Winning the Price Is Right with Game Theory

Winning the Price Is Right with Game Theory

People on the Price Is Right have various games to play on the show.  The “Contestant’s Row”, for instance, has 4 people guessing the price of an item displayed by the host (formerly Bob Barker, now Drew Carey).  The bidders have to get the closest to the actual price without going over.  If the last bidder applied some game theory, the probability of him or her winning the game would be around 54% if they bid one dollar higher than the highest bid.  However, many pick choices that have higher probabilities of failure.

With the game “Now or Then” there’s a game theoretic way to win 100% of the time.  The author likens it to tic-tac-toe, despite the fact that players try to guess prices from an earlier date or think that a stated price is today’s price.  There are a limited number of combinations and because of this, you can follow a strategy chart (that the author created) to easily win Now or Then.

An observation of the game “Squeeze Play”, where a contestant has to remove one of three numbers to correctly guess a 5 digit price.  The producers have placed the number you should remove in the third space 49% of the time that this game has been played.  This means that the distribution is not random, and you have a higher chance of winning by picking the third number.

There are a few other applications of game theory to the Price Is Right.  If you’re interested in winning a lot of prizes and money, then your best bet would be to play using game theory.  However, I think it takes some fun out of the game – it reduces a game show known for it’s enthusiastic players to cold and calculating game theorists.

That being said, when I sit at home and watch the show (like I did a few times when I was sick in high school) I don’t ever benefit from winning a brand new car so I suppose if I was up there, I’d definitely want to play where the odds are in my favor.