How to win at Kaker Laken (Cockroach) Poker

· Experiment

Before we get into the math of it, let me introduce Kaker Laken Poker - that’s Cockroach Poker to us English-speaking folk. It’s a card game that encourages lying to your friends and family, as all the best ones do. Rules are simple; there are 8 kinds of cards, each depicting a certain kind of critter on it. Everyone hides their hand. Whoever’s turn it is picks a card from their hand, places it face down on the table, and slides it toward another player. When they do this, they reveal (ahem) which critter is on that card. The player who receives the card can either agree with them, disagree with them, or peek at the card and pass it to another player and reveal what the card is to them. Let’s say you hand me a cockroach, but tell me it’s a spider. I can either agree that it’s a spider (and lose, because I was wrong), disagree (and win, because you were wrong), or pass it on and say it’s actually a scorpion.

Let’s make it boring

Now that you understand the game, let’s take a look at the best way to win. To do that, we’ll need to see what the chances of us winning and losing are for every kind of action we can do. Table to the rescue:

Action Chance of winning Chance of losing
Agree 50% 50%
Disagree 50% 50%
Pass it on 33% 33%

Okay, this all seems to check ou- wait a minute… What’s going on with that last row?! The first and second rows make sense - if you agree or disagree, there’s a 50/50 chance that you’re either right or wrong about which critter is on the card. So, why does the last row only have a 33/33 chance of winning or losing? That’s because when you pass a card on, there are now three possible outcomes: the person you passed to can agree with what you reveal, they can disagree, or they can also pass, meaning you’ve neither lost or won. Because there are three outcomes and the odds have to be split evenly, there’s a 33/33/33 chance of winning, losing, and neither. It can’t be a 50/50/50, because that’d be like saying something is half good, half bad, and half turkey - it just doesn’t make sense.

There we go! If you want to make sure you win a hand, always take a stand and agree or disagree. Don’t be a wuss, call out those lying scoundrels that you thought you loved and march onwards to victory.

But wait…

If you’ve ever played Cockroach Poker, you may have realised that all that was wrong. See, the game doesn’t end when someone wins, it ends when someone loses. You don’t win in this game, you just don’t lose. In reality, we should actually be picking the pass action because it’s the one that has the lowest chance of losing. Man, I bet you’re glad you read this bit.