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Sociologists are fond of game metaphors. However, such metaphors rarely go beyond casual references to generic games. Yet games are little social systems, and each game offers a distinctive perspective on the relationship between rules and constraints, on the one side, and emergent order, on the other. In this article, we examine three games-chess, go, and (Texas hold 'em) poker-for sociological insights into contested social arenas such as markets, warfare, politics, and the professions. Wedoi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01377.x fatcat:jdy4erxpkfgx3c6bum27z7ruta