NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Kenneth Kovash

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Working Papers

September 2009Professionals Do Not Play Minimax: Evidence from Major League Baseball and the National Football League
with Kenneth Kovash, Steven D. Levitt: w15347
Game theory makes strong predictions about how individuals should behave in two player, zero sum games. When players follow a mixed strategy, equilibrium payoffs should be equalized across actions, and choices should be serially uncorrelated. Laboratory experiments have generated large and systematic deviations from the minimax predictions. Data gleaned from real-world settings have been more consistent with minimax, but these latter studies have often been based on small samples with low power to reject. In this paper, we explore minimax play in two high stakes, real world settings that are data rich: choice of pitch type in Major League Baseball and whether to run or pass in the National Football League. We observe more than three million pitches in baseball and 125,000 play choices...

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