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article imageHow game theory can help you win 71 Price is Right games

By David Silverberg     Nov 14, 2013 in Lifestyle
A Slate writer published a "cheat sheet" on how to boost your odds at winning on the U.S. game show The Price is Right. Ben Blatt applied principles of game theory—the science of decision-making—to 71 current pricing games.
In a post on Slate, Blatt writes about "how often a little game theory can improve your performance on the show." Game theory has long been used by a range of professionals, from economics to generals, to better understand probability outcomes.
For instance, Blatt analyzes the pricing game called Squeeze Play. The Price is Right host Drew Carey shows the contestant either a five- or six-digit number and asks the player to take away one digit from the number—first and last digit excluded—to reveal the price of a prize.
Blatt goes on to say: Over the last eight years, this game has been played 215 times with a five-digit number, meaning the contestant can either remove the second, third, or fourth digit. If every contestant had gone into the game opting to pick the third digit, regardless of the prize or the numbers displayed, the combined contestant winning percentage would have been 49.8 percent. Instead, players got wrapped up in guessing the exact price—and had a combined winning percentage of just 35.8 percent.
Or check out how Blatt theorizes about Freeze Frame. That's the game where contestants have to stop a rotating wheel with eight digits when the correct two digits of the prize are displayed. He says game theory encourages the contestant to stop the wheel after it has rotated four times; the fifth option is most commonly the winning combination.
Even though he doesn't have a strategy for The Big Wheel (spun by winning game contestants), Blatt cites a 2002 study published in the Economic Journal in 2002 by Rafael Tenorio of DePaul University and Timothy Cason of Purdue University. They found that contestants often “under-spin” by choosing not to use their second spin when they should. Blatt explains what the study concluded:
-The first contestant should spin again if he has 65¢ or less.
-The second contestant should spin again if he is a) behind player one, b) ahead of player one but has less than 50¢, or c) is tied with player one but has less than 65¢.
-The final contestant (who has the benefit of knowing all the previous players’ actions) needs to spin again if he is not in the lead or is tied with one of the other contestants with a score of less than 50¢. (If the contestant has more than 50¢ and is in a tie, he is better off pressing his luck in the one-spin tiebreaker.
But what about the final stage of the game show? "Unfortunately, once the contestant gets to the Showcase Showdown, game theory does not have as much wisdom to offer," Blatt writes.
The Price is Right began in 1956 on CBS. It remains one of the most popular game shows on American television.
Which Price is Right game do you like watching most? Why?
More about price is right, Game, contenst, game theory, Television
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