Have you ever heard of The Price is Right? One of television’s longest-running game show, with both American and British iterations, The Price is Right is still running on CBS today, having premiered on the same channel in 1972. Anywhere from six to nine contestants compete by guessing the price of various products and merchandise in order to win cash and prizes. But one of The Price is Right’s most famous and beloved exports is the game of Plinko.
What is Plinko?
On The Price is Right, Plinko was originally played on a pegboard-like board, with eight or nine spaces at the board’s base. These spaces were demarcated with a particular cash value, varying from a $0 total right through to the grand prize of $10,000 in the board’s center.
Contestants would secure anywhere up to five chips, and position themselves at the top of the Plinko pegboard. From there, they would choose where to place their chip, letting it loose to ricochet down the board into any of the spaces at its bottom, which would determine what kind of prize was won.
Plinko’s popularity can be seen in the fact that this stage version of the game has migrated onto digital, online versions. You, the gamer, are given the equivalent of the chip that The Price is Right contestants would play with. It’s up to you to choose the path of your chip and attempt to win cash prizes.
Sounds fairly simple, right? But why is Plinko so enduringly popular?
It’s a bit like ‘real life’
Part of the joy of Plinko is its apparent randomness. A contestant or gamer chooses where to place their chip on the board, which then bounces down in a seemingly random way.
In many ways, then, Plinko appears to be a bit like life. Much like the chip, you can be on the right track, making your way towards a serious prize, only to be thrust off course by an arbitrary diversion or blockade. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, and it’s up to you to take the setbacks in your stride. But is Plinko so random?
It’s indicative of chaos theory
In actual fact, Plinko is emblematic of chaos theory. Contestants might drop a chip down one slot in a first play, and win a significant cash prize as a result, only to drop a second chip down the same plot and be disappointed. Why is this?
It’s actually to do with physics – specifically, the second law of thermodynamics. This is less the case with smaller Plinko boards such as those used on The Price is Right and online Plinko games, as there’s a limited number of courses that the chip can take.
But, were this board to expand, there’d be an increased number of possible outcomes with wildly different results. In other words, Plinko illustrates chaos theory.
It can be gamed
Because the Plinko boards played online or on TV have defined limits, there are theoretically ways to game it. You need to use math in order to do so, and have a sound understanding of statistics and probability, but it potentially can be done.
Plinko therefore appeals to those who like to try their hand at out-gaming the game.