7 May 2003
Mathematician gives tips on how to become a millionaire
Brains, luck and being a bit of a daredevil are essential criteria for doing well in big money TV quiz shows. But you could also improve your chances of winning by employing some simple maths.
In an updated edition of his book about probabilities, Taking Chances, University of Sussex mathematician Dr John Haigh analysed the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and has come up with some honest tactics to help contestants reach the coveted seven-figure sum.
The tips include:
If you don't know the answer in the "fastest finger first" question, use the letter order DACB. This was the combination that cropped up most frequently (11 times out of 120 games) compared with the least likely, ABCD (0 out of 120) in Dr Haigh's analysis.
When facing the final question to which you don't know the answer, and presuming that you have not used any of your lifelines, go for "50-50" first (in which two of the four possible answers are removed). Then choose "ask the audience" and finally "phone a friend". If you phone your friend before asking the audience, your friend may influence the audience's erroneous thoughts and push them in the wrong direction. At earlier stages of the competition, use whichever lifeline is the most appropriate.
If you're not sure of an answer, do not muse aloud before consulting the audience. The audience will want to boost your self-esteem by agreeing with you, even if they don't know the answer.
"To win a million pounds, you need luck, a wide knowledge and the nous to make good use of your lifelines," says Dr Haigh. "But it helps enormously to be rich already as you can then don't mind taking risks to reach the last question. Most of us would want to be very certain of the correct answers."
In Taking Chances (published by OUP,£9.99), Dr Haigh also analyses the best strategies for winning in another TV quiz game, The Weakest Link, as well as card games and board games. For example, in Monopoly it is more lucrative to buy the orange properties as they are landed on more than any others on the board. Because the "Go to Jail" square is the most frequently visited, landing on the orange properties is most likely because they can be reached directly from the jail square with a throw of 6,8 or 9 - among the most common totals in terms of probability.
Notes for editors
Dr John Haigh can be contacted on 01273 678104, email J.Haigh@sussex.ac.uk
Press Office contacts:
Jacqui Bealing or Peter Simmons,
University of Sussex,
Tel. 01273 678888,
Fax 01273 877456,
Email: J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk or P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk.
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