Author Topic: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide  (Read 44796 times)

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Offline LiteBulb88

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The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« on: June 24, 2019, 05:27:58 AM »
With The Price is Right heading toward summer reruns, I thought it'd be fun to start a blog on Price is Right strategy. I plan to put the posts here as well because I want your feedback--do you agree with my strategies? Did I miss something? I can't edit my posts on this website, but I can edit the posts on my blog, and of course any ideas I glean from all of you will be properly credited.

As for the format, what I'll do is post a condensed version of each blog post here as well as a link to my blog. Don't worry--I'll put enough text here that you don't need to go my blog if you don't want to. I'll just skip things like rules and the like that everyone here will already know anyway.

So without further ado, here's the introduction...

(Blog post link: https://stoseontpir.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-price-is-right-strategy.html)

Hi! What is this, you ask? It's a project that's been ratting around in brain since my appearance on The Price is Right. I used strategy to win Master Key, so what other games have strategy? As a completionist, there's no way I could do this for just a couple of games. Thus, my goal is to create the most comprehensive Price is Right strategy guide anywhere on the Internet. I will include stats and tips about every single game in the current rotation (as of June 2019, there are 77 pricing games). Granted, for some games it will be "there is no strategy, just know the price." But you may be surprised about some of the strategies for some of the games. For example, did you know there's a strategy in Magic # that has guaranteed a win in every single playing of that game since season 43 without knowing anything about the actual prices? Or that contestants play Cover Up so horribly that even though they usually know the first two digits of the car's price, they barely win more than they would if they just picked everything completely randomly? Stay tuned!

My plan is to post one of these every day, six days a week. (Sunday will be a day of rest.) I'll start with three posts for things that happen on every show: items up for bids, the showcase showdowns (a.k.a the wheel), and the showcases. Then I'll go through all 77 games in alphabetical order, for a total of 80 posts after this one. My goal is to be done before season 48 starts in September, though they haven't announced the start date of the new season yet, so we'll see how it goes.

Resources: I would be remiss if I didn't post three key resources I'll be using to come up with my strategies:

http://www.golden-road.net
THE best site for TPiR information on the internet, bar none. They have very active forums there and people there have come up with many of the patterns I'll be sharing throughout my posts. They also have incredible information about the show's past, insider photos, and so on. I highly recommend it. (My username there is LiteBulb88 should you wish to see my posts.)

http://www.tpirstats.com
This is a fan of the show who has posted TPiR stats since season 29. Most of the raw data I use to calculate my stats comes from this site.

MATLAB
I'm using MATLAB to do lots of number crunching on the data from the TPiR stats web page. Full disclosure: I worked at the company that makes MATLAB for over 13 years, and I still consult for them. I am a big believer in their products! I don't plan to post the actual code so as not to overwhelm the posts, but I'm happy to share the scripts if anyone asks.

Why am I not using season 47 data very much? While most of season 47 has aired, there are a couple of preempted episodes and a July 4 episode yet to air. According to the Price is Right calendar, the last first-run season 47 episode doesn't air until July 17. Thus, to avoid using data from an incomplete season that could go out of date after I post, I'll mostly be using data through season 46 only.

Some general strategies:

Trip rule: The farther a trip is from Los Angeles, the more expensive the price. So if you have to decide which trip is more expensive, New York or Salt Lake City, simply remember the trip rule and you'll choose NYC and be right every time.

The rule of pairs: If you have two of an identical prize (such as two identical motorcycles, two identical surfboards, etc.), then the total price is almost certainly going to end in an even number. The reason is that 2 times any integer is guaranteed to be even! The only reason it might be odd is if the original price is something like $2999.45. The show adds and then rounds to the nearest dollar, not the other way around, so in this case, the total price would be $5999, not $5998, as $2999.45 + $2999.45 = $5998.90, which gets rounded to $5999. But that kind of price is rather rare, so if you have a choice of an even or odd number for the price of 2 of an item and you're not sure, go for the even price.

