by Sunshine Chen ’23
Want to learn how to become a millionaire during quarantine (and play some monopoly in the process)? Read on.
Monopoly is fundamentally a game of chance. This means using statistics and probability can maximize our possibility of success.
The Role of the Dice (no pun intended):
The dice is an essential part of Monopoly. There are 2 dice and the sum of the numbers on each dice decides your final move. Using probability, we can calculate that the number 7 can be derived from the various combinations of different digits (e.g. 1+6, 2+5, 3+4) and so we find that the probability of rolling a 7 is higher than any other number.
Why should you care though? If someone is 7 spots behind you, you should highly consider building property right now., since they are likely to roll a 7 in the next turn and land on your purchased property.
Chance cards are another crucial component of Monopoly. There are 16 chance cards arranged in a pile at the beginning of each game.
Chance cards (16 total):
- Pay money (3 cards)
- Receive money (3 cards)
- Go to jail (1 card)
- Get out of jail (1 card)
- Move somewhere else (8 cards)
This cheat sheet shows how you can have a 50% chance (8/16) of being displaced to another position. The card may ask you to move to the following locations:
- Nearest utility
- 3 spaces back
- Nearest railroad
- Designated property: New York Avenue (orange), St. Charles Place (pink), Illinois Avenue (red) and Boardwalk (dark blue)
This means that you should consider purchasing St. Charles Place, Illinois Avenue, Boardwalk and New York avenue, utilities, and railroad stations. It is very likely that someone else will receive a chance card and be instructed to move to your newly purchased property.
There are a variety of ways to find yourself in jail: receiving a chance or community card, rolling doubles 3 times in succession (a.k.a. speeding), or landing on a “Go To Jail” space.
Out of all of these options, speeding might seem like the most improbable since there is only a 0.4% chance that you will row doubles 3 times in a row. However, if you multiply 0.4% by 50 turns, there is actually a 20% chance of landing in jail. Going to jail is much easier than you think!
Jail essentially acts as a new start and an alternative “Go” space for all players. Each player who is in jail starts at the same place. This not only means that there is a high probability for a player to land on one of the properties following jail, but it also means that players will likely roll a 7 (see “The Role of the Dice”). The property 7 spaces away from jail will be visited the most often, and thus you should consider purchasing it.
Certain individuals (who perhaps were bored) created a breakeven table, which tells you how long it takes for players to start profiting. They used the steady-state probability matrix and the cost of building houses to come up with the chart below. They found that building 3 houses, for the most part, is the sweet spot and will optimize the cash flow into your hands.
- Purchase property if your opponent is 7 spaces behind you.
- Purchase the designated properties (New York Avenue, St. Charles Place, Illinois Avenue and Boardwalk) listed in Community and Chance cards.
- Purchase properties on the route immediately following jail (especially the 7th space after jail).
- Purchase 3 houses on each property.
Don’t worry if you find yourself in jail, it might be a blessing. After all, even if you can’t collect rent, you can’t land on your opponents’ properties either! Using these strategies, you’ll undoubtedly have a higher chance of winning your next game of Monopoly.
- “How to use math to win at Monopoly” Business Insider, 7 May. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_SXFtdf65s
- Suksmith, Paris, et al. “Monopoly – A Game of Chance?” EtonSTEM, 29 Mar. 2020, etonstem.com/monopoly.
- Hickey, Walt. “How To Use Math To Crush Your Friends At Monopoly Like You’ve Never Done Before.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 20 June 2013, www.businessinsider.com/math-monopoly-statistics-2013-6#-53.