The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

January 10, 2007

Deal Or No Deal

I can’t say I like this show. Howie Mandel and the whole pace of the “we’ll progress to the next step— after this break” is annoying as hell. That being said, it’s a brilliant concept.

But I find that people don’t understand the game one bit. There’s one crucial bit of knowledge that has nothing to do with the game, but which every person who is on it focuses on:


All that matters is what’s left on the board and how many cases you have to choose. The offer you’re given is typically slightly lower than the probability of the outcome you would get, so the entire key is what’s on the board. You should never* open the case you initially chose, so what is in that case doesn’t make a difference.

I was watching tonight, as a lady had $1, $50, $400K, $500K, $750K, and $1M on the board. Basically, it’s a dream board. At that point, you take no offer— no matter what it is— until you get down to a situation where you have only have one big number left. This lady got several big offers until she got to the point where the only things left on the board were $1, $50, and $1M, with an offer of $313K. At that point you’re forced to take the offer, because the benefit of $313K is worth forgoing the 33% chance you have of picking the $1M case on the next turn and losing it all.

Mathematically, it’s a simple game. It’s a simple probability question, and if I got a chance to actually be on the show, I’d know exactly how to make the right and wrong decisions. Of course, I’m not prone to insane emotion, so I wouldn’t make for good TV, but I’d be sure to only make the gambles that are likely to pay off.

* It is a rare circumstance where you actually end up getting to the point you choose that final case. If there are two big numbers left on the board, you may end up going down to the final choice as a gamble. I.e. if the two numbers left on the board are $500K and $750K, you’ll probably get an offer somewhere around $610K. In that situation, I’ll make the gamble for $750K even though it could screw me out of $110K. Note that I say it would screw me out of $110K, not out of $250K, because that would be the difference compared to the offer.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:16 pm || Permalink || Comments (7) || Trackback URL || Categories: Poker/Gambling, Pop Culture


  1. I’m not usually a fan of game shows, but I will admit that this show fascinates me on some level. Mostly, its because the contestants never seem to understand the point of the game even when it’s blindingly obvious.

    Like you said, it’s really just a probability game. The problem is that most people don’t understand probability.

    I missed the show you’re talking about so I wonder if the lady with the $ 313,000

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — January 11, 2007 @ 9:30 am
  2. Meant to say:

    I wonder if the lady with the $ 313,000 offer took it.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — January 11, 2007 @ 9:55 am
  3. She did take the offer. I don’t know if she consciously understood why she should have taken that offer (and turned down the previous ones), but she did play it right.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 11, 2007 @ 9:59 am
  4. That’s better than some of the dumb moves I’ve seen people take. It is a testament both to blind greed and the state of mathematics education in America.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — January 11, 2007 @ 11:29 am
  5. Never mind mathematics; there is no education in analytical thingking; combined with a culture completely incapable of rational risk benefit or cost benefit analysis.

    Comment by Chris Byrne — January 11, 2007 @ 1:01 pm
  6. Brad, I am facinated with the show also for the very same reasons. I usually sit there on the sofa yelling at the person for being so dumb…..I wonder if I could be so “calm and collected” if I were actually up there picking numbers…Ha Ha.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — January 11, 2007 @ 4:41 pm
  7. Brad,
    I saw it too for the first time. It came on right after Bush. Although the pace was infuriating, it was expected for prime time. I found myself yelling at the screen, thinking people can not be this stupid and isn’t that the guy who used to blow up rubber gloves with his nose.

    Comment by Jeff — January 16, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

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