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Jasmine’s The Price Is Right Strategy Guide: Lucky Seven

Hi there, I’m Jasmine. We continue our look at pricing games on The Price Is Right with an old favourite, Lucky Seven.

Lucky Seven is played for a car. At the start of the game, you are given seven dollar bills, and shown the first of the five digits in the car’s price. You then guess the remaining digits, one by one. Each time, you must give back a number of dollar bills equal to the absolute value of the difference between your guess and the actual digit. If you have at least one dollar remaining at the end, you may purchase the car for one dollar.

Lucky Seven was introduced in 1973, near the end of the first season. It is a popular game, though the difficulty can vary greatly depending upon how generous the production staff is feeling. If they don’t want to give the car away, you will get a price like US$17,918, as Charles did. If they do, as on Bob Barker’s last show, you will get a price like US$45,675, which is the producers saying, “Please win this car, Denise! We beg you!”

Even though the choice of cars affects the difficulty, you are not completely at the producers’ whims. The first thing to keep in mind is that this game has an unwritten rule.

Several pricing games on The Price Is Right have unwritten rules. We have previously examined Clock Game, where the unwritten rule is that all prices are less than US$1,000.

In the case of Lucky Seven, the unwritten rule is that none of the digits are zeroes. So don’t guess zero.

Then what should you guess? You can usually make a reasonable guess at the second digit, given the car model and the first digit. The other digits are not easily guessed, so you will have to rely on luck. Some players like to guess all fives, but that does not work if those digits are outliers.

Instead, you should assume that the last three digits are likely to include some outliers. Since you cannot know whether the outlier will be high or low, I think the best approach is to guess one way or the other, like a goalkeeper defending a penalty. If the digit is high, a guess of seven means that you will lose no more than two dollars, and the same is true for a low digit and a guess of three. This also helps cover any middle digits. Admittedly, however, if you are unlucky and guess three on a high digit, or seven on a low digit, you are screwed.

Therefore, on the third and fourth digits, you should guess either three or seven. Once you get to the last digit, the number of dollars you have remaining should inform your decision. If you have two dollars remaining, you can be off by one, so don’t guess one or nine. Your guess on the last digit should be between N and 10–N, where N is the number of dollars you have remaining.

As a corollary, if you have at least five dollars remaining on the last digit, say five. Don’t think about it. Don’t look at the audience. Just say five and win the car.

As another corollary, if you get to the fourth digit with only one or two dollars remaining, you will have to take a risk. Threes and sevens are no longer good enough; you should be willing to guess one, two, eight, or nine.

So now that you know how to play Lucky Seven, shall we try it out? Below, we have randomly selected a five digit number, with the first digit shown. Simply click on your guesses for the remaining digits and see if you are successful.

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