Category Archives: Simulation

Visualizing Stirling’s Approximation With Highcharts

I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man”, He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can” (The Weight, The Band)

It is quite easy to calculate the probability of obtaining the same number of heads and tails when tossing a coin N times, and N is even. There are 2^{N} possible outcomes and only C_{N/2}^{N} are favorable so the exact probability is the quotient of these numbers (# of favorable divided by # of possible).

There is another way to approximate this number incredibly well: to use the Stirling’s formula, which is 1/\sqrt{\pi\cdot N/2}

This plot represents both calculations for N from 2 to 200:


Although for small values of N, Stirling’s approximation tends to overestimate probability …

Stirling 2

… is extremely precise as N becomes bigger:

Stirling 3

James Stirling published this amazing formula in 1730. It simplifies the calculus to the extreme and also gives a quick way to obtain the answer to a very interesting question: How many tosses are needed to be sure that the probability of obtaining the same number of heads and tails is under any given threshold? Just solve the formula for N and you will obtain the answer. And, also, the formula is another example of the presence of pi in the most unexpected places, as happens here.

Just another thing: the more I use highcharter package the more I like it.

This is the code:

data.frame(N=seq(from=2, by=2, length.out = 100)) %>%
  mutate(Exact=choose(N,N/2)/2**N, Stirling=1/sqrt(pi*N/2))->data
hc <- highchart() %>% 
  hc_title(text = "Stirling's Approximation") %>% 
  hc_subtitle(text = "How likely is getting 50% heads and 50% tails tossing a coin N times?") %>% 
  hc_xAxis(title = list(text = "N: Number of tosses"), categories = data$N) %>% 
  hc_yAxis(title = list(text = "Probability"), labels = list(format = "{value}%", useHTML = TRUE)) %>% 
  hc_add_series(name = "Stirling", data = data$Stirling*100,  marker = list(enabled = FALSE), color="blue") %>% 
  hc_add_series(name = "Exact", data = data$Exact*100,  marker = list(enabled = FALSE), color="lightblue") %>% 
  hc_tooltip(formatter = JS("function(){return ('<b>Number of tosses: </b>'+this.x+'<br><b>Probability: </b>'+Highcharts.numberFormat(this.y, 2)+'%')}")) %>%
  hc_exporting(enabled = TRUE) %>%
  hc_chart(zoomType = "xy")

Amazing Things That Happen When You Toss a Coin 12 Times

If there is a God, he’s a great mathematician (Paul Dirac)

Imagine you toss a coin 12 times and you count how many heads and tails you are obtaining after each throwing (the coin is equilibrated so the probability of head or tail is the same). At some point, it can happen that number of heads and number of tails are the same. For example, if you obtain the sequence T-H-T-T-H-T-H-H-T-T-H-H, after the second throwing, number of heads is equal to number of tails (and both equal to one). It happens again after the 8th throwing and after last one. In this example, the last throwing where equallity occurs is the number 12. Obviously, equallity can only be observed in even throwings.

If you repeat the experiment 10.000 times you will find something like this if you draw the relative frequency of the last throwing where cumulated number of heads is equal to the one of tails:

From my point of view there are three amazing things in this plot:

  1. It is symmetrical, so prob(n)=prob(12-n)
  2. The least likely throwing to obtain the last equality is the central one.
  3. As a corollary, the most likely is not obtaining any equality (number of heads never are the same than number of tails) or obtaining last equality in the last throwing: two extremely different scenarios with the same chances to be observed.

Behind the simplicity of tossing coins there is a beautiful universe of mathematical surprises.

results=data.frame(nmax=numeric(0), count=numeric(0), iter=numeric(0))
for (j in 1:iter)
data.frame(x=sample(c(-1,1), size=tosses, replace=TRUE)) %>%
add_rownames(var = "n") %>%
mutate(cumsum = cumsum(x)) %>% filter(cumsum==0) %>%
summarize(nmax=max(as.numeric(n))) %>% rbind(tmp)->tmp
tmp %>%
group_by(nmax) %>%
summarize(count=n()) %>%
mutate(nmax=ifelse(is.finite(nmax), nmax, 0), iter=iter) %>%
panel.background = element_rect(fill="darkolivegreen1"),
panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
panel.grid.major = element_line(colour="white", linetype = 1),
panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
axis.text.y = element_text(colour="black"),
axis.text.x = element_text(colour="black"),
text = element_text(size=20),
legend.key = element_blank(),
plot.title = element_text(size = 30)
ggplot(results, aes(x=nmax, y=count/iter)) +
geom_line(size=2, color="green4")+
geom_point(size=8, fill="green4", colour="darkolivegreen1",pch=21)+
scale_x_continuous(breaks = seq(0, tosses, by=2))+
scale_y_continuous(labels=percent, limits=c(0, .25))+
labs(title="What happens when you toss a coin 12 times?",
x="Last throwing where cumulated #tails = #heads",
y="Probability (estimated)")+opts

Bertrand or (The Importance of Defining Problems Properly)

We better keep an eye on this one: she is tricky (Michael Banks, talking about Mary Poppins)

Professor Bertrand teaches Simulation and someday, ask his students:

Given a circumference, what is the probability that a chord chosen at random is longer than a side of the equilateral triangle inscribed in the circle?

Since they must reach the answer through simulation, very approximate solutions are welcome.

Some students choose chords as the line between two random points on the circumference and conclude that the asked probability is around 1/3. This is the plot of one of their simulations, where 1000 random chords are chosen according this method and those longer than the side of the equilateral triangle are red coloured (smalller in grey):


Some others choose a random radius and a random point in it. The chord then is the perpendicular through this point. They calculate that the asked probability is around 1/2:


And some others choose a random point inside the circle and define the chord as the only one with this point as midpoint. For them, the asked probability is around 1/4:


Who is right? Professor Bertrand knows that everybody is. In fact, his main purpose was to show how important is to define problems properly. Actually, he used this to give an unforgettable lesson to his students.

          panel.background = element_rect(fill="white"),
          panel.grid = element_blank(),
          axis.text =element_blank())
#First approach
angle=runif(2*n, min = 0, max = 2*pi)
pt1=data.frame(x=cos(angle), y=sin(angle))
df1=cbind(pt1[1:n,], pt1[((n+1):(2*n)),])
colnames(df1)=c("x1", "y1", "x2", "y2")
p1=ggplot(df1) + geom_segment(aes(x = x1, y = y1, xend = x2, yend = y2, colour=length>sqrt(3)), alpha=.4, lwd=.6)+
  scale_colour_manual(values = c("gray75", "red"))+opt
#Second approach
pt2=data.frame(aa=cos(angle), bb=sin(angle))
p2=ggplot(df2) + geom_segment(aes(x = x1, y = y1, xend = x2, yend = y2, colour=length>sqrt(3)), alpha=.4, lwd=.6)+
scale_colour_manual(values = c("gray75", "red"))+opt
#Third approach
pt3=data.frame(x0=sqrt(radius)*cos(angle), y0=sqrt(radius)*sin(angle))
p3=ggplot(df3) + geom_segment(aes(x = x1, y = y1, xend = x2, yend = y2, colour=length>sqrt(3)), alpha=.4, lwd=.6)+scale_colour_manual(values = c("gray75", "red"))+opt

How Big Is The Vatican City?

Dici che il fiume trova la via al mare e come il fiume giungerai a me (Miss Sarajevo, U2)

One way to calculate approximately the area of some place is to circumscribe it into a polygon of which you know its area. After that, generate coordinates inside the polygon and count how many of them fall into the place. The percentage of coordinates inside the place by the area of the polygon is an approximation of the desired area.

I applied this technique to calculate the area of the Vatican City. I generated a squared grid of coordinates around the Capella Sistina (located inside the Vatican City). To calculate the area I easily obtain the convex hull polygon of the coordinates using chull function of grDevices package. Then, I calculate the area of the polygon using areaPolygon function of geosphere package.

To obtain how many coordinates of the grid fall inside the Vatican City, I use revgeocode function of ggmap package (I love this function). For me, one coordinate is inside the Vatican City if its related address contains the words “Vatican City”.

What happens generating a grid of 20×20 coordinates? I obtain that the area of the Vatican City is about 0.32Km2 but according to Wikipedia, the area is 0.44Km2: this method underestimates the area around a 27%. But why? Look at this:


This plot shows which addresses of the grid fall inside the Vatican City (ones) and which of them do not fall inside (zeros). As you can see, there is a big zone in the South, and a smaller one in the North of the city where reverse geocode do not return “Vatican City” addresses.

Maybe Pope Francis should phone Larry Page and Sergey Brin to claim this 27% of his wonderful country.

I was willing to do this experiment since I wrote this post. This is the code:

#Coordinates of Capella Sistina
capella=geocode("capella sistina, Vatican City, Roma")
#20x20 grid of coordinates around the Capella
g=expand.grid(lon = seq(capella$lon-0.010, capella$lon+0.010, length.out=20),
lat = seq(capella$lat-0.005, capella$lat+0.005, length.out=20))
#Hull Polygon containing coordinates
#Address of each coordinate of grid
a=apply(g, 1, revgeocode)
#Estimated area of the vatican city
length(grep("Vatican City", a))/length(a)*areaPolygon(p)/1000/1000
s=cbind(g, a)
s$InOut=apply(s, 1, function(x) grepl('Vatican City', x[3]))+0
proj4string(s)=CRS('+proj=longlat +datum=WGS84')
ic=iconlabels(s$InOut, height=12)
plotGoogleMaps(s, iconMarker=ic, mapTypeId="ROADMAP", legend=FALSE)

How e Can Help You To Find The Love Of Your Life will bring more love to the planet than anything since Jesus Christ (Gary Kremen, founder of

Sarah is a brilliant 39 years old mathematician living in Massachusetts. She lives alone and has dedicated her whole life to study. She has realized lately that theorems and books no longer satisfy her. Sarah has realized that needs to find love.

To find the love of her life, Sarah joined to try to have a date with a man every week for a year (52 dates in total). She has her own method to rate each man according his sympathy, his physical appearance, his punctuality,  his conversation and his hobbies. This method allows her to compare candidates with each other. Sarah wants to choose the top-scored man but she is afraid to waste time. If she waits until having all the dates, it could be too late to call back the best candidate, especially if he was one of the first dates. So she wants to be agile and decide inmediately. Her plan is as follows: she will start having some dates only to assess the candidates and after this period, she will try to win over the first man better than any of the first candidates, according her scoring.

But, how many men should discard to maximize the probability of choosing the top-scored one? Discarding just one, probability of having a date with a better man in the next date is very high. But probably he will not be the man she is looking for. On the other hand, discarding many men makes very probable discarding also the top-scored one.

Sarah did a simulation in R of the 52 dates to approximate the probability of choosing the best man depending on the number of discards. She obtained that the probability of choosing the top-scored man is maximal discarding the 19 first men, as can be seen in the following graph:


Why 19? Because 19 is approximately 52/e. This is one of the rare places where can found the number e. You can see an explanation of the phenomenon here.

Note: This is just a story to illustrate the secretary problem without repeating the original argument of the problem. My apologies if I cause offense to someone. This is a blog about mathematics and R and this is the way as must be understood. 

results=data.frame(discards=numeric(0), triumphs=numeric(0))
for(i in 0:n)
  for (j in 1:sims) {
    opt=sample(seq(1:n), n, replace=FALSE)
    if (max(opt[1:i])==n)  triumphs=triumphs+0
    else triumphs=triumphs+(opt[i+1:n][min(which(opt[i+1:n] > max(opt[1:i])))]==n)}
  results=rbind(results, data.frame(discards=i, triumphs=triumphs/sims))
  panel.background = element_rect(fill="darkolivegreen1"),
  panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
  axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
  axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
  panel.grid.major = element_line(colour="white", linetype = 1),
  panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
  axis.text.y = element_text(colour="black", size=20),
  axis.text.x = element_text(colour="black", size=20),
  text = element_text(size=25, family="xkcd"),
  legend.key = element_blank(),
  legend.background = element_blank(),
  plot.title = element_text(size = 40))
ggplot(results, aes(discards, triumphs))+
  geom_vline(xintercept = n/exp(1), size = 1, linetype=2, colour = "black", alpha=0.8)+
  geom_line(color="green4", size=1.5)+
  geom_point(color="gray92", size=8, pch=16)+
  geom_point(color="green4", size=6, pch=16)+
  ggtitle("How e can help you to find the love of your life")+
  xlab("Discards") +
  ylab("Prob. of finding the love of your life")+
  scale_x_continuous(breaks=seq(0, n, by = 2))+opts

Size Doesn’t Matter

An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break (Ancient Chinese Legend)

I use to play once a year with my friends to Secret Santa (in Spain we call it Amigo Invisible). As you can read in Wikipedia:

Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift. Often practiced in workplaces or amongst large families, participation in it is usually voluntary. It offers a way for many people to give and receive a gift at low cost, since the alternative gift tradition is for each person to buy gifts for every other person. In this way, the Secret Santa tradition also encourages gift exchange groups whose members are not close enough to participate in the alternative tradition of giving presents to everyone else.

To decide who gives whom, every year is the same: one of us introduces small papers in a bag with the names of participants (one name per paper). Then, each of us picks one paper and sees the name privately. If no one picks their own name,  the distribution is valid. If not, we have to start over. Every year we have to repeat process several times until obtaining a valid distribution. Why? Because we are victims of The Matching Problem.

Following the spirit of this talk I have done 16 simulations of the matching problem (for 10, 20, 30 … to 160 items). For example, given n items, I generate 5.000 random vectors sampling without replacement the set of natural numbers from 1 to n. Comparing these random vectors with the ordered one (1,2, …, n) I obtain number of matchings (that is, number of times where ith element of the random vector is equal to i). This is the result of the experiment:


In spite of each of one represents a different number of matchings, all plots are extremely similar. All of them say that probability of not matching any two identical items is around 36% (look at the first bar of all of them). In concrete terms, this probability tends to 1/e (=36,8%) as n increases but does it very quickly.

This result is shocking. It means that if some day the 7 billion people of the world agree to play Secret Santa all together (how nice it would be!), the probability that at least one person chooses his/her own name is around 2/3. Absolutely amazing.

This is the code (note: all lines except two are for plotting):

results=data.frame(size=numeric(0), x=numeric(0))
for (i in seq(10, by=10, length.out = 16)){results=rbind(results, data.frame(size=i, x=replicate(5000, {sum(seq(1:i)-sample(seq(1:i), size=i, replace=FALSE)==0)})))}
  panel.background = element_rect(fill="gray98"),
  panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
  axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
  axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
  panel.grid.major.y = element_line(colour="gray80"),
  panel.grid.major.x = element_blank(),
  panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
  axis.text.y = element_text(colour="gray25", size=15),
  axis.text.x = element_text(colour="gray25", size=15),
  text = element_text(family="Humor Sans", size=15, colour="gray25"),
  legend.key = element_blank(),
  legend.position = "none",
  legend.background = element_blank(),
  plot.title = element_text(size = 18))
for (i in 1:length(sizes))
  data=subset(results, size==sizes[i])
  assign(paste("g", i, sep=""),
         ggplot(data, aes(x=as.factor(x), weight=1/nrow(data)))+
           geom_bar(binwidth=.5, fill=sample(brewer.pal(9,"Set1"), 1), alpha=.85, colour="gray50")+
           scale_y_continuous(limits=c(0,.4), expand = c(0, 0), "Probability", labels = percent)+
           scale_x_discrete(limit =as.factor(0:8), expand = c(0, 0), "Number of matches")+
           labs(title = paste("Matching", as.character(sizes[i]), "items ...", sep=" "))+
grid.arrange(g1, g2, g3, g4, g5, g6, g7, g8, g9, g10, g11, g12, g13, g14, g15, g16, ncol=4)

Batman’s Choice

A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat on a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended (Batman in The Dark Knight Rises)

Joker has captured Batman and keeps him into a dark and cold dungeon of Gotham City. Showing his sadistic character, Joker proposes the following game to Batman:

This is a six shooter revolver with two bullets in the cylinder. Bullets are inside two consecutive chambers. I will spin the cylinder and will fire the gun aiming to my head. If I survive you will have to do the same but you decide if you want to spin the cylinder before firing or not. If you still keep you head over your shoulders after firing, you will be free.

Joker fires and nothing happens. He survives and passes the revolver to Batman. What should Batman do? Spinning or not? What would you do?

From my point of view, answer is quite anti-intutive because the best option is not spinning the cylinder again. Spinning case is clear: probability of losing the head is 2/6=33% but what about not spinning? Doing the next shoot directly eliminates two possibilities: the previous shot of Joker and the second bullet according to direction of cylinder rotation (remember two bullets are consecutive and Joker is unfortunately  still alive). It means there is only 1 chance to dead between 4, so probability of losing the head in this scenario is 1/4=25% which is significantly lower than the first one.

Here you can find the resulting graph of simulating the game up to 500 times:


Will it be the end of Batman? Not sure.

