WEEKLY WHINE

# Jasmine’s *The Price Is Right* Strategy Guide: Clock Game

Hi there. I’m Jasmine. Did you know that the Clock Game on *The Price Is Right* is not difficult? Really. It’s *not* hard. In fact, it should be an automatic win. The success rate should be 100%.

In most pricing games on *The Price Is Right*, knowledge of prices is helpful. Hence the name *pricing game*: it’s a *game* where you *price* things.

But the Clock Game is different. In the Clock Game, the essential skill required to win is not knowing the prices of the items. It’s knowing how to play the game.

To win the Clock Game, all you need to do is perform a binary search. The prices are almost always less than US$1,000. 2^{10} is 1,024, so you should, theoretically, be able to determine any three digit price in no more than ten guesses.

Here is an example of how not to play the game. Notice that Garry is jumping around the solution space haphazardly, particularly on his bids for the camera. By the fourteen second mark, he has narrowed the price to between $955 and $965. All he has to do is shout, “Nine fifty six, seven, eight, nine, nine sixty, nine sixty one, two, three, four”. Instead, he stumbles up that range and suddenly backtracks to $975.

So the obvious first rule is: **Keep track of what you guessed**.

Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly under bright studio lights, with hundreds of people watching in the studio, and with millions watching when the episode airs.

But some guesses are easier to track than others. Here is another example. By the eleven second mark, Terrie has determined that the price is lower than $800. What is her next guess? Why, $622, obviously. At that point, she creeps slowly upward, which is actually lucky for her because the correct price is $654. Had it been $754, she would never have gotten close.

The second rule, therefore, has to be: **Narrow the price down by digits**.

Here is what we mean by that. Assuming three digit prices, and given no other information, what should your first guess be? $500, obviously. A proper binary search bisects the search region every time, so if the price is higher than $500, your next guess, ideally, would be $750. If it’s lower than that, you would guess $625 next, and then $687 or something.

Following a proper binary search, therefore, is a little tricky. Instead, you should guess multiples of $100 until you narrow the price to a $100 range. Then guess in multiples of $10, and so on.

If the price is higher than $500, a good second guess would be $800. [Alternatively, you might want to guess $1,000, just in case they have chosen a four digit price.] You might then guess $700 or $600, or both if necessary.

So you should be able to narrow the price to a $100 range in your first four or five guesses. At this point, you no longer have to remember each of those five guesses. You just have to remember the first digit. For instance, if the price is lower than $700 but higher than $600, you simply have to start all of your remaining guesses with a six.

Now, you can repeat the process with the tens digit. In this example, you would obviously guess $650. If it is lower, you might go to $620, and then $630, and then $640. So, in no more than four additional guesses, you have narrowed the price to a $10 range. Although this process uses up more guesses than a proper binary search, it is easier for the human mind to process, and so it will be a net time savings.

At this point, you can make use of a trick that alarmingly few contestants employ. In this example, by the twenty one second mark, Gary has narrowed the price of the grill to between $845 and $850. But instead of saying “Eight hundred forty six, eight hundred forty seven, eight hundred forty eight, eight hundred forty nine”, he simply says, “Eight hundred forty six, forty seven, forty eight, forty nine”. He therefore squeezes four guesses into two seconds of gameplay.

This type of shorthand has always been available to Clock Game players, dating back to Bob Barker’s era. Not many players use it today, but it is critical to success in this game.

So the third rule is: **When you’re down to the last digit, just plow through all the choices**.

If you have narrowed the range to between $630 and $640, just say “Six thirty one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine” until you hear the bells. It should take you no more than three seconds to say all that. Don’t even wait for Drew to say “higher” or “lower”: you already know that at $631, Drew is not going to say “lower”. His only choices are “higher” and “yes!”.

So now that you know how to play the Clock Game, shall we try it out? Below, we have randomly selected a three digit number. Simply enter your guess and press Enter. We will tell you whether to go higher or lower, and you can then repeat the process until you arrive at the correct answer.

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