Paint and fabric protection car option rule: If you're playing for a car, listen to the options that George describes. If you hear paint and fabric protection as one of the options, the price will NOT end in a 0 or 5. If you don't hear paint and fabric protection, there's a chance the price will end in a 0 or 5, though it's not guaranteed.

Pick the end points: If you ever see an arrangement of items, pick the one on the far left or far right! (Yup, that was my Master Key strategy.) Most people find it more comfortable to pick the items in the middle and the producers know this. I'll talk about how this applies in specific games as I go along.

And finally...

Get inside your own head: The producers are inside your head before you ever make it on to the stage. They know you're more likely to pick numbers 2-5 in Pass the Buck, choose 5's in Lucky $even, or feel the pressure of everyone staring at you while you're pushing the lever in Magic # and thus stop too soon because you feel it just can't be right to take a long time to set the value.  If you want to maximize your chances of winning, you need to figure out what you'd be afraid to do while playing a game and go counter to that fear. Magic # is an excellent example--people are afraid of taking too long to push the lever. As a result, the game is never lost by putting the price too high; it's always lost by putting the price too low. (In fact, out of the 67 losses in that game from seasons 32-46, ONE of those losses was by setting the number too high.) If you know this in advance, you'll recognize that fear when you get on stage, be willing to set that price high, and have a much better chance of winning. And the time to figure that out is before you ever go to the show; once you're on that stage, things move so fast you probably won't have time to unpack everything you're thinking.

Good luck out there! And if you do use these strategies to win something on the show, drop me a line--I'd love to hear about it!

Offline Flerbert419

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2019, 07:56:53 AM »
I look forward to where this might go and if you generate any new insights, but I do want to point out there has already been extensive work on the topic.

Here is a thread with a list published by Slate in 2013 containing strategies for every game, and here is a link to some probability work that was done a number of years ago by the forum.
"Drew is the greatest at the show that Drew does...how do we make Bob's show Drew's show?"
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Offline pannoni1

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2019, 09:27:08 AM »
There are two more that I would add to the general strategy section. The first is the repeating digits rule, and this implies that except for the first two numbers of a price, all other adjacent numbers in the price of a prize, usually a car, will rarely have back-to-back digits be the same number. This is especially useful in games like One Away, Cover Up, Golden Road, Pathfinder, Money Game (using the middle number as a reference), and Lucky Seven.

Another general strategy tip is the "Never all the same". In games where the correct choice is either Higher/Lower, True/False, etc, there will almost never be a game set up where the answer choices are the same (unless there are only two like Secret X or Master Key). Hence, the "Falsitis" that plagues 5 Price Tags, and once again, the contestants' "fears" that usually leads the producer from choosing 3 Falses and 1 True.

Of course, feel free to provide reviews of Hot Seat, Vend-o-Price, Gridlock, and the revamped Time Is Money since those were introduced after the Slate article.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2019, 09:30:39 AM by pannoni1 »
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Offline Tech_Triumph

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2019, 01:59:13 PM »
I look forward to where this might go and if you generate any new insights, but I do want to point out there has already been extensive work on the topic.

Here is a thread with a list published by Slate in 2013 containing strategies for every game

OK complete new guy to the forum so I'm looking forward to reading some of these previous posts, but some of Slate's strategies need some updating (looking at the Bonkers advice for one).

This could be another neat thread to see how much has changed from that article.

Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2019, 03:22:49 PM »
There are two more that I would add to the general strategy section. The first is the repeating digits rule, and this implies that except for the first two numbers of a price, all other adjacent numbers in the price of a prize, usually a car, will rarely have back-to-back digits be the same number. This is especially useful in games like One Away, Cover Up, Golden Road, Pathfinder, Money Game (using the middle number as a reference), and Lucky Seven.

