How does a smart person win money?
June 1, 2015 3:32 AM   Subscribe

It seems to me that there is a ridiculous amount of money to be won in competitions, in the UK at least. But how does somone tip the odds in their favour, to give themselves a better shot than everbody else? This persons "edge" is an IQ of 154. Method one: enter every possible competition going. Disadvantages are its very time consuming, and doesn't use my edge. method two: only enter competitions that are incredibly difficult, such as crosswords, thus thinning the field. Disadvantages are it will take time to learn new skills. Method three: Gambling. Dont even go there. Method four: the sure thing - a game show. Zero risk, almost guaranteed a hefty cash prize or a car. Disadvantages arevthat these are massively over subscribed, with waiting lists measured in years. So Mefites, any suggestions? (Before its mentioned, already have a decent job!)
posted by Gabriel ricci to Work & Money (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just in terms of finessing the question, I think one thing you can do is figure out where new quiz shows recruit. Shows which are not yet on TV do not have the advantage of their position drawing in applicants so you get a better chance of getting on that way. So can anyone advise on how to do this?
posted by biffa at 3:37 AM on June 1, 2015

I think the edge is simply to enter everything you possibly can, because most people don't. There are websites and magazines that give you a heads up on all the contests out there, such as Competitors Companion and The Prizefinder. Some more info.
posted by srednivashtar at 4:00 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

My mom had some friends years ago who entered contests as a hobby. Any type of sweepstakes, collecting box lids, entering drawings, etc. They usually won small amounts, but they'd won a car and a couple vacations out of it, and a few large cash prizes. It can be done. They kept large spreadsheets of the games they had going at the time, and were known to occasionally make nuisances of themselves asking friends to collect products for them.
posted by backwards compatible at 4:11 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

One difficulty to be aware of is that general intelligence or IQ isn't nearly the "edge" you'd think it should be in these situations. IQ and general intelligence are broad measures covering a number of domains of cognitive ability, most of which do not help at all in gaming or competition contexts, which tend to reward very specialized skills relevant to the activity.

Per Ken Jennings's writings on Jeopardy, for instance, most Jeopardy! competitors know the answers to most questions they're asked; the real competition is over which person's natural buzzer-pressing timing best matches the computer's very narrow answer window. Scrabble competitions are not about having the biggest vocabulary, but about memorizing extensive lists of 3- and 4- letter "bingo" words. And so forth. Even "general knowledge" of the sort tested in more laid-back quiz shows like Millionaire is a somewhat specialized acquired skill (friends of mine in College Bowl, crazy intelligent in their own right, nonetheless needed to spent hours and hours memorizing trivia and refreshing existing memory banks in order to be at all competitive even on the college level). I mean, you could certainly, as you say, spend time working to acquire these skills, but it'd probably be more realistic to regard it as a hobby where you hope the prize money helps you break even on the time and resources you invest, vs. any kind of waiting windfall or career.
posted by Bardolph at 4:15 AM on June 1, 2015 [27 favorites]

I'd agree anecdotally that it's volume that counts - I spent a period of time just entering loads of competitions and won a Queen I & II CD box set, a Palm Pilot Vx, a copy of Windows Millennium Edition (er, yay, I think?), vouchers, cash and various other bits of detritus. These were all fairly simple question-to-enter-a-prize-draw affairs.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 4:15 AM on June 1, 2015

Method four: the sure thing - a game show. Zero risk, almost guaranteed a hefty cash prize or a car.

For what it's worth, I have heard from people who have been on game shows that:

(a) Shows cast contestants, looking for a good mix of types and personalities, and they don't have an obligation to take on everybody that applies. You might find yourself systematically not getting picked - particularly if you do this too aggressively.

(b) Contestants agree to a contract, and it often says you get the money/prizes _after_ your episode airs, and _if_ it airs. Again this can be a barrier to widespread gaming of the system.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:15 AM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Many game shows, at least in the USA, also have clauses in the contract whereby you can't be a contestant if you have been on another game show in the previous X years, or sometimes ever.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:41 AM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

In this case, your IQ is of little or no value.

For competitions, the easiest way of increasing your chances of winning is by limiting yourself to contests with more than average entry requirements. Think tie-breakers, photo contests - anything that takes slightly longer than just a fill-in-your-details form. You have no idea how much extra requirements can thin the numbers entering.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

To get on game shows, you also have to be personable without being "fake", rude, or otherwise not camera friendly.

