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Maximize winnings game

  1. Dec 10, 2016 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    You are playing a game with two bells. Bell A rings according to a homogeneous poisson process at a rate r per hour and Bell B rings once at a time T that is uniformly distributed from 0 to 1 hr (inclusive). You get $1 each time A rings and can quit anytime but if B rings before you quit, you must return all the money you received thus far.
    2. Relevant equations
    P[A rings] = rΔt
    P[B rings] = Δt/(1-t)
    3. The attempt at a solution
    At time t, with x in earnings, the optimal stop strategy for this game is continuing if E[W] > 0, where W is net earnings over a small period of time (call it Δt):
    E[W] = E[W|A rings]P[A rings] + E[W|B rings]P[B rings] + E[W|no rings]P[no rings] + E[W|many rings]P[many rings]
    E[W|A rings] = 1
    E[W|B rings] = $-x
    E[W|no rings] = $0
    and P[many rings] ≈ 0 (since Δt is small time interval)

    So E[W] = E[W|A rings]P[A rings] + E[W|B rings]P[B rings]

    substituting in the relevant equations...

    the strategy is to continue only if x < r(1-t), and stop otherwise.

    I'm not sure how to find what's the most amount of money I can win under this strategy. I thought it means I should take the derivative of this winnings strategy but taking the derivative doesn't make sense for the inequality.

    Ie. derivative wrt x of x < r(1-t) is d/dx(x-r(1-t)) < 0 which yields 1< 0, doesn't make sense.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2016 #2

    Orodruin

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    Why would you take the derivative of the winnings? Instead, I suggest thinking of what is the maximal x at which you will quit based on your quitting criterion.
     
  4. Dec 11, 2016 #3
    So the maximal x is just r(1-t)? If you decide to stop at any time t.
     
  5. Dec 11, 2016 #4

    Ray Vickson

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    Assuming that your ##x## really means expected earnings, you have ##x(t + \Delta t) = x(t)## if you stop at ##t## and ##x(t + \Delta t) = x(t) + (r - x(t)/(1-t)) \Delta t## if you wait until ##t + \Delta t##. Therefore, as long as you wait you have a differential equation ##dx(t)/dt = r - x(t)/(1-t)## with initial condition ##x(0) = 0##.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2016 #5

    Orodruin

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    We are not talking about expected winnings. The question was:
    This has nothing to do with the expected earnings.
     
  7. Dec 11, 2016 #6

    Ray Vickson

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    Yes, in a way it does. His criterion is to continue whenever the expected earnings over the next interval ##\Delta t## are ##> 0##; that is exactly where his condition ##x < r(1-t)## comes from.

    That being said, my response to him was ill-advised: ##x## is not a continuous variable, but can change only in increments of ##+1## or ##-x##, and solutions of differential equations do not do that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  8. Dec 11, 2016 #7

    Orodruin

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    No, the maximal possible winning depends only on the criterion for quitting nor the discrete increment. It is true that the criterion in itself is based on the infinitesimal increment, but the maximal winnings can be deduced directly from the quitting criterion.
     
  9. Dec 12, 2016 #8
    Sorry for being thick, but I am confused, is the maximal winning r(1-t) as in the quitting criterion verbatim?
    or is it r(1-t) -1 since x<r(1-t) means it can never reach r(1-t) exactly, and since x is discrete and increases only in increments of $1.
    or am I completely off?
     
  10. Dec 13, 2016 #9

    Orodruin

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    Almost there. You need to think a bit about when the quitting criterion will actually tell you to quit. Also, the maximal winning should not depend on t.
     
  11. Dec 13, 2016 #10
    thanks for the hint. i think the quitting criterion tells you to quit or continue at end of Δt given you start at t. we want max Δt because playing longer allows for chance of winning more dollars, so the least t can be is 0 (which allows for the max Δt). In this case, t=0. so r(1-0)=r...the maximum winnings is $r...
    it kind of makes sense intuitively (if you start at time 0 and play for 1 hour, and quit just before the bell B rings, you can get at most $r because A rings at a rate r/hour) but i'm not sure if the logic makes sense....please verify/correct
     
  12. Dec 13, 2016 #11

    Orodruin

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    This essentially assumes that ##r## is an integer. You probably should also discuss the case when ##r## is not an integer.

    Essentially, the quitting criterion tells you when it is no longer profitable to continue. It is no longer profitable when the rate at which ##A## rings is lower than the rate at which ##B## rings weighted by the gain/loss -- which is what you discussed already in the first post. If the possible loss is already ##r##, you will never have ##B## ringing at a small enough rate to justify continuing.

    The maximal winning occurs if you get really lucky and essentially ##A## rings ##r## times in quick succession essentially at ##t = 0##.

    Edit: Another interesting question is how much a casino should charge you for playing this game ...
     
  13. Dec 13, 2016 #12
    Ok, so we can take Δt again to be a small number, just that t=0. And as Δt -> 0, P[B ring] -> 0
     
  14. Dec 13, 2016 #13

    Orodruin

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    I would not see it this way. The probability that A rings in the time interval ##\Delta t## also goes to zero. The question is how they relate to each other and therefore whether the expectation value is positive or negative.
     
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