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Written by Irvin R. Hentzel, PhD, Iowa State University.

The Math Professor's Secrets of Winning At Monopoly Every Time

People would be better Monopoly players if they knew more about the probabilities involved.

While winning any one game requires some luck since moves are dictated by the dice there are ways to tilt the odds dramatically in your favor...

BACKGROUND

One key to winning is to put your money where it will earn the highest return. But the choice is not always obvious. The money you can expect to earn from a property depends not only on its rent but also on how often players land on it.

Example: The many players who consider Boardwalk and Park Place to be the best positions are mistaken. They are actually the fourth-best positions.

Where players land most often: Illinois Avenue...followed by Go...B&O Railroad...Free Parking... Tennessee Avenue...New York Avenue...Reading Railroad...St. James Place...Water Works...and Pennsylvania Railroad.

The frequency of landing on a square is affected by the odds of throwing doubles, landing in Jail and being forced to move according to the whims of Chance and Community Chest.

All squares of the Orange monopoly (Tennessee, New York and St. James) are on the hot list. So is the Orange monopoly the best in the game? Yes AND no. When you own a monopoly, your expected return is easy to calculate. It rises for each monopoly as you go around the board, with one exception. Boardwalk/Park Place ranks between Orange and Red monopolies.

More important: Your return for each dollar invested. On that basis, the Orange monopoly beats all others, with a return of 4.5 cents per turn per dollar invested.

How ideal this location is depends on how much money you have. Examples...

*If you have more than $2,500, the Green monopoly offers you the largest pure return.

*If you have $800 to $2,000, the Orange monopoly offers you the largest pure return.

*If you have less than $500, the railroads offer the most bang for the buck.

THE PEASANT STRATEGY

A few rounds into the game, get a sense of whether you have more money than your opponents.

If you have only $800 to $2,000 and doubt whether you'll have enough money to make an expensive monopoly pay off, adopt my Peasant Strategy. Instead of waiting to land on and buy an expensive monopoly, choose one that pays off moderately well early in the game.

This will help prevent opponents from acquiring enough capital to improve their property by adding houses.

Best Peasant Strategy properties to own: The Orange monopoly followed by Boardwalk/Park Place, the Yellow and the Red monopolies.

You have limited power in "choosing" monopolies. But the strategy applies, too, when you trade properties with opponents. If you don't have enough to execute any strategy of your choosing, trade some nonessential properties for cash.

Example: You opponent has $1,500 in cash, and you have little. You have the Green monopoly, and he/she has the Light Blue. Offer to trade the Green for the Light Blue and $1,000.

Why give away the best property in the game? Because your opponent will have a great property but little cash to develop it, while you can immediately put three hotels on the Light Blue monopoly for just $1,050.

If you have no cash: Trade a monopoly for four railroads. You'll accumulate cash as your opponent lands on railroads (the probability is high) and pays you $200 each time.

Eventually, he may be willing to trade back a monopoly for the railroads. It will probably be a cheap one, such as the Maroon monopoly (St. Charles Place, States Avenue and Virginia Avenue). With cash from railroad rents, you should be able to improve the property quickly.

To win with the Peasant Strategy, you have to win early.

Reason: Otherwise, an opponent's Green or Yellow monopoly will ruin you.

Strategy: Once you have a monopoly, do all you can to raise cash so you can build. Sell or mortgage properties, and sell "Get Out of Jail Free" cards. As long as you properties are significantly better developed than your opponents' properties, you are likely to win. So don't be cautious.

THE TYCOON STRATEGY

If you have more than $2,000 in cash, do not build by adding houses to your properties until you have acquired enough capital for at least three houses on each property of the monopoly. At that time, the Tycoon should build.

Meanwhile, do what you can to discourage opponents from developing their properties.

Strategies: Use psychological warfare. Talk about the joys of cash. Emphasize that the game is too young for building. Be patient until the opponent has built three houses on one property. At that time, the opponent is using the Peasant Strategy and psychology won't work anymore...so try building as much as you can.

If you start with my Peasant Strategy and then accumulate wealth, switch to the Tycoon Strategy.

OTHER STRATEGIES

*Building houses. Game rules state that houses and hotels must be built up evenly across like-colored monopolies.

So where should add-on houses go? Build up properties around the board counterclockwise in the reverse order from the direction of play.

Exception: The second extra house on the Maroon property should go on St. Charles, not States, because players land there more often.

*First few trips around the board. But everything you land on. This strategy gives you more options, especially is you are a skillful trader of properties.

*When you own two monopolies, build up one exclusively. It's usually wise to mortgage the other monopoly in order to raise cash to invest in houses and hotels on the other one.

*Jail. When you need properties, pay $50 to get out of Jail. Otherwise, don't pay a dime to get out.

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