Almost thirty years ago, the Department of Economics in University College Cork, Ireland hired a guy called Robert Leonard. Robert had just completed his PhD in the USA. The topic was game theory. Within two years, Robert would have an article in the Journal of Economic Literature titled "From Parlor Games to Social Science: Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Creation of Game Theory 1928-44". Game theory was in vogue as John Nash had recently won the Nobel Prize for his work in the area.
Von Neumann was surely one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. In 1928 he published a paper called "On the theory of parlor games". He joked that he proved that some games were not worth playing because there was no strategy involved. By 1944 he had teamed up with Oskar Morgenstern to write the hugely influential, but not widely read, The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. It was John McDonald that brought the poker-loving Von Neumann to a wider audience. McDonald wrote two articles on game theory and poker for Fortune Magazine . He then turned these into a book called Strategy in Poker, Business and War.
Today, the Giro d'Italia 2022 starts. Cycling has been called "chess on wheels". However, it could also be called "poker on wheels". The distinction between the analogies is clarified in Peter Cossins brilliant book, Full Gas! How the race was won: Tactics from inside the peloton. The chess analogy seems more appropriate for the positioning of the riders in sprint finishes. The poker analogy seems more appropriate for smaller group breakaways where bluffing about one's strength can be crucial. Today's stage is a flat one. It should be a chess-like finish. The poker played in the breakaway today will be less serious as it is unlikely that the breakaway will capture the stage win.
In addition to the strategy employed by the riders as sports competitors there is also business strategy involved. Don't be surprised if it is riders from the invited teams that contribute heavily to the early break. It will all play out over the next three weeks. Like the game of Monopoly, the Grand Tours are tests of endurance where strategy plays a crucial role.