Slate columnist Ben Blatt has outlined the sure fire way to win on ‘The Price is Right’ and the answer isn’t cheating. It’s economics, stupid.
The article is extremely interesting, especially if you’re a number junkie, outlining strategies and possibilities on almost every game the show has to offer. Blatt details how one doesn’t even need to know the prices to win if they can apply simple economic principles and game theory to the show.
Many contestants fail to win anything on ‘The Price is Right,’ of course. But as I watched the venerable game show that morning, it quickly became clear to me that most contestants haven’t thought through the structure of the game they’re so excited to be playing. It didn’t bother me that Margie didn’t know how much a stainless steel oven range costs; that’s a relatively obscure fact. It bothered me, as a budding mathematician, that she failed to use basic game theory to help her advance. If she’d applied a few principles of game theory—the science of decision-making used by economists and generals—she could have planted a big kiss on Bob Barker’s cheek, and maybe have gone home with … a new car! Instead, she went home empty-handed.
I believe that sound you hear is millions of underpaid, debt ridden college graduates planning to game a game show and walk away with thousands in prizes. Or make a fool of themselves on national television.
But I have to ask, isn’t part of the fun of being on a game show like ‘The Price Is Right‘ just the sheer fact of being there? Certainly it is great if you can win, but isn’t the experience of being there worth anything? And it is well documented that playing to win has it’s dark side, like in the case of Michael Larson and ‘Press Your Luck‘ or any of the souls who have won the lottery and fell into disaster.
Now I’m obviously pulling out the worst cases here, but it’s a thought that runs through my head when I read the article. And game theory or not, you’re never going to be able to top this guy on the stage.