The Price is Right

Timeshifted from late May when I was watching more TV.

I’ve had a life with more than one pope, but a couple years ago that was a big change. It’s really not, but it will seem bigger when Bob Barker retires next month. There’s only been one host of The Price is Right in my life. As you might expect, TPIR played a big role in my childhood. I watched lots of game shows in the 1980s, when they were more popular. My parents didn’t mind so much, since I was clearly trying to participate and exercise my brain. I remember Scrabble and Card Sharks and Starrcade and American Gladiators and the like. In Chicago, I watched plenty of Game Show Network. Games have randomness, making them excellent problems for a probabilist. The Price is Right, as the longest running and longest of the shows, had a large role. Even now it’s still popular; my students all knew the game, we discussed it in class, and a couple students examined conditional probability in the Showcase Showdown.

In late 2005, I was so enraptured with learning a new card game that I transcribed and commented on Bid Whist Party Throwdown. Bid Whist is primarily an African-American game, which of course means that there’s an NPR interview. At some point, I’d like to become very good at the game, but for now I seemingly have the best hand history with commentary on the Internet. OK, it’s the only hand history with commentary on the Internet. Here, I’m going to provide more esoterics, one of the few transcriptions of an episode of The Price is Right. Here, it’s the Million Dollar Spectacular from 16 May 2007. The action is summarized with my commentary.

Bid 1: A Motorcycle. The four contestants bid, in order, 499 – 8000 – 9500 – 6500. The first bid is rather low for a full sized motorcycle, but goes uncommented. The last guy, Thomas, bids 6500, which is clearly suboptimal given Golden Road is showing. He should ideally bid 500 and cover the gap. The bonus for an exact match is $500, too small to matter given the estimated price of the prize, plus the possibility of playing Golden Road.
Result: 5049. Serious cutie Blythe wins, even though she bid under a thousand dollars. I should also mention that through most of the show, the Beauties are wearing strapless ball gowns, which makes them even more gorgeous.
Game: Golden Road is basically a no-skill game, except on the first price, luggage, which Blythe figures out correctly. She misses the 2nd digit of the snowmobile, the middle prize. She wins luggage.

Bid 2: Electronic Keyboard. 4500 – 1400 – 1875 – 1199. Thomas is again suboptimal, this one more obviously.

Result: 3120, Felecity wins.
Game: It’s in the Bag, for 1-2-4-8-24K cash. One has to match the supermarket item with the stated price at each level, and can stop after each successful result. The cookies are obviously at 1K. She gets calcium at 2K (hard) and freshener at 4K (easy). I think soap is wrong at 8K. I was right; it’s the antacid. She almost got it all, but wins nothing.

Bid 3: Cocktail Ring. 3500 – 4200 – 1999 – 3500. Oops, the last bid is corrected to 3501. I would have bid 2000, but at least it’s not suboptimal.
Result: 3000. Janice wins.
Game: More or less. There’s a dinette set, golf clubs, pinball machine, plus a Lincoln MKZ. A price is stated for each of the three small prizes, and the player must guess More or Less. If she’s correct on all three, she gets the prizes plus the car. Otherwise it’s nothing. The dinette set is first, at $4100. Ooh. Obviusly less than 4100, but she goes More, and loses.

The big wheel, the Showcase Showdown, is up next. It’s now 10K, then 20K – 1000K. The first number is the number of spaces the wheel travels, followed by the result.

  1. Janice (old woman): 29 spaces , 95 cents.
  2. Felecity (middle aged woman): 51, $1.00. Much celebration ensues. <\li>
  3. Blythe (young woman): 38, 90 cents. Then 37, 45 cents. Ooh. She needed 36 to get the dime. Tough break.
  4. Bonus spin: Spin it harder, please please please, I write. Because Felecity is at 51, spinning that strength will result in no win. OK, good, it’s harder. 56, 45 cents. Not enough. Sigh.

Bid 4: Satellite TV. 2500 – 4100 – 3400 – 4101. Wow, now Thomas is rational. He just doesn’t get bidding in the middle.
Result: 2700. Thomas loses anyway, Kara wins.
Game: Cliff Hangers, for a $16K travel trailer. As a kid, I used to be a little scared of the yodeling music. I hated it, because the guy would fall over. It made some of my math class nightmares. There are 3 prizes to guess prices. Tool Kit, guess 32, actual 25. Dispenser, guess 37, actual 33. Radio Lantern, guess 43, a decent guess. Great guess, as actual is 40. The total error is less than $25, so Kara wins.

Bid 5: Spa. The Beauties wear one-piece strapless suits, by the way. Bids go 350 (?) – 4100 – 1499 – 1200. Thomas, the last bidder, is still an idiot! Bob harasses Scott, the 350 bidder, which he completely deserves. Where does he shop?
Result: 3495, Roger wins. He’s watched TPIR for over 25 years.
Game: Lucky Seven, for a Ford Explorer SLT 4×2, 2XXXX. Well, the games aren’t the easier ones tonight, are they? Guess 6 – actual 8. Guess 4 – actual 6. Guess 3 – actual 3. $3 left. Guess 5 – actual 5! Yay! “Give me $1. You have $2, you can buy about a half a gallon,” Bob ad-libs.

Bid 6: Stainless steel barbeque. 4200 – 3100 – 2500 – 4201.
Result: 3995, Thomas who shouldn’t win a cupcake wins. The “Will Neuter for Plinko Chips” person, the new first player, does not win.
Game: Push Over, for a European trip. Thomas plays logically here, and wins a $13716 trip.

Showcase Showdown 2

  1. Thomas (middle aged guy): 55, 45 cents. 55, 50 cents.
  2. Kara (middle aged woman): 32, 80 cents. 35, 25 cents.
  3. Roger (middle aged guy): He asks Bob for help on the first one. Cool. 44, 15 cents. 63, 60 cents.

In a blow to statisticians everywhere, Thomas wins. Thomas and Felecity advance to the Showcase, with Thomas as top winner.

Showcase 1: Career Highlights. Bob Barker’s given away over $700 million in prizes, including 8,000 cars. The gifts are an Integrated PC, Home theater, and Pair of Ford Mustangs. I bid 2 + 5 + 24 x 2 = 55K. Thomas keeps, smartly, and bids 59K.

Showcase 2: Preparation for the show. Gifts are a Home gym, Brass bed, and Cadillac XLR convertible. 1.5 + 4 + 45 = 50.5K I bid. Felecity bids 60,100.

Result: Felecity 90,239, difference of 30,139. Shows what I know about Cadillacs. Thomas 56,368, so I know about Mustangs. The decent bidder wins! Mathematicians everywhere smile.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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