# How to win ‘The Price is Right,’ from Yale-trained game theory expert

It’s easy to get caught up in watching “The Price is Right,” the beloved game show in which contestants win money and prizes by guessing the price of goods.

You can get bored flipping through the channels and the next thing you know you’re shouting the price of beans at the TV because you want to see a competitor win a new car.

If you’ve ever thought about appearing on the show, or are just wondering about the best strategies for winning big, Justin L. Bergner has you covered.

Bergner is the author of “Solving The Price Is Right,” a book he describes as a “reference manual for regular viewers” ​​offering advice on how to win every game. in the show.

An investment analyst by training, Bergner majored in game theory at Yale University and was a lifelong fan of television shows.

With more than 50 consecutive seasons on the air, the series’ timeless appeal comes down to a “challenging combination of knowledge, strategy and luck,” which is the “hallmark” of any well-designed game, he says .

To write the book, he analyzed hundreds of episodes from seasons 47 and 48 to identify the best winning strategies based on the mathematics behind the series. Here are five basic strategies that can help you win.

## 1. When to Stop Spinning the Ferris Wheel in the Showcase Showdown

Even the most casual viewers will recognize the Showcase Showdown’s oversized, colorful wheel, adorned with signs depicting various denominations of \$1 or less. Three competitors spin the wheel up to two times, aiming to be closest to \$1 without going over it.

The trick to winning is knowing when to stop spinning the wheel. Based on the results of thousands of simulated trials, Bergner says it’s best for the first player to spin again if their first spin is \$0.65 or less, otherwise you should stop spinning.

If you are the second player, you should turn again to \$0.50 or less. If you reach \$0.55 in the second spin, the chances of winning are slightly better if you don’t make another spin. If you are the third spinner, you simply spin to beat or tie the previous spinners’ highest total.

These rules are based on the probabilities of a given wheel spin and will minimize the risk of a spin exceeding \$1, Bergner explains.

## 2. Where to drop the Plinko chip, exactly

With the Plinko cash game, participants can win tens of thousands of dollars by depositing chips onto a large board filled with stakes into landing zones that are worth \$0, \$100, \$500, \$1,000 or 10,000 \$.

Landing a token in the middle zone worth \$10,000 is not easy, as the probability of landing there is only 14.1%, based on Bergner’s observations. However, by placing the token directly in the center row, the chances of landing in the \$10,000 landing zone are around 23%, the best of all placements.

Bergner recommends carefully placing the chip in the row, rather than dropping it from the top of the board, because the extra speed decreases your chances of winning \$10,000.

## 3. Avoid underbidding if you are one of the first three candidates in the candidate row.

In Contestants’ Row, four competitors bid on the price of a commodity to get as close to the actual retail price as possible without exceeding it. Whoever wins can move on and play other pricing games that usually offer bigger prizes.

The odds of winning improve with auction order, with the first bidder winning only 18% of the time, compared to the last bidder winning 41% of the time. The last bidder has a significant advantage in that they control whether they get the highest bid.

However, the underbidding of the first three candidates is “glaring,” according to Bergner.

Indeed, “the first reaction of these bidders is to think that they cannot win if they exceed, rather than thinking that they have little chance of winning if they do not take the risk of exceeding”, he said. Additionally, for the top three bidders, the next bidder can always “reduce” your bid by \$1, maximizing their chance of being closest to the actual retail price without going over the total.

The result of this underbidding bias is that the last bidder wins 64% of the time despite having the highest bid, Bergner says.

Typically, the top three bidders should increase their expected bids by about 10% on average to counteract underbidding bias, especially for more expensive items over \$1,000.

It’s also important to remember that people tend to remember the sale prices of goods, not the actual retail prices, Bergner says. Sale prices are generally well below the retail prices used at the show.

## 4. Do one of these two things if you are the last bidder on the candidate row

As noted above, if you are the last bidder on the competitor row, you are already doing better. You have a 41% chance of winning, about double that of every other candidate.

Since you already have the advantage as the last bidder, Bergner recommends either “reducing” previous bids by at least \$1 or bid only \$1 if you think previous bids are too high. He says you can choose either option “100% of the time.”

## 5. Bid on the first showcase of the Showcase Showdown

At the end of the show, two contestants face off in the Showcase Showdown. The competitor with the highest monetary value of winnings has the opportunity to bid on the first showcase or succeed and bid on the second showcase. The one who bids closest to their showcase value without exceeding it wins their showcase.

Oddly enough, bidding on the first showcase yields better results – both win rate and average showcase winnings – whether the showcase price is lower or higher.

Bergner believes there is a “grass is greener” phenomenon with the second showcase, since the bidder with the highest winnings passed the first showcase 66% of the time. This can lead to overcompensation for skipping the first showcase, even though the two prices are about the same on average.

If you are the first bidder, stick to bidding on the first window. Otherwise, try to correct the anxiety associated with bidding second and bid with a greater margin of safety, Bergner says.

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