three have an equal chance of being the winning throw.
However, that assumes the person you are playing against is rational and also using “optimal” play. But as Rousso points out, not all players are rational.
“As we all know, however, most players are, in fact, not completely rational (at least not at all times). Instead, in the context of Rock Paper Scissors, we often face players holding irrational beliefs (often rooted in psychology) that one or two of the signs are ‘stronger’ or ‘better’ than the other(s).”
To win at “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” therefore, it makes sense to use an “exploitative” strategy. Instead of rotating between the three choices, if your opponent consistently chooses “rock,” it makes sense to start choosing “paper” more frequently.
The problem with this strategy, Rousso cautions, is you open yourself up to similar exploitation by a third player.
She gives an example of a poker player who consistently takes a drink when she has a poor hand. Noticing this tendency, another player could change her play based on when that player is taking a drink.
The Big Brother house is a lot like a big poker game. Players need to be able to read people and know when to call a bluff. But there are the added elements of “twists” that producers throw into the game, such as this week’s “Last Laugh” that will see one player get the right to void three other players’ votes.
There are also a lot of players to assess, especially in the beginning. With one eviction in the book, Vanessa is currently one of 15. The “Rock, Paper, Scissors” example of exploitative play would have to be revised to something a bit more complex, like “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.”
Big Brother 17 airs on CBS.
[Photo by Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport]