Saturday, July 9, 2011


The wonderfully idiotic game of Klondike solitaire is ubiquitous; there are countless embarassing pictures of people playing it instead of doing their job. It seems however that some people's job is actually that of playing Solitaire. Take this article for instance, which I found while terribly bored and wondering about whether they came up with a mathematical description for Solitaire and what are the odds of winning. It seems that no, there isn't a complete analysis yet - one of the embarassements of modern mathematics :)
Before discussing the article any further it must be stated that, while to some it might look funny, a waste of time, or downright idiotic to do a study on Solitaire, it's actually quite serious. While the game itself might be considered silly by some, if studying it can bring advancement in "artificial intelligence" then so be it. Because I'm anti-mainstream I like to actually call it "automated problem-solving", because there's nothing intelligent about it or many other game "AIs", but I digress. Studying Solitaire is as valid a scientific endeavour as studying chess or how to slice a pizza so it spilts into equal parts, though this last problem is considerably easier and has been recently solved (searching for the article is left as an exercise to the reader).
Getting back to the Solitaire article, they supposedly worked with a famous mathematician who "carefully played and recorded 2000 games, achieving a win rate of 36.6%". Their software supposedly obtained win rates of up to 70.2%.
So there. There is actually someone whose job is (among many other more productive things I'm sure) to play Solitaire. 2000 games at an average of 20 minutes per game as stated in the article equals exactly 666,6... hours oddly enough. Considering an 8-hour work day, that would equal rougly 80 days of playing Solitaire, or about 4 months. Cool thing indeed.