Another general strategy tip is the "Never all the same". In games where the correct choice is either Higher/Lower, True/False, etc, there will almost never be a game set up where the answer choices are the same (unless there are only two like Secret X or Master Key). Hence, the "Falsitis" that plagues 5 Price Tags, and once again, the contestants' "fears" that usually leads the producer from choosing 3 Falses and 1 True.

Thanks! Those are both excellent points that I've updated my blog with.

I look forward to where this might go and if you generate any new insights, but I do want to point out there has already been extensive work on the topic.

Here is a thread with a list published by Slate in 2013 containing strategies for every game, and here is a link to some probability work that was done a number of years ago by the forum.

Thanks! I appreciate the links. I hope the way I'm approaching this will differentiate what I'm doing from what they've done (in particular, I'm going to go into a lot more detail than the Slate "cheat sheet" and I've run code to calculate probabilities that weren't covered in the thread here), but I'll let the readers be the judge :).

Online TPIRfan#9821

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2019, 11:46:04 PM »
I'll throw this up here, since it's a common "hidden" theme; 2Ps, 3Ps, and 4Ps very rarely have the same thousand's digit. Although missing a couple shows, so far, the only exception to that rule this season is Swap Meet, which is self-explanatory.  Usually, this means something like a 1-2-3 setup in a game like Most Expensive, which usually is enough to eliminate one of the two choices.

Also, One Bids nowadays are never under $500, the bare minimum you are going to get if you fully win a pricing game is $5,000, and never bid lower than $20,000 on a Showcase.
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Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2019, 02:42:21 AM »
Items up for bids

Blog post: https://stoseontpir.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-price-is-right-strategy_5.html

Random fact: If you want to impress your friends, you can call these "one bids," as that's the term used by the show to refer to the prizes the contestants bid on. This term goes all the way back to the original The Price is Right hosted by Bill Cullen in the 1950s and 1960s. You can even use that fact as a pick-up line: "Hey, if they used you as a one bid on The Price is Right, it would be impossible to for anyone to overbid because you're priceless." If you do use that pick-up line, feel free to *not* tell the person you heard it from me.

Key stats (seasons 29-46):
  • Bidder #1 won 18.19% of the time.
  • Bidder #2 won 19.94% of the time.
  • Bidder #3 won 22.05% of the time.
  • Bidder #4 won 39.82% of the time.
Pricing patterns:
  • One bid prizes are never less than $500. There has not been a one bid prize worth less than $500 since season 39 (8 years ago). There have been a number of one bids that were exactly $500 since then, but none under.
  • I've rarely seen trips used as one bids cost less than $2,000. I don't have an easy way to check this with any exact stats, though, so use with care.
Strategy: Your strategy in contestants' row depends on your position. But your bid should never be less than $500.

Contestant #1: Bid what you think the price is, with a minimum bid of $500.

