The strategy of the Feud

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the Family Feud.

Those who know the show can skip the rest of this paragraph. The Family Feud is an American TV show that pits two families (in teams of five) against each other to answer questions based on surveys. For each question, 100 people are surveyed and the goal is for your family to guess the answer that the most people said. A sample question would be “Other than love, what’s a reason a woman would marry a man?”  (money, sex, fame, looks). Each round beings with a “face off” where one member of each team answers the question. The person with the more popular answer can decide between two options:

  • Play – By choosing to play, the family must guess all of the remaining answers on the board. In each round, there are typically between four and eight answers. Each person must answer individually. If they get all the answers on the board before they get three wrong, they win the round.  If not, the other team gets a chance to steal.
  • Pass – If the winning team chooses to pass, the other team must get all the answers before they get three wrong. In the meantime, the winning team can talk amongst themselves and decide on one answer to steal the round.

Almost always, the team that wins the faceoff chooses to play. But it’s incredibly rare that a team gets all of the answers on the board; the vast majority of the time, they strike out and the other team gets a chance.

I’ve never understood why the teams that win the face off don’t pass. I’d pass every time. It’s much easier to guess one answer as a team than it is to individually guess 3 to 7 answers. Maybe it’s the desire to be on TV longer or the feeling of being in control of your own destiny.

Or maybe it’s the families they get. This is one of my favorite clips from the show. It’s worth watching all the way to the end.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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