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how to win monopoly in 21 seconds

How To Win Monopoly In 21 Seconds

The shortest possible game of Monopoly requires only four turns, nine rolls of the dice, and twenty-one seconds, Daniel J. Myers, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame University, told NPR’s Robert Siegel.

(You can read the entire play-by-play after the jump, originally posted on Scatterplot.)

In short, here’s what has to happen:

“One player moves around the board very quickly, to buy Boardwalk and Park Place, and places houses on them,” Myers explained. “And the other one ends up drawing a Chance card that sends them to Boardwalk, and they don’t have enough money to pay the rent with three houses, and the game is over.”

So, what is the statistical probability of that particular game happening?

The odds are very, very, very slim.

Statistically speaking, it would happen “once every 253,899,891,671,040 games,” Josh Whitford, an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University, says.

For a long time, Myers and his son have tried to figure out how to shorten length of time it takes to play Monopoly, to refute critics who complain the Hasbro (nee Parker Brothers) board game is a waste of time.

In an interview that will air on All Things Considered today, Myers said he is confident they’ve figured it out.

There have been some proposals for some that are shorter. So, we’re going to have top check those out and see how they actually fare, and if they follow the rules or not. But we’re confident we’re in the top handful, even if we’re not number one.

So, what’s next for Myers and his son? They’ll try to figure out how to play the shortest game of Risk, which he predicts will be more difficult.

“Making someone go bankrupt isn’t quite as complicated as world domination,” Myers said.

Player 1, Turn 1:

Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Electric Company
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Illinois Avenue
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 4-5, Lands on: Community Chest “Bank error in your favor, Collect $200”
Action: Collects $200 (now has $1700)

Player 2, Turn 1:

Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Income Tax
Action: Pay $200 (now has $1300), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 5-6, Lands on: Pennsylvania Rail Road
Action: None

Player 1, Turn 2:

Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Park Place
Action: Purchase ($350, now has $1350), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 1-1, Lands on: Boardwalk
Action: Purchase ($400, now has $950), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 3-1, Lands on Baltic Avenue
Action: Collect $200 for passing GO (now has $1150), Purchase 3 houses for Boardwalk, 2 for Park Place ($1000, now has $150)

Player 2, Turn 2:

Roll: 3-4, Lands on: Chance, “Advance to Boardwalk”
Action: Advance to Boardwalk, Rent is $1400, only has $1300 = Bankrupt

The shortest theoretical Monopoly game.

The Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly: 21 Seconds

OK, since no one is posting, you get to endure another Monopoly post!

After our recent attempt to play the shortest actual game of Monopoly on record, we started to wonder about what the shortest THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE game of Monopoly would be. That is, if everything went just the right way, with just the right sequence of rolls, Chance and Community Chest cards, and so on, what is the quickest way one player could go bankrupt? After working on the problem for a while, we boiled it down to a 4-turn (2 per player), 9 roll (including doubles) game. Detail on each move given below. If executed quickly enough, this theoretical game can be played in 21 seconds (see video below).

Player 1, Turn 1: Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Electric Company
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Illinois Avenue
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 4-5, Lands on: Community Chest “Bank error in your favor, Collect $200”
Action: Collects $200 (now has $1700)

Player 2, Turn 1: Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Income Tax
Action: Pay $200 (now has $1300), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 5-6, Lands on: Pennsylvania Rail Road
Action: None

Player 1, Turn 2:

Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Park Place
Action: Purchase ($350, now has $1350), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 1-1, Lands on: Boardwalk
Action: Purchase ($400, now has $950), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 3-1, Lands on Baltic Avenue
Action: Collect $200 for passing GO (now has $1150), Purchase 3 houses for Boardwalk, 2 for Park Place ($1000, now has $150)

Player 2, Turn 2:

Roll: 3-4, Lands on: Chance, “Advance to Boardwalk”
Action: Advance to Boardwalk, Rent is $1400, only has $1300 = Bankrupt

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120 thoughts on “The Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly: 21 Seconds”

Hmm. I thought, “Come on, Dan! Clearly this can be shortened.” But, lo, I cannot see how.

