Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The A.V. Club has investigated what happens when you actually win The Price Is Right, but Slate has an excellent piece up today that uses game theory to help prospective contestants get to that point. Writer Ben Blatt ably—and slightly confusingly, if you’re not that into math—explains how some schmo on Contestant’s Row can use high-level math to make it to the Showcase, even without knowing real life prices of items. For example:

"Consider the pricing game called Squeeze Play. Current host Drew Carey shows the contestant either a five- or six-digit number and asks the player to remove one digit from the number—first and last digit excluded—to reveal the price of a prize. 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."


Blatt even put together a cheat sheet that offers advice on how to win all 71 games on the show, with the exception of Plinko, which he says is pretty much a crapshoot. (Another expert would beg to differ.) It’s some fascinating stuff to consider, even if the vast majority of us will, unfortunately, never really get to “come on down.”

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