You Can Beat Almost Anyone at Guess Who? with Some Math Skills

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If you weren’t aware, over here at Geek & Sundry, we love to play Guess Who?. And we also love to beat other people at Guess Who?. That’s why we were psyched to find out that there are ways to use data and math to statistically plan the best strategy for Guess Who?. In case you need a refresher on the game, each player chooses a character and the other player has to ask yes or no questions in an effort to narrow down the possible people their opponent could be. But there is a strategy to how and what you ask. So what do you need to do? Follow along with the math below.

1. Know Your Characters

Rafael Prieto Curiel went through the statistics of the 24 traditional Guess Who? characters and categorized them based on their features, such as “black hair”, “big mouth”, “earrings”. Using these common features, he was able to create a grid of characters by the various categories, narrowing down which features have the most characters within their category. Make sense? Just check out this chart:

2. Know your Questions

In Guess Who?, you can’t ask subjective questions like “do you look funny?”, but instead can only ask questions about specific attributes of the characters. Basically, each question must have a definitive answer. Rafael found that there are 22 possible questions to ask about the 24 people in Guess Who?. Why is this important? Continue on.

3. Know your Strategy

So, you know the characters and the possible questions, but how do you know which order to ask them in? There are a few different strategies for which order to ask the questions in. You can play a little riskier and ask about earrings (which only two people wear) in hopes of getting lucky, or you can use this handy graph laying out how many people can possibly be eliminated using each question to plot your strategy. There’s an equation to figure this out if you’re interested, but for you visual learners, use this chart:

4. Know your Options

Even if you decide to use the above chart to decide which questions to ask, each question then leads you down a path of endless possibilities. So how can you possibly know which route to take? Again, Rafael has you covered. By analyzing the correlated questions associated with each individual question, he created a chart for the precise order that is best to ask questions in, including what to ask next depending on the responses. Ok, it’s getting complicated but here’s a chart:

According to Rafael, using this “optimal” strategy doesn’t guarantee you a win. If “the opponent plays a naive strategy” you’ll be defeated “8% of the time.” I’ll take those odds.

Want to read more about the math used to figure out these tips? Head over to Chalkboard Magazine for more fun charts!

So, what’s your Guess Who? strategy? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: Milton Bradley / Amazon

Image Credit: Rafael Prieto Curiel / Chalkdust Magazine

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