Contestants #2 and #3: Bid what you think the price is, except:
  • Your minimum bid should be $500. This supersedes all points below.
  • If you're going to bid less than someone, give yourself at least $100 of wiggle room. For example, if bidder #1 bid $1150 and you think the prize is $1100, bid $1050. (Note: I admit the $100 is more gut feeling and less something stats can back up, but only having a $50 range of prices you can win on just isn't enough.)
  • DO NOT overbid someone by $1 in position 2 or 3. All that does is tempt the person after you to do the same to you. I would advise that if you want to bid more than someone else, your bid should be at least $50 over their bid. (Again, that's arbitrary, but a $50 range at least gives contestant #4 something to think about when deciding whom they should bid $1 more than.
  • Similarly, DO NOT bid $1 in position 2 or 3. Not only are you in violation of the $500 minimum bid rule, that just tempts someone to bid $2.
Contestant #4: The fourth contestant should bid $1 more than someone else. Yes, the person you 1-up will be mad at you, but that's the show. Also, it is almost always wrong to bid $1 or similar. There are two reasons:
  • The minimum price of the one bid is $500. You might as well bid $500 and try to hit it right on the nose. But you shouldn't do that either because...
  • More importantly, your chances of winning when you bid $1 (or $500) drop from 33.33% to 25%. Let me explain with an example:
  • Anne bids $600
  • Bob bids $750
  • Charlie bids $900
  • David bids $751
What is David's chance of winning? Unless Bob got it exactly right, David has shut him out, which means only 3 contestants (Bob, Charlie, or David) can win the prize. Thus, David's chance is 1/3, or 33.3333...%. Even if everyone has bid too much, everyone just bids again, and David's chance of winning is still 1/3 if he overbids someone by $1. But if:
  • Anne bids $600
  • Bob bids $750
  • Charlie bids $900
  • David bids $1 (or $500)
Now, David's chance of winning is 1/4 (25%), as no contestant is shut out. "But Brian," you may be thinking, "those percentages assume that you're picking the winner randomly. Contestants aren't bidding random prices so this doesn't apply!" The stats suggest the opposite. From seasons 41-46, less than 27% of $1 bids from the fourth bidder ended up as winning bids--that's pretty close to the 25% you'd get from random chance. That means that over 73% of the time, $1 bids that were made were wrong--that's almost 3 out of 4. Compare that to the fact that when bidder 4 doesn't bid $1, they won 44.1% of the time--that's more than 50% more often than when they bid $1.

To be fair, I said bidding $1 or $500 is "almost" always wrong. I can think of two rare exceptions:
  • If you are somehow absolutely positive that everyone else has overbid, then go ahead and bid $500. But you'd better be really positive. Prices are almost always higher than you think they are.
  • If one of the first three bidders has bid $1 (or something similarly low), feel free to 1-up them, even if that means bidding $2 or $70. They deserve to lose for having that horrible of a strategy. Technically, you should still bid at least $500 in that case, but as a viewer, I take sadistic pleasure in it when the fourth bidder bids $2 after someone else has bid $1 :-x.

Offline tpir04

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2019, 08:48:57 AM »
LiteBulb, let me say upfront that I'm thoroughly going to enjoy this series. Keep it up!

Do you happen to have any info on the first known $1 bid?
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Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2019, 02:53:42 PM »
Thanks!! Unfortunately, I don't know when the first $1 bid was.

Offline tpir04

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2019, 05:40:05 PM »
I don't know if you can edit entries on that site, but if you can,

  • Anne bids $600
  • Bob bids $750
  • Charlie bids $900
  • David bids $751
What is David's chance of winning? Unless Bob got it exactly right, David has shut him out, which means only 3 contestants (Bob, Charlie, or David) can win the prize.

If David 1-ups Bob, then the three contestants in the running are Anne, Charlie and David, not Bob, Charlie and David, as in the post.
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Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2019, 03:19:54 AM »
Ack! Good catch--I do appreciate it. I can't edit my post here, but I have corrected my blog.

Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2019, 03:22:51 AM »
Showcase Showdown (a.k.a The Wheel)

(Blog post: https://stoseontpir.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-price-is-right-strategy_26.html)

Random fact
The original wheel looked nothing like today's wheel; instead it looked like a carnival wheel with various colors. It's often referred to as the Rainbow Wheel. You can see the first playing of it here:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeMJC1QFmgk" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeMJC1QFmgk</a>

Who actually won? (seasons 29-46)
  • The first spinner won 30.17% of the time.
  • The second spinner won 33.81% of the time.
  • The third spinner won 36.05% of the time, so a small, but not huge, advantage.
Probabilities
(The following probabilities were calculated by enumerating all possible combinations of wheel spins and applying the strategy below.)
Who wins:
  • First spinner: 30.82%
  • Second spinner: 32.96%
  • Third spinner: 36.22%
Getting $1 in one spin or a combination of two spins:
  • At least one spinner: 23.03%
  • At least two spinners: 2.35%
  • All three spinners: 0.08%
(Note the above three cases exclude the possibility of getting $1 in a spin-off, which would slightly increase the numbers.)