This is the code of this experiment:

for (i in 1:niter)
Joker=sample((1:6)[-c(bullet1, bullet1%%6+1)],1)
#Option 1: Shooting
dead1=(Batman1 %in% c(bullet1, bullet1%%6+1))*1
#Option 2: Rolling and Shooting
dead2=(Batman2 %in% c(bullet1, bullet1%%6+1))*1
results=rbind(results, c(i, dead1, dead2))
colnames(results)=c("iter", "dead1", "dead2")
panel.background = element_rect(fill="darkolivegreen1"),
panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
panel.grid = element_line(colour="white", linetype = 2),
axis.text.y = element_text(colour="black"),
axis.text.x = element_text(colour="black"),
text = element_text(size=18, family="Humor Sans"),
plot.title = element_text(size = 50)
p=ggplot(data=results, aes(x=iter, y=csum1))+
geom_abline(intercept = 1/4, slope = 0, size = 0.4, linetype=2, colour = "black", alpha=0.8)+
geom_abline(intercept = 1/3, slope = 0, size = 0.4, linetype=2, colour = "black", alpha=0.8)+
geom_line(aes(y=csum2), colour="green4", size=1.5, fill=NA)+
geom_line(colour="green4", size=1.5, fill=NA)+
coord_cartesian(ylim=c(.0, 1), xlim=c(1, niter))+
scale_y_continuous(breaks = c(0,round(1/4, digits = 2),round(1/3, digits = 2),1))+
geom_text(data=results[niter*.75, ], family="Humor Sans", colour="green4", y=0.38, label="Rotating Cylinder and Shooting ...", size=4, adjust=1)+
geom_text(data=results[niter*.75, ], family="Humor Sans", colour="green4", y=0.20, label="Shooting without Rotating Cylinder ...", size=4, adjust=1)+
labs(x="Number Of Trials", y="Prob. of Losing The Head", title="Batman's Choice")+
ggsave("batmans_choice.jpg", plot=p, width=8, height=5)

How To Approximate Pi With A Short Pencil And A Big Paper

Experiment, be curious: though interfering friends may frown, get furious at each attempt to hold you down (Tony Bennett, Experiment)


  1. Take a pencil and measure it
  2. Take a piece of paper and draw parallel lines on it (you can use the pencil, of course); separation between lines should double the length of the pencil
  3. Toss the pencil over the paper 100 times (or more)
  4. Make note of how many times do the pencil cross some of the lines
  5. Calculate ratio between tosses and crosses: this is your approximation of Pi

Some time ago, I published a post about one of the most amazing places where PI was discovered. This is another example of the ubiquity of this mathematical constant. This experiment is based on Buffon’s needle problem, another amazing experiment of 18th century. Next plot represents ratio of tosses to crosses depending on the length of pencil. When the pencil is half the length of the separation between lines, the previous ratio is approximately PI:
If you get very bored some afternoon you can replicate this experiment with your children. Use a short pencil. If not, you will need an extremely big piece of paper. Meanwhile here you have the code:

results=sapply(seq(.1, 2, by = .05), function(x)
  r=x #Length of pencil in relation to separation between lines
  Needles=t(sapply(1:trials, function(y) c(100*runif(1),2*pi*runif(1))))
  Needles=data.frame(x1=Needles[,1], x2=Needles[,3], Cross=abs(trunc(Needles[,1])-trunc(Needles[,3])))
  c(r, trials/(trials-nrow(Needles[Needles$Cross==0,])))
colnames(results)=c(c("ratio", "inv.perc.crosses"))
  panel.background = element_rect(fill="darkolivegreen1"),
  panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
  axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
  axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
  panel.grid.major = element_line(colour="white", linetype = 1),
  panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
  axis.text.y = element_text(colour="black", size=20),
  axis.text.x = element_text(colour="black", size=20),
  text = element_text(size=25, family="xkcd"),
  legend.key = element_blank(),
  legend.position = c(.2,.75),
  legend.background = element_blank(),
  plot.title = element_text(size = 50))
c=ggplot(results, aes(ratio, inv.perc.crosses))
c +geom_abline(intercept = pi, slope = 0, size = 0.4, linetype=2, colour = "black", alpha=0.8)+
  geom_line(color="green4", size=1.5)+
  geom_point(color="gray92", size=8, pch=16)+
  geom_point(color="green4", size=6, pch=16)+
  geom_text(aes(0.55, 5), hjust=0, family="xkcd", label="PI is around here!", size=10)+
  ggtitle("Hot to approximate PI with \na short pencil and a big paper")+
  xlab("Length of pencil divided by separation between lines") +
  ylab("Number of tosses divided by number of crosses")+
  geom_segment(aes(x = .625, y = 4.6, xend = .52, yend = 3.45), size=1.5, arrow = arrow(length = unit(0.5, "cm")))+
  scale_y_continuous(breaks=c(pi, 4, 8, 12, 16), labels=c("3.141593","4","8","12","16"))+
  scale_x_continuous(breaks=seq(.1, 2, by = .1))+opts

