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Game Theory on Golden Balls

The show Golden Balls shows a classic example of game theory. The contestants go through a series of tasks and challenges in pairs very similar to certain challenges in the Price is Right, and through these challenges accumulate large sums of British pounds. At the end of their money collections, these two individuals are presented with a major decision to make. Both contestants up to this point, have been doing their best to work collaboratively to accumulate the most money possible. However, now they are pitted against each other as they are presented with a choice: split or steal.

The two contestants have these two options of split or steal and depending on what each of them choose, there are different outcomes. If both players choose split, then both walk away with half of their accumulated earnings. If one person chooses split while the other chooses steal, the one that chose to steal takes all the money. Lastly, if both people choose steal, then no one gets any money. The easiest choice for both players to be happy would be for them to both choose split, yet game theory tells us that each player will try maximize their earnings and thus it is most opportune for each person to choose steal. The contestants have a minute or two to talk to each other and convince them that they will split and thus share the prize money but many times, game theory dominates and one contestant will steal as is the expected option within the realm of game theory.

This clip comes from an episode hosting two contestants. One named Nick and the other isĀ Ibrahim. Within this clip, Nick plays a mind game on Ibrahim in which he informs him that he is no matter what going to steal and therefore if Ibrahim would like to see any of the cash prize Nick will share the winnings after they go backstage. Ibrahim is now in a dilemma, in which his only option is to split if Nick is so adamant he will steal. Well in the end Nick turns the tables on him, and in fact does choose split. They both do split and leave with half the winnings each which was the overall goal but this way Nick was able to ensure that the intended outcome was split. Nick perfectly utilized game theory tactics by limiting Ibrahim’s options resulting in him with the Dominant Strategy securing the win for Nick.


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September 2015