It’s easy to get sucked into watching “The Price is Right,” the beloved TV game show where contestants win cash and prizes by guessing the price of merchandise.

You can be bored, flipping through channels and the next thing you know you’re yelling the price of beans at the TV because you want to see a contestant win a new car.

If you’ve ever thought about appearing on the show, or simply wondered about the best strategies to win big, Justin L. Bergner has you covered.

Bergner is the author of “Solving The Price Is Right,” a book he describes as a “reference manual for regular viewers” offering tips on how to win every game in the show.

An investment analyst by trade, Bergner specialized in game theory at Yale University and has been a lifelong fan of TV show.

With over 50 consecutive seasons on the air, the show’s timeless appeal comes down to a “stimulating combination of knowledge, strategy and luck” that’s the “hallmark” of any well-designed game, he says.

To write the book, he analyzed hundreds of episodes from seasons 47 and 48 to identify the best winning strategies based on the math behind the show. Here are five basic strategies that can help you win.

1. When to stop spinning the big wheel in the Showcase Showdown

Even the most casual viewers will recognize the Showcase Showdown’s colorful oversized wheel paneled with various denominations of $1 or less. Three contestants spin the wheel up to two times, aiming to be the closest to $1 without going over.

The trick to winning is knowing when to stop spinning the wheel. Based on the results of thousands of simulated trials, Bergner says that the first spinner is better off spinning again if his first spin is $0.65 or less, otherwise you should stop spinning.

If you’re the second spinner, you should spin again at $0.50 or less. If you hit $0.55 as the second spinner, the odds of winning are slightly better if you don’t do another spin. If you’re the third spinner, you simply spin to beat or tie the higher total from the previous spinners.

These rules are based on the probabilities of a given wheel spin, and will minimize your risk that a spin will go over $1, says Bergner.

2. Where to drop the Plinko chip, exactly 

With the cash game Plinko, contestants can win tens of thousands of dollars by dropping chips down a large, peg-filled board into landing areas that are worth either $0, $100, $500, $1,000 or $10,000.

Getting a chip to land in the middle area worth $10,000 isn’t easy, as the probability of landing there is only 14.1%, based on Bergner’s observations. However, by placing the chip directly in the center row the odds of landing in the $10,000 landing area are roughly 23% — the best of all placements.

Bergner recommends carefully placing the chip into the row, rather than letting it drop from the top of the board, as the added velocity lessens your chances of winning $10,000.

3. Avoid underbidding if you’re one of the first three contestants on Contestants’ Row

In Contestants’ Row, four contestants bid on the price of merchandise to get closest to the actual retail price without going over. Whoever wins gets to move on and play other pricing games that typically offer larger prizes.

The odds of winning improve with the order of bidding, with the first bidder winning only 18% of the time, compared with the last bidder who wins 41% of the time. The last bidder has a significant advantage in that they control whether they get the highest bid.

However, underbidding by the first three contestants is “egregious,” according to Bergner.

That’s because those bidders’ “first reaction is to think that they cannot win if they go over, rather than to think that they have little chance of winning if they do not risk going over,” he says. Plus, for the first three bidders, the next bidder can always “clip” your bid by $1, which maximizes their chances of being closest to the actual retail price without exceeding the total.

The result of this underbidding bias is that the last bidder wins 64% of the time when they had the highest bid, says Bergner. 

As a rule of thumb, the first three bidders should increase their planned bids by about 10% on average to counteract the underbidding bias, especially for pricier items over $1,000.

It’s also important to remember that people tend to recall sales prices for merchandise, not the actual retail prices, Bergner says. Sales prices are usually much lower than the retail prices used on the show.

4. Do one of these two things if you’re the last bidder on Contestants’ Row

As indicated above, if you’re the last bidder on Contestants’ Row, you’re doing better already. You have a 41% chance of winning — roughly double that of each other contestant.

Since you already have the advantage as the last bidder, Bergner recommends either “clipping” previous bids by at least $1 or bidding just $1 if you think the previous bids are too high. He says that you can do either option “100% of the time.”

5. Bid on the first showcase in the Showcase Showdown

At the end of the show, two contestants face off in the Showcase Showdown. The contestant with the higher dollar value of winnings has the option of bidding on the first showcase or passing it and bidding on the second showcase. Whoever bids closest to their showcase value without going over wins his showcase.

Curiously, bidding on the first showcase results in better outcomes — both win rate and average showcase earnings — regardless of whether the showcase was lower priced or higher priced.

Bergner thinks there is a “grass is greener” phenomenon with the second showcase, as the bidder with the highest winnings passed on the first showcase 66% of the time. This can lead to overcompensation for skipping the first showcase even though both are priced roughly the same on average. 

If you are the first bidder, stick with the bidding on the first showcase. Otherwise, try to correct for the anxiety associated with bidding second, and bid with a greater margin of safety, says Bergner.

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