The Sketchy Game Theory of Deal or No Deal

My channel-surfing friends elected to stick with Deal or No Deal only after I cracked open my laptop, fired up Excel, and ran an ongoing commentary on the expected value of that last suitcase and predicted what the Banker would offer whichever manic sap was on the hot spot that week. It was a weird and fun feeling to entertain a small crowd with math.¶ Problem was, I was always off on the Banker’s offer. I had questions about that; Tony Lucchese has answers.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. The MathGrad podcast has a nice, succinct audio explanation of the Deal of No Deal phenomenon (check out shows 11 and/or 12).

    The first (and only) time that I watched that show, I was frustrated to no end when the contestant and his loving-but-completely-mathematically-ignorant family kept going for the big $$$ even when the odds kept stacking further and further against them! This is one of several reasons that I could never seriously try gambling. Oh, and the fact that I have a teacher’s salary ;-)

  2. This show makes me wish I was still teaching prob & stats. SO many good opportunities for discussion. Though I have stopped short of grabbing my laptop during the show, I’d be interested to see what you came up with!

    I also wonder whether (or how much) the banker tweaks the offer based on his perception of the contestant’s tolerance for risk.