why doesn’t anyone play family feud correctly?

posted by Aaron Weber 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.

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Paul Pay

Obviously I’m answering 18 months later so I doubt anyone will read this, but I agree.

Some of the prompts (and answers) are so ridiculous.

It annoys me when the family say “Play” then the first member Steve approaches can’t think of an answer!

Glad someone else feels the same way.


Totally disagree. If you play, you have two ways to win—guess all of the remaining answers, or have the other family not guess any remaining answer. If you pass, you can only win if the other family doesn’t guess all the answers AND the one sensible answer your family came up with wasn’t already guessed by the other family.

In my mind, passing in Family Feud is like taking insurance in blackjack. Almost never a good bet.

Joe Smith

I think always playing is the right move because there are 2 ways to win instead of 1 but some statistical analysis here would be helpful.

James C Williams

I think its definitly a case by case thing that should be taken into consideration. But I totally agree that it’s foolish to play 100% of the time. And I’ve never ever seen anyone pass. Ive played the “table-top” version of this game with a group of friends. I forget what the scenario was, but I chose to pass on one of the prompts. My team was mad at me for a few minutes, but we were able to steal the points.


This is a well written and lengthy post that attempts to answer the classic play vs pass question. Unfortunately falls well short and results in a clickbait title. The only way to answer this question is with statistics. You have provided none. Your arguement is pure conjecture.


I don’t know.

Sam Shah

I agree it seems nonsensical but probably because 2 ways to win if you play vs one if you pass? Still agree with your post.