1. Putin is playing chess. I've heard that he's a tinpot dictator. He may be in the fact that he has a fragile economy and so his economy can collapse easily. However, Putin is busy trying to secure his economy through deals with China and his own control of oil. Soon enough, if he manages to get that under control, his economy won't be so fragile. For this reason, Putin is playing chess. He wants to get Russia back on its feet, make it a big threat, and is not just thinking of his own rule. He's thinking about the guys after him and trying to give Russians a reason to be proud of being Russian again. He wants to seize as much power as he can while he can through intimidation and leave a legacy that his successors can follow. He's doing this by making oil deals, by negotiating the chemical weapons deal with Assad (like Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the treaty between Russia and Japan after the Russo-Japan war), and through force--whether symbolically through swipes by Russian jets or definitely like his invasion of Eastern Ukraine.
2.Iran is playing poker. It is folding constantly by agreeing to negotiations, agreeing to make a nuclear deal, and tolerating our sanctions. It wins and seizes power every once in a while when chances come up by supporting Iraq under Maliki, helping Iraq smoothly transition to Haider al-Abadi, and opposing ISIS. Otherwise, is folding until it has a nuke because it knows the West doesn't want to address the nuke. Therefore, by folding constantly, it still has money. Once it has a nuke, it will have a very solid hand to play as a direct regional power and its now secure oil. After it succeeds, it can begin, like Putin, to play chess.
3. Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS are building card towers. They know they can get devastated anytime. They don’t care. They will still survive because their cards—their propaganda and some of their men—will still survive. They will just start rebuilding their card tower because they know that quite of a lot of us don't want to wage real war. Furthermore, they know adolescence, where a lot of kids think life is pointless and want to rebel. In addition, they know that the West’s economy languishes and so the younger generation do not have access to many jobs. When us kids go through university and still can’t find jobs, we have trouble seeing the future. So al-Shahaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS advertise radical Islam as a cause to fight for to recruit adolescent or generally depressed Muslim youths. It works. When they have built their card tower fully, they can begin playing poker.