The Three Little Pigs

Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business (Walter White in Breaking Bad)

The game of pig has simple rules but complex strategies. It was described for the first time in 1945  by a magician called John Scarne. Playing the pig game is easy: each turn, a player repeatedly rolls a die until either a 1 is rolled or the player decides to hold:

  • If the player rolls a 1, they score nothing and it becomes the next player’s turn
  • If the player rolls any other number, it is added to their turn total and the player’s turn continues
  • If a player chooses to hold, their turn total is added to their score, and it becomes the next player’s turn

The first player who reach at least 100 points is the winner. For example: you obtain a 3 and then decide to roll again, obtaining a 1. Your score is zero in this turn. Next player gets the sequence 3-4-6 and decides to hold, obtaining a score of 13 points in this turn.

Despite its simplicity, the pig game has a very complex and against-intuition optimal strategy. It was calculated in 2004 by Todd W. Neller and Clifton Presser from Gettysburg College of Pennsilvania with the help of computers.

To illustrate the game, I simulated three players (pigs) playing the pig game with three different strategies:

  • The Coward pig, who only rolls the die a small number of times in every turn
  • The Risky pig, who rolls the die a more times than the coward one
  • The Ambitious pig, who tries to obtain in every turn more points than two others

I simulated several scenarios.

  • Some favorable scenarios for Coward pig:

pigs2Coward pigs4Coward

In first scenario, the Coward pig rolls the die between 1 and 5 times each round and wins if the Risky pig asumes an excessive level of risk (rolling each time between 10 and 15 times). Trying to obtain more than the Coward is a bad option for the Ambitious pig. Simulating this scenario 100 times gives victory to Coward a 51% of times (25% to Risky and 24% to Ambitious).

Second scenario puts closer Coward and Risky pigs (first one rolls the die between 4 and 7 times  each round and second one between 6 and 9 times). Coward wins 54% of times (34% Risky and only 12% Ambitious).

Being coward seems to be a good strategy when you play against a reckless or when you are just a bit more conservative than a Risky one.

  • Some favorable scenarios for Risky pig:


Rolling the die between 4 and 6 times each round seems to be a good option, even more when you are playing against a extremely conservative player who rolls no more than 3 times each time. Simulating 100 times these previous scenarios gives victory to Risky pig a 58% of times in first the case in which Coward rolls allways 1 and Risky 6 times each round (0% for Coward and only 42% form Ambitious) and 66% of times in the second one (only 5% to Coward and 29% to Ambitious).

Being Risky is a good strategy when you play against a chicken.

  • Some favorable scenarios for Ambitious pig:

pigs3Ambitious pigs6ambitious

The Ambitious pig wins when two others turn into extremely coward and risky pigs as can be seen in the first scenario in which Ambitious wins 65% of the times (31% for Coward and 4% for Risky). Ambitious pig also wins when two others get closer and hit the die a small number of times (2 rolls the Coward and 4 rolls the Risky). In this scenario the Ambitious wins 58% of times (5% for Coward and 37% for Risky). By the way, these two scenarios sound very unreal.

Being ambitious seems to be dangerous but works well when you play against a crazy and a chicken or against very conservative players.

From my point of view, this is a good example to experiment with simulations, game strategies and xkcd style graphics.

The code:

