The Price is Right host Drew Carey appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and was asked where the best place to drop a Plinko chip is to win $10,000. A friend of mine backed up Drew's answer with some amazing math skills. 

Bowen Kerins of Salem, Massachusetts writes math textbooks and, like me, is a huge game show fan. He was a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and now does mathematical consulting for game shows in development. He also is a world pinball champion, so if you listen to the Q Morning Show, you know the connection.

When Stephen Colbert asked Drew Carey where the best place to drop a Plinko chip was, he said right in the middle.

Bowen had already worked out the math on this several years ago and was able to confirm that dropping a chip in middle gives it the best probability of earning the most money. Here are some Plinko stats that he has gathered.

  • From 2000 to 2011 Plinko was played 308 times
  • 1227 total chips were dropped
  • 176 of those chips landed in the $10,000 space (14.3%)
  • The total winnings in 11 years was $2,214,600 which is $1805 per chip
  • Average winnings per game was $7,190

Using these stats and backtracking expected values from the bottom of the board, Bowen was able to calculate the expected value of dropping a chip above each slot in the board.

Bowen Kerins
Bowen Kerins

If you want to get deeper into the math, you can look at the Powerpoint of his presentation, but in the end, the math proves that you should drop it in the middle to get the best value.

Bowen Kerins
Bowen Kerins

Bowen tweeted the math behind Plinko and got a retweet from Drew himself.

Now dropping it in the middle doesn't guarantee you'll be a big winner, but the middle gives you the best expected value. The biggest Plinko winner off all time took home $31,000 and never once dropped it in the middle.

The math is in your favor though. Listen to Drew and Bowen. If you're ever on the show and you get to play Plinko, take no chances! You'll only get one shot at this. Drop it in the middle!

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