Book Review: Solving The Price is Right

Solving The Price Is Right caught my eye, but I guess I should have read and comprehended the subtitle of it a little better before I dove in to read it.  “How Mathematics Can Improve Your Decisions on and off the Set of America’s Celebrated Game Show.”  I’m a software engineer – I’ve dealt with a LOOOOOT of Math in my life.  I don’t really need to be seeing graphs and percentages when I’m trying to read a book about a game show.  So unfortunately this book became my first DNF of the year.

However. If you’re looking for statistics and an in depth analysis of The Price is Right and how to make your wagers should you ever find yourself on the show – and you’re ready, sooo soo ready for tons and tons of math – GO FOR IT and read this book.  It just wasn’t the right match for me but I am sure there are more statistically minded people out there who would absolutely love this one.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

The Price is Right is television’s longest-running game show. Since its inception in 1956, contestants have won cars, tropical vacations, diamond jewelry, even a live horse, and the hosts’ excited catchphrase “come on down!” has become part of our everyday vernacular. Part of the program’s enduring appeal is the apparent ease of the game, guessing the cash value of certain prizes. But, if that’s the case, then why do so many contestants come away from the show empty-handed?

Solving The Price is Right is an in-depth exploration of the underlying probability theory of the popular television program that explores how biases and behavioral pitfalls limit our ability to successfully apply logic and math both on and off the show. With rigorous data and analysis compiled from Seasons 47 and 48 (356 total episodes), investor and math practitioner Justin L. Bergner draws strategic and mathematical insights from all facets of the show, from Contestant’s Row bidding to the Showcase Showdown, and all 77 Pricing Games, using a combination of game theory, probability theory, statistics, and pattern recognition. In each section, Bergner summarizes contestant performance, highlights the biases leading to sub-par outcomes, and shows how outcomes can be improved by executing the right strategies while avoiding cognitive biases.

Throughout, Bergner applies the lessons learned to the fields of business, finance, and our real lives, shedding light on themes of reverse psychology, strategic patience, and the importance of establishing what is sufficient for success in our pursuits. The result is a truly unique and meticulously researched book that uses Solving The Price is Right as a lens to examine our own choices – and how to make better ones.

Justin L. Bergner graduated cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics with a specific focus on Game Theory and Probability Theory. Since receiving an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he has served as an Equity Investment Analyst and Portfolio Manager. He maintains the popular mathematics blog

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