#Number of hits for Coward
#Number of hits for Risky
game=data.frame(ROUND=0, part.p1=0, part.p2=0, part.p3=0, Coward=0, Risky=0, Ambitious=0)
while(max(game$Coward)<100 & max(game$Risky)<100 & max(game$Ambitious)<100)
#Coward Little Pig
p1=sample(1:6,sample(CowardLower:CowardUpper,1), replace=TRUE)
#Risky Little Pig
p2=sample(1:6,sample(RiskyLower:RiskyUpper,1), replace=TRUE)
#Ambitious Little Pig
repeat {
if (p3==1|s3>max(s1,s2)) break
panel.background = element_rect(fill="darkolivegreen1"),
panel.border = element_rect(colour="black", fill=NA),
axis.line = element_line(size = 0.5, colour = "black"),
axis.ticks = element_line(colour="black"),
panel.grid.major = element_line(colour="white", linetype = 1),
panel.grid.minor = element_blank(),
axis.text.y = element_text(colour="black"),
axis.text.x = element_text(colour="black"),
text = element_text(size=25, family="xkcd"),
legend.key = element_blank(),
legend.position = c(.2,.75),
legend.background = element_blank(),
plot.title = element_text(size = 50)
ggplot(game, mapping=aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Coward)) +
geom_line(color="red", size=1.5) +
geom_line(aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Risky), color="blue", size=1.5) +
geom_line(aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Ambitious), color="green4", size=1.5) +
geom_point(aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Coward, colour="c1"), size=5.5) +
geom_point(aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Risky, colour="c2"), size=5.5) +
geom_point(aes(x=game$ROUND, y=game$Ambitious, colour="c3"), size=5.5) +
xlab("ROUND") + ylab("SCORING") +
geom_text(aes(max(game$ROUND), max(max(game$Coward, game$Risky, game$Ambitious)), hjust=1.2, family="xkcd", label="WINNER!"), size=10)+
geom_hline(yintercept=100, linetype=2, size=1)+
scale_y_continuous(breaks=seq(0, max(max(game$Coward, game$Risky, game$Ambitious))+10, 10))+
scale_x_continuous(breaks=seq(0, max(game$ROUND), 1))+
labels = c(paste("Coward: ", CowardLower, "-", CowardUpper, " hits", sep = ""), paste("Risky: ", RiskyLower, "-", RiskyUpper, " hits", sep = ""), "Ambitious"),
breaks = c("c1", "c2", "c3"),
values = c("red", "blue", "green4"))+ opts

Do Not Play With Mr. Penney

Facts do not speak (Henry Poincare)

Mr. Penney is my best friend. He is maths teacher and loves playing. Yesterday we were in his office at the university when he suggested me a game:

When you toss a coin three times, you can obtain eight different sequences of tails and heads: TTT, TTH, THT, HTT, THH, HTH, HHT and HHH. Using a fair coin, all sequences have the same chances to appear. Choose one sequence and I will then choose another one. I will toss a coin until either your or my sequence appears as a consecutive subsequence of the coin toss outcomes. The player whose sequence appears first wins. I will repeat this procedure 100 times. The one with more games won is the winner of the game.  Don’t worry: I will not toss the coin manually. I will simulate using my computer. What’s your bet?

Ok, my bet is THT, I said. After some seconds, Mr. Penney said: My bet is TTH.

This was the result of the first round:

Round1Another chance? told me Mr. Penney. Of course! Now my bet is TTH! I said. In fact, I was thinking Take that! Now I chose your previous bet. Do you think I am foolish?. After some seconds, Mr. Penney said: My bet now is HTT.

This was the result of the second round:


Another chance? told me Mr. Penney. At this point, I was very suspicious but I wanted the last chance so I told him Of course! Now my bet is HTT! I wanted to try my strategy one more time. After some seconds, Mr. Penney said: My bet now is HHT.

This was the result of the third round:

Round3Ok, I give it up! What’s the trick? I said. And Mr. Penney explained it to me. You can find the explanation here. This is the last time I play with you! I told him once he finished the explanation.

Here you have the code. Feel free to play:

Me     <- "TTH"
Penney <- "HTT"
results <- data.frame(play= numeric(0), Penney = integer(0), Me = character(0))
for (i in 1:100) {
play <- c()
repeat {play <-, c(play, as.list(sample(c("H","T"), 1)), sep=""))
  if (grepl(Penney, play)|grepl(Me, play)) {
    results <- rbind(results, data.frame(play= i, Penney = as.numeric(grepl(Penney, play)), Me = as.numeric(grepl(Me, play))))
table <- rbind(
  c("Me", Me, sum(results$Me), if(sum(results$Penney) > sum(results$Me)) "Loser" else "Winner"),
  c("Penney", Penney, sum(results$Penney), if(sum(results$Penney) > sum(results$Me)) "Winner" else "Loser"))
           cols = c("Player", "Bet", "Games Won", "Result"),
           gpar.colfill = gpar(fill="palegreen3",col="White"),
           gpar.corefill =  gpar(fill="palegreen",col="White"),
           gpar.rowfill = gpar(fill=NA, col=NA))