I look forward to the shortest possible game of Risk.

Official Monopoly rules:

“If he does not wish to buy the MONOPOLY property it is sold at auction by the Banker to the highest bidder.”

The following properties were landed on and went unpurchased and didn’t go through an auction either (which is a rule violation):

Winning Player:
Electric Company
Illinois Avenue
Baltic Avenue

Loosing Player
Pensylvania Railroad

What the looser purchases is irrelevant since he is destined to go bankrupt anyway…

But the winning player would have either

spent some of his money, and therefore wouldn’t be able to afford the houses to bankrupt player 2
or
they would have had an auction which would have taken up more time.

If you want to be stupid about it… which they already were since the players weren’t buying valid properties… I can legally bankrupt player 2 on his first role, and accomplish it in 5 seconds (I didn’t make a video, but I did it).

Player 1: rolls a 1:2, lands on Baltic avenue, doesn’t want it, declares auction. Player two offers $1450 for it. Player 1 declines, player 2 tosses the cash and gets the card, and now has only $50.

Player 2 roles a 1:1 and lands on community chest “Pay School Tax: $150” Player 2 bankrupt. Game over… legally.

Several people have pointed out this auctioning thing, but it’s not right. Someone doesn’t HAVE to buy it. All players can refuse to bid. The property goes unsold. We didn’t bid. Auction over. The wild auctioning have been taken up previously as well–and I think that is completely valid. Likewise, someone else pointed out an even shorter, completely legal, strategy on another blog which is that one player just immediately quits! Nothing in the rule preventing that!

One optional rule of monopoly is that no player may purchase properties until passing Go. This is a common rule at my house.

(Although, when you write this up for publication, I think the proper move for Player 2 is to pay the 10% rather than the $200 on Income Tax, even though it isn’t enough to save her/him.)

You are absolutely correct about the income tax. I can’t believe we missed that after everything we went through to get it down to this point. And, while there are obviously other ways to do this in the same number of rolls, I also can’t think of how to get it shorter than this. Risk, Parcheesi, Life, Candyland…the possibilities are endless…

Two things – actually, current Monopoly boards have the income tax as $200 – 10% is not an option. Second, when you land on an unowned property, “none” isn’t a realistic action. If the player who lands on a property chooses to not buy it, the property goes up for auction (if, of course, you’re playing by the rules). While it *is* possible that no one would buy the property, even for a $1, I don’t think it’s very likely. If we’re going to consider unrealistic possibilities, consider this:

Player 1, Turn 1:
Player rolls anything that lands them onto a property. Doesn’t buy it – it auctions. Both players bid until Player 2 bids $1,500. P2 gets the propert.

Player 2, Turn 1:
Player 2 rolls and lands on Income Tax (on a current board) and has to pay $200. Game over.

Very good! I’m definitely going to remember your strategy the next time I want to get out of a Monopoly game quickly!

Using insane auctioning, I think I can do you one better though: Player 1 rolls double 4s–landing on Vermont–declines to buy and auctioning begins. Since you can bid on a property you declined to buy, the auctioning continues and Player 1 ends up buying Vermont for $1500. Then the second roll based on doubles is a 4-5, community chest and its any card where you have to pay. Player 1 is bankrupt and Player 2 never even had a turn!

I also think you can do the same thing without landing on any actual properties, thus eliminating auctioning:
P1: 5-5 Jail, 6-6 Chance, 5-6 Community Chest
P2: 5-5 Jail, 4-3 Comm Chest (pay 150)

@blue monster
You Player 1 bankruptcy isn’t realistic (as unrealistic as this all is). The auctioning doesn’t begin until the landing player opts to *not* buy the property.

Why then, would this player decide to purchase it within the auction process for a much more expensive price.

Although, I guess he could be trying to get it for cheaper (doesn’t buy it, and Player 2 is only willing to risk $1 on the purchase, so Player 1 gets it for $2).

