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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
How to win at Millionaire quiz

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online education staff

The most likely combination of correct answers on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? quiz show has been revealed by a mathematics lecturer.

The fastest finger gets contestants through to a chance to win money

John Haigh, reader in mathematics at the University of Sussex, says that for the "fastest finger first" round, the most likely sequence is DACB.

In a new edition of a book about probability, to be published on Thursday, Dr Haigh has examined how the correct answers are distributed - with DACB appearing more than twice the average number of times that would be expected.

After analysing the winning answers, Dr Haigh says the next more frequently correct sequence is CBAD - and the least likely correct answers are ABCD and ABDC.

The fastest finger round is the last hurdle before contestants are able to compete for prize money - and depends on contestants putting answers in a correct order in the fastest time

'Taking Chances'

Dr Haigh says that if a contestant had no idea about the correct order of the answers, attempting the sequence of DACB would put an entrant ahead on speed and with an above average chance of being correct.

Lucky numbers
Millionaire 'fastest finger': DACB most frequent correct answer, CBAD second most frequent
Weakest Link: if you're getting 90% right, don't bank until 1,000
Monopoly: buy orange, sell green

The book, Taking Chances, also examines how to get the best value investments when playing Monopoly - with his advice being to buy and build on the orange squares.

Dr Haigh says that the single-most likely square on which a player will land is the "jail" - partly because the "go straight to jail" square doubles its chances.

The next piece of probability affecting the game is that when rolling the dice, a seven is the most frequent number to appear, followed by six and eight.

And the orange squares appear at a distance of six and eight moves from the jail - making it an above average chance a player will land on these properties and have to pay rent.

Correspondingly, the places which will see the least traffic, and so earn the least rent from houses and hotels, are the squares which come before the jail.

Counting the evidence

There are other tips for contestants on The Weakest Link, where he gives advice on the best stage at which to bank winnings.

If two out of three questions are being answered correctly, he says to bank at 200, and if three out of four are right, to continue to 600, and if eight or nine out of ten are correct, then not to bank until 1,000.

Dr Haigh wants his book to be accessible to the lay reader, opening up the mathematical complexities to a public which can often mis-interpret probability.

"When you have odds of one in 14 million for a lottery, it's very hard to match up with anyone's experience," he said.

"Whether someone wants something to happen - or not to happen - can influence their attitude towards such a probability."

Apart from game shows, this can have much more serious implications, he says. And he points to the increasing use of DNA evidence in court cases, where jurors are presented with statistics of probability that can seem very damning, but which need to be understood more clearly.

When an accused person is described as having a one in a hundred million match to DNA from a crime scene, he says people need to understand how to compare this with other evidence.

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