why doesn’t anyone play family feud correctly?

posted on January 2, 2018

Family Feud is the greatest TV game show of all time. I’d argue we’re in the golden age of the show with current host Steve Harvey, but either way, it’s been around for decades and we’re all more or less familiar with the rules.

There’s a critical part of the game that, for whatever reason, virtually no family plays correctly. After earning the rights to a board, the family is asked whether they want to “pass” or “play.” I’ve seen hundreds of episodes of Family Feud, and I’ve only seen the board passed ONCE. Why don’t more families do this? Is it always in your best interest to “play” the board?

Here are two common scenarios, both of which are based on actual prompts from the show.

Scenario #1 – A relatively low-scoring top answer

Prompt: Name something a baseball player might shove down his pants if he can’t find a cup. (Yes, this is an real prompt used in a real episode of Family Feud that aired on television.)

Here’s the board:

First of all, this is one of the dumbest prompts I’ve ever seen. If a baseball player couldn’t find a cup, he wouldn’t just shove some random object down his pants. I certainly wouldn’t, at least, but maybe that’s why I never played at the next level. Either way, let’s take a quick look at the math.

The number one answer “socks” came in with a relatively low 21 points. Assuming there are 100 total points on the board (sometimes there are less if the producers disregard low-scoring answers), we have at most 79 points left. Spread between the 7 remaining answers, that’s an average of 11.3 points per answer.

In this scenario, you should play. Given the high average points per answer, your family has a better-than-average chance at clearing the board and keeping all of the points.

Scenario #2 – A relatively high-scoring top answer

Prompt: Name a profession that requires you to interact with a lot of drunk people.

Here’s the board:

The number one answer “bartender” came in with a whopping 72 points. With at most 28 points and 7 answers remaining, we’re left with an average of 4 points per answer. Just four. Do you know how stupid the answers are when they get that low? I wouldn’t be surprised if four people said “Mormon priest.” (By the way, “comedian” wasn’t on this board and I was furious.)

In this scenario, you should pass 100% of the time. It’s extremely unlikely that the other family is going to clear the board, and your family has an excellent chance of swooping in and stealing the points.

Remember: to steal points from the other team, you only need to guess one correct answer. I’d argue that it’s much easier to guess one correct answer than all seven.

Another benefit of passing to the other team is TIME. While Steve Harvey’s over there cutting up with the Flannigan family — asking ‘em about their jobs and making fun of their ties — you can actually take your time, consult with your own family, and agree on a sensible answer. All you need is one good one, and the points are all yours.

What do you think? Am I insane or have 99.99% of Family Feud’s contestants been playing the game incorrectly? Let me know.