Using formal tools from game theory, the first phases of the process of transition to democracy in Poland in 1988-1989 are modeled as a succession of strategic interactions among political actors. Because the Polish process of change was temporarily ahead of others in Eastern Europe, certain false expectations on actors' future power in the middle term were entertained. These miscalculations allowed the communist party and the democratic opposition represented by Solidarity to negotiate and agree on a round-table. However, the results of the first competitive election, in which the democratic opposition won by a landslide, revealed the real bargaining power of each party, breached the political arrangement previously negotiated, and precipitated the fall of the communist regime. Some refined tools of game theory, such as the assumption of an initial state of the game, the conditions of imperfect information, and the order of moves, show their relevance to an explanation of the viability of strictly non-equilibrium outcomes in real political games such as those of the Polish transition from authoritarian rule.

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