Having a spin-off with...:
  • Exactly two players: 11.32%
  • All three players: 0.48%
Strategy
The only decision a contestant makes during this segment of the show is whether to take their second spin or not. How hard can that be? It turns out it's hard enough that people have written papers on it. So rather than attempt to derive the numbers here, I'll just spit out the results:

Spinner 1 strategy:
  • Stay if you spun 0.70 or more.
  • Spin again if you spun 0.65 or less.
Spinner 2 strategy:
  • If you spun less than spinner 1, spin again. (Duh.)
  • If you spun more than spinner 1, or if spinner 1 went over, stay if and only if you spun 0.55 or more. If you are in the lead after your first spin but spun 0.50 or less, spin again.
  • If you tied spinner 1, stay if and only if you spun 0.70 or more. If you tied spinner 1 but spun 0.65 or less, spin again.
Spinner 3 strategy:
  • If you spun less than the total of whoever is leading after the first two contestants have spun, spin again. (Duh.)
  • If you spun more than the total of whoever is leading after the first two contestants have spun, stay. (Again, duh. In fact, Drew probably won't even let you spin again in this case.)
  • If you have exactly one person to beat and you tied them, stay and take the spin-off if and only if you spun 0.55 or more. If the value you tied is 0.50 or less, spin again.
  • If the first two spinners tied and you tied both of them, stay and take the spin-off if and only if you spun 0.70 or more. If you tied two people at 0.65 or less, spin again.

Offline pannoni1

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2019, 07:42:23 AM »

Spinner 2 strategy:
  • If you spun more than spinner 1, or if spinner 1 went over, stay if and only if you spun 0.55 or more. If you are in the lead after your first spin but spun 0.50 or less, spin again.

I'd certainly spin again if I spun .55 if there's just one spinner to go, since if you stay on 55 cents, although there's a 55% chance that you'll go over had you spun again, there would be a 45% chance that your opponent would beat you on the first spin, and if s/he would need a second spin, another 45% chance of accomplishing the task, putting the overall odds of the opponent winning at around 68%, and this doesn't take into account any spinoff(s). 60 cents is more even in terms of odds, meaning that there's a 60 percent chance you'll go over as well as about a 60 percent chance your opponent will beat you if you stay on 60 (40% on the first spin and another 40% on the second, but since a second spin is slightly more likely, this slightly tilts the odds in the "top winnners" favor) but since there's the possibility of money to be won by getting a dollar, I'd also spin again.
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Offline LiteBulb88

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Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2019, 10:19:49 AM »
The problem with that analysis is that this is the equation it is trying to satisfy:

P(not going over if you spin again) > P(winning if you stay)

Those are not the correct two quantities to compare. It's an easy mistake to make. Instead, you need to compare these two quantities:
  • P(winning if you spin again)
  • P(winning if you stay)

P(winning if you spin again) is NOT the same as P(not going over if you spin again), as there spins that don't cause you to go over but don't help you win either. So let's look at these one at a time for the case where spinner 2 spun 55 cents on the first spin and that score strictly beats the first spinner (or the first spinner went over):

P(winning if you stay)
There are two ways to win if you stay:
  • Spinner 3 strictly loses to you
  • Spinner 3 ties you and you win the spinoff.

Let's look at those one at a time.

P(spinner 3 strictly loses to you)
For spinner 3 to lose to you, they must spin less than or equal to 50 cents on the first spin--probability 10/20--and then on their second spin, spin a number that does NOT result in them having a total of 55, 60, 65, ... 100. That's also a probability of 10/20. Thus, the probability that spinner 3 strictly loses to you is 10/20 * 10/20 = 1/4.

