entertainment Statistics

Deal or No Deal

The American version of Deal or No Deal is airing its 100th episode. When I first watched the show, sometime close to it’s premiere, I was quite bothered by the fact that the game doesn’t really have much strategy to it. You don’t have to know anything, you just pick random cases—something that anybody could do.

Nevertheless, despite the aggravating stalling and the fact that I judged most of the contestants to be greedy morons, I found myself compelled to watch, at least for the first few weeks—each episode hoping that tonight would be the night someone goes home a millionaire.

The greed aspect used to bother me because at a certain point the risk involved in continuing far outweighs the statistical chance of gaining more money. I suppose that’s what makes the show so compelling and I have to admit that within every negotiation, there is a time to get out and a time to stay in, and success hinges upon selecting that sweet spot between too early and too late. I tend to admire those with the sense to get out early more than the romantics who go for it, because I’m not a high roller. Betting tens of thousands of dollars, even when the odds are on your side, is astonishingly reckless. I suppose though, either way it turns out, the suspense is very good for ratings and allows us at home to play vicariously—wondering what it is we would do when put in that same situation.

The following is a YouTube clip from British version of Deal or No Deal that aired last January. The host, or presenter, is a man named Noel Edmonds. The differs from the American version in that there are no lovely models to open cases. Instead they bring in 22 contestants and each choses a case at random. Then one person is selected to play the game and, like the American and Canadian versions, choses cases to open to eliminate from play.

It’ll all become clear in the clip but the main thing you need to know is that the folks opening the cases in lieu of the models are contestants who weren’t selected to play this round. Also, of course, the top prize is in pounds—it’s £250,000.

As of this morning the British pound was worth a hair under two bucks in American money so 250,000 of them is the equivalent of just under half a million US. If that seems horribly lower than the usual top prize in Canada and the States (a million dollars in our respective currencies), remember that on the North American shows, the top prize is in one out of 26 cases, not 22, so the odds are a little different.

Also note that, unlike the States, the winnings in the UK and Canada are tax free.

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