@walesmd – It *is* possible. I’ve let stuff go to auction thinking I could shave a few bucks off when another player decides to drive the price up. Now, it is *unlikely* that the price would get driven up to $1,500… 😉

The hidden assumption here is that the rules are being followed. In my family it was perfectly possible to have games of Monopoly that ran a good deal shorter than 21 seconds given the propensity of some players to steal all your money or turn the board upside down or throw your top hat down the stairs. To be honest I’d always thought the real purpose of Monopoly was not so much to be a proper board game but rather to serve as a focus for sibling conflict.

Indeed. The quickest game I ever played was the one where I caught my brother hiding a couple of $500 bills under his corner of the board before the game even started!

Without insane auctioning, but by allowing P2 to purchase a property, you can do a bit better:

P1,T1
(same as above; 3 turns)

P2,T1
3-4 -> Chance -> Advance to Illinois
Action: Purchase Illinois (-$240, but effective -$120 because of ability to mortgage: total: $1380)

P1,T2
2-2 Park Place, purchase
6-4 Chance (+$200 for passing GO), advance to Boardwalk, purchase property and houses

P2,T2
6-6 Chance
Action: Pay $50 to each player (total $1330)
1-2 Boardwalk; GAME

8 turns instead of the above 9

Brilliant! I doff my cap to you, sir!

Faster perhaps. But less likely. Four and a half times less likely than the 9 move version… (once every 1,184,866,161,131,520.00 trials)

Well, roll #7 is completely irrelevant as long as it’s a double in the 2-2 to 6-6 range; and the Chance card doesn’t matter. I guess that was just icing, because P2 is already low enough on cash before hitting that final chance.

Still, even considering that, it’s less likely.

Here’s another way that takes only 8 moves and two turns per player, and does not require Boardwalk and Park Place. In fact, neither player touches the fourth side of the board. Also, there are no insane auctions, and Player 2 does not get to make any decisions at all about buying property.

Player 1, Turn 1:
1-1 -> Community Chest, Bank Error in Your Favor, collect $200 (Player 1 now at $1700). Doubles, so roll again.
5-3 -> Visiting Jail.

Player 2, Turn 1:
3-1 -> Income Tax, Pay $200 (Player 2 now at $1300, or $1350 if 10% of assets ($150) is allowed as in the older games – it really doesn’t matter).

Player 1, Turn 2:
3-3 -> St. James Place, Buy for $180 (Player 1 now at $1520). Doubles, so roll again.
1-1 -> Tennessee Avenue, Buy for $180 (Player 1 now at $1340). Doubles, so roll again.
3-1 -> Chance, Go Back 3 Spaces -> New York Avenue, Buy for $200 (Player 1 now at $1140).
At the end of his turn, Player 1 puts 4 houses on St. James Place ($400), 3 houses on Tennessee Avenue ($300), and 4 houses on New York Avenue ($400), for a total cost of $1100 (Player 1 now at $40 cash on hand).

Player 2, Turn 2:
6-6 -> St. James Place, with 4 houses is $750 (Player 2 now at $550 or $600, depending on the income tax square). Doubles, so roll again.
2-1 -> New York Avenue, with 4 houses is $800.
GAME.

There are several variations to this sequence of events that ultimately produce the same result. Player 1’s first turn could be land on Community Chest, get Advance to Go Collect $200, then get a 6-4 to visit jail. Or, after obtaining $200 from Community Chest via bank error or going to go, visiting jail could be reached by doubles (4-4 in my original scenario or 5-5 in the alternate scenario). In this case, a 4-2 or 5-1 gets St. James on Player 1’s first turn, and he/she simply buys Tennessee Avenue and New York Avenue via the same rolls and methods as listed above in his/her second turn.

And yes, I spent way too much time figuring this all out. Oh well, I really enjoyed thinking about it – excellent idea for a post!

This is elegant insofar as it gets to the end in 8 moves without requiring any bad decisions either in prospect or retrospect by the losing player.

OK, since no one is posting, you get to endure another Monopoly post! After our recent attempt to play the shortest actual game of Monopoly on record, we started to wonder about what the shortest THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE game of Monopoly would be. That is, if everything went just the right way, with just the right… ]]>