P(Spinner 3 ties you and you win the spinoff)
Spinner 3 has two ways to tie you: spin 55 cents on the first spin (probability 1/20) or spin 55 in a combination of two spins. The latter case requires them to spin 50 or fewer cents on the first spin (probability 10/20) and then spin the exact amount to get to 55 cents on the second spin (1/20). The probability of spinner 2 winning the spinoff is 1/2, so the total probability here is:

P(winning the spinoff) * (P(spinner 3 tying you in one spin) + P(spinner 3 tying you in two spins))
= 1/2 * (1/20 + 10/20*1/20)
= 3/80

Thus, the total probability of spinner 2 winning if they stay on 55 cents is P (strictly beating) + P (tying & winning the spinoff) = 1/4 + 3/80 = 23/80 = 28.75%

P(winning if you spin again)
If you spin again, you have a 1/20 chance of ending up with 60 cents, a 1/20 chance of ending up with 65 cents, ..., a 1/20 chance of ending up with 100 cents (a dollar), and an 11/20 chance that you go over. Thus, your probability of winning if you spin again is:

1/20*P(winning with a total of 60 cents) + 1/20*P(winning with a total of 65 cents) + ... 1/20*P(winning with a total of 100 cents) + 11/20 * P(winning if you go over).

That last term is, of course, 0, so you can throw it out. So we need to calculate the probability of winning with 60 cents, 65 cents, etc. Well, we just did that for the 55 cents case above, so you can apply the same logic with slightly different numbers. I won't bore you with all the math (I did it in an Excel spreadsheet while working on this article), and instead tell you the result of the sum above is about 0.28031, or 28.031%. So your probability of winning decreases if you spin again on 55 cents, and thus you should not spin again.

In fact, here are all the numbers in case you're curious. Again, the below chart assumes that spinner 2's first spin strictly beats spinner 1 or that spinner 1 went over. I've bolded the rows where it changes from "they should spin again" to "they should not spin again."

First spin    P(spinner 2 wins if they stay)  P(spinner 2 wins if they spin again)
    5                    0.250%                            33.988%
   10                    0.875%                            33.944%
   15                    2.000%                            33.844%                 
   20                    3.625%                            33.663%
   25                    5.750%                            33.375%                   
   30                    8.375%                            32.956%
   35                   11.500%                            32.381%
   40                   15.125%                            31.625%
   45                   19.250%                            30.663%
   50                   23.875%                            29.469%
   55                   28.750%                            28.031%

   60                   34.125%                            26.325%                 
   65                   40.000%                            24.325%
   70                   46.375%                            22.006%
   75                   53.250%                            19.344%
   80                   60.625%                            16.313%
   85                   68.500%                            12.888%
   90                   76.875%                             9.044%
   95                   85.750%                             4.756% 
  100                   95.125%                             0.000%
« Last Edit: June 26, 2019, 10:22:53 AM by LiteBulb88 »

Offline LiteBulb88

  • 4/15/19
  • TPiR Alumnus
  • *
  • Posts: 960
Re: The Ultimate Price is Right Strategy Guide
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2019, 10:27:21 AM »
but since there's the possibility of money to be won by getting a dollar, I'd also spin again.

Forgot to respond to this. The average amount of money you'd expect to win if you spin 55 cents on your first spin and spin again is:

P(winning exactly $1,000) * $1,000 + P(winning exactly $11,000) * $11,000 + P(winning exactly $26,000) * $26,000.

Winning exactly $1,000 requires two things--first, you spin 45 cents (probability 1/20) and then you do NOT hit a bonus value on the second spin (probability 17/20). Total probability: 1/20*17/20 = 17/400

Winning exactly $11,000 requires you to spin 45 cents and then you spin 5 or 15 cents. Total probability: 1/20 * 2/20 = 1/200

Winning exactly $26,000 requires you to spin 45 cents then 1 dollar in that order. Total probability: 1/20*1/20 = 1/400.

Thus, the equation above becomes:

17/400 * $1,000 + 1/200 * $11,000 + 1/400 * $26,000 = $162.50

I personally wouldn't be willing to decrease my odds of going to the showcase in order to win, on average, $162.50.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2019, 10:29:23 AM by LiteBulb88 »