# Introduction

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about a simple coin tossing game. Today let me follow up on it with a bit more difficult question and a slightly changed implementation strategy.

The post was written under Julia 1.10.1, DataFrames.jl 1.6.1, and StatsBase.jl 0.34.3.

# The problem

Let me describe the setting of a game first (it is similar to what I described in this post).

Assume Alice and Bob toss a fair coin n times. In each toss head (h) or tail (t) can show up with equal probability.

Alice counts the number of times a ht sequence showed. Bob counts the number of times a hh sequence showed.

The winner of the game is the person who saw a bigger number of occurrences of their favorite sequence. So for example for n=3. If we get hhh then Bob wins (seeing 2 occurrences of hh, and Alice saw 0 occurrences of ht). If we get hht there is a tie (both patterns ocurred once). If we get tht Alice wins.

The questions are:

• Who, on the average sees more occurrences of their favorite pattern?
• Who is more likely to win this game?

Let us try to answer these questions using Julia as usual.

# Simulating one game

We start by writing a simulator of a single game:

using Random

function play(n::Integer)
seq = randstring("ht", n)
return (hh=count("hh", seq, overlap=true),
ht=count("ht", seq, overlap=true))
end


The function is not optimized for speed (as we could even avoid storing the whole sequence), but I think it nicely shows how powerful library functions in Julia are. The randstring function allows us to generate random strings. In this case consisting of a random sequence of h and t. Next the count function allows us to count the number of occurrences of desired patterns. Note that we use the overlap=true keyword argument to count all occurrences of the pattern (by default only disjoint occurrences are counted).

Let us check the output of a single run of the game:

julia> play(10)
(hh = 3, ht = 3)


In my case (I did not seed the random number generator) we see that for n=10 we got a sequence that had both 3 occurrences of hh and ht, so it is a tie.

# Testing the properties of the game

Here is a simulator that, for a given n, runs the game reps times and aggregates the results:

using DataFrames
using Statistics
using StatsBase

function sim_play(n::Integer, reps::Integer)
df = DataFrame([play(n) for _ in 1:reps])
df.winner = cmp.(df.hh, df.ht)
agg = combine(df,
["hh", "ht"] .=> [mean std skewness],
"winner" .=>
[x -> mean(==(i), x) for i in -1:1] .=>
["ht_win", "tie", "hh_win"])
return insertcols!(agg, 1, "n" => n)
end


What we do in the code is as follows. First we run the game reps times and transform a result into a DataFrame. Next we add a column denoting the winner of the game. In the "winner" column 1 means that hh won, 0 means a tie, and -1 means that ht won. Finally we compute the following aggregates (using transformation minilanguage; if you do not have much experience with it you can have a look at this post):

• mean, standard deviation, and skewness of hh and ht counts;
• probability that ht wins, that there is a tie and that hh wins.

Here is the result of running the code for reps=1_000_000 and n varying from 2 to 16:

julia> Random.seed!(1234);

julia> reduce(vcat, [sim_play(n, 1_000_000) for n in 2:16])
15×10 DataFrame
Row │ n      hh_mean   ht_mean   hh_std    ht_std    hh_skewness  ht_skewness   ht_win    tie       hh_win
│ Int64  Float64   Float64   Float64   Float64   Float64      Float64       Float64   Float64   Float64
─────┼────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────
1 │     2  0.25068   0.249825  0.433405  0.432912     1.15052    1.15578      0.249825  0.499495  0.25068
2 │     3  0.499893  0.499595  0.706871  0.5          1.06068    0.00162      0.374385  0.375765  0.24985
3 │     4  0.751224  0.748855  0.902063  0.559496     1.0232     0.00312512   0.373833  0.37559   0.250577
4 │     5  1.00168   1.00012   1.06192   0.612535     0.940274  -6.5033e-5    0.406445  0.28037   0.313185
5 │     6  1.25098   1.2493    1.19926   0.661162     0.869559  -0.0012833    0.437276  0.233841  0.328883
6 │     7  1.49972   1.50011   1.32213   0.707523     0.812272  -0.00190003   0.437774  0.234531  0.327695
7 │     8  1.75064   1.74802   1.43616   0.750169     0.76024    0.00319491   0.440714  0.211252  0.348034
8 │     9  1.99906   2.00108   1.53902   0.789413     0.715722   0.000107041  0.451749  0.189353  0.358898
9 │    10  2.24857   2.25009   1.63787   0.829086     0.676735  -0.00207707   0.45343   0.184585  0.361985
10 │    11  2.50092   2.50007   1.73343   0.867326     0.646397   0.000650687  0.454418  0.175059  0.370523
11 │    12  2.74753   2.75065   1.81994   0.901478     0.621238  -0.00118389   0.458332  0.164575  0.377093
12 │    13  2.99635   3.00128   1.90199   0.935108     0.597227   0.00212776   0.460248  0.159239  0.380513
13 │    14  3.2469    3.25101   1.9814    0.96887      0.575535  -0.000255108  0.460817  0.154523  0.38466
14 │    15  3.50074   3.49934   2.05981   0.998945     0.55527    0.000827465  0.461547  0.147699  0.390754
15 │    16  3.75258   3.7513    2.13521   1.03027      0.538056   0.000772964  0.463627  0.142931  0.393442


What do we learn from these results?

On the average hh and ht occur the same number of times. We see this from "hh_mean" and "ht_mean" columns. This is expected. As in a given sequence of two observations hh and ht have the same probability of occurrence (0.25) the result just follows the linearity of expected value. We can see that as we increase n the values in these columns increase roughly by 0.25.

However, the probability of ht winning is higher than the probability of hh winning (except n=2 when it is equal). We can see this from the "ht_win" and "hh_win" columns. This is surprising as the patterns occur, on the average the same number of times.

To understand the phenomenon we can look at the "hh_std", "ht_std", "hh_skewness", and "ht_skewness" columns. We can clearly see that hh pattern count has a higher standard deviation and for n>2 it is positively skewed (while ht has zero skewness). This means that hh counts are more spread (i.e. they can be high, but also low). Additionally we have few quite high values balanced by more low values for hh relatively to ht (as the means for both patterns are the same). This, in turn, means that if hh wins over ht then it wins by a larger margin, but it happens less rarely than seeing ht winning over hh.

The core reason for this behavior was discussed in my previous post. The hh values can cluster (as e.g. in the hhh pattern), while ht patterns cannot overlap.

# Conclusions

I hope you found this puzzle interesting. If you are interested how the properties we described can be proven analytically I recommend you check out this paper.