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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 19:05 GMT
Formula for quiz show success
The player deemed the "weakest link" is voted out
Game show contestants on The Weakest Link could win more money by following a set strategy.

According to a US mathematician, banking the winnings after every right answer or after a run of six is the best formula for success. Eight players compete on the TV quiz show, answering questions in turn.

They accumulate money for the team when they answer a question correctly.

 I am always struck by how little money is actually given away Paul Coe, mathematician
Money is only carried over to the next round if contestants bank their cash before hearing their question. If they do not bank the money, the stakes are higher.

At the end of each round one player, dubbed "the weakest link" by acerbic host Anne Robinson, is voted off by the group.

Paul Coe, a mathematician at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, reckons players often lose their nerve and go home with less money than they could.

"I am always struck by how little money is actually given away," he told New Scientist.

Under Pressure

According to his team's analysis of a 21-question round, banking the money after six correct answers offers the highest reward (\$50,000 in the US).

Banking after three questions (\$5,000) is a less successful strategy, says Dr Coe, because strings of three right answers are harder to come by.

Unless a player has a very high success rate (more than 67%), it would be better to bank after each correct answer (\$1,000), he says.

But not all mathematicians are convinced. Edward Aboufadel of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, says it could take several rounds for a team to get six correct answers. He thinks the wait may prove too hot to handle.

"With Anne Robinson harassing the team for not banking any money, I think people would quickly back out," he says.

17 Jun 01 | TV and Radio