In any case, your question represents exactly the sort of problem to which you could apply your IQ. However, your specific kind of intelligence will work with specific problem-solving -- identifying those domains is also something to which you can apply your smarts.

In other words, start thinking systematically, or intuitively.

Bonus clue: knowing what you are _not_ good at, and how to find exactly the right kind of help, is a _huge_ help.
posted by amtho at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

Lottery. Find the lottery that due to rules, bugs, or changes in the rules suddenly favors the player. For example, many states list prizes already won. If 99% of the junk prizes have been won, and they guarantee prizes will be won, it may be beneficial to play that lottery. However, all the articles I've seen on gaming the lotto usually mention having significant amounts of cash already on hand to best utilize the numbers. And, as always, you have to be willing to lose that cash, because it is still gambling.

Look up any number of articles on multiple lotto winners, how people have made the rules work for them, and you can probably find a dozen good articles explaining their tricks.
posted by Jacen at 6:24 AM on June 1, 2015

At one time I read that some folks did very well with mail in contests by sending elaborate custom made envelopes, funny over-sized entries. With most things passing through a computer data entry system I doubt it still works but hey give it a try.
posted by sammyo at 6:40 AM on June 1, 2015

Lots of competitions follow this pattern: marketing company sends promo bundle, says "give it away as a competition", organiser does bare minimum to promote it. I may or may not have been nudged to enter competitions and tell my friends about them because the deadline was approaching, there were no entrants, and it would have been more embarrassing for them to end without anyone entering than to have a dozen entrants who were all one or two degrees of separation away from the organiser. (The various scandals surrounding TV competitions over the past decade were more cock-up than conspiracy.)

In short, having time, perseverance and one or two friends in the media are considerably better edges than IQ.
posted by holgate at 7:01 AM on June 1, 2015

Anecdata: most game shows are cast so they display a range of "characters". I flew through the Jeopardy casting process because I was a 21 year old woman - as rare as hen's teeth in game show terms, apparently- whereas most middle-age white males were deselected because 97% of applicants were middle-age white males. However, for two days filming I netted around £5000 plus various prizes.

If you can make yourself Not A Middle-Age White Male or even a Not A White Male, your chance to go on game shows is far greater and you can earn a nice sum of money if you are fairly good at trivia* and you are fast on buzzers.

*) Little discussed fact: game shows also cater to your niches as to make it entertaining. I was an English Lit & Lang student at the time and my 5 shows had categories like "Charles Dickens", "Famous Universities", and "English Loanwords" because the production company evidently thought I was "a good story".
posted by kariebookish at 7:21 AM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]

Method three: Gambling. Dont even go there

This is possibly the only one where your IQ is potentially the advantage you think it is. My dad was a card sharp who routinely gambled and won (before I was ever born). The fact that he was a big man who could hold his liquor also helped. After a few beers, he was the most sober man at the table. This was a regular card game with friends. But it is possible to go to casinos and do this. If you get good at it, the casinos will ban you. But it can be done.

One method is card counting. There are only 52 cards in a deck. If you can mentally keep track of how many aces are gone and so on, it can give you a substantial edge. Of course, casinos typically have multiple decks in the shoe (sp?). But there are books on the subject if you care to read up on it.

Other than that: I will Nth the suggestions above to research all available options, keep meticulous records, etc. This will most likely be the kind of thing where you have to grow your own solution. The reason for that is if there is some slam-dunk method to regularly win at such things, publicizing it is a great way to both ruin the odds advantage you have and also cause the host organization to close the loophole you are exploiting. So if/when such things exist, people either quietly exploit it or they brag and it stops working.
posted by Michele in California at 12:59 PM on June 1, 2015

Get a PO box. Learn Python and BeautifulSoup.

Write a script that crawls the Internet applying to every sweepstakes it can find -- using social media to apply to every sweepstakes on Facebook, looking at millions of Web-based contests and filling in the Web-based forms, and automatically printing out an entry form for all the ones that are "no purchase necessary, just send a paper note to...".

Empty the PO box every day so it doesn't explode.
posted by miyabo at 2:41 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think IQ is going to be any edge at all. Much of the point of competitions, game shows etc is that they offer hope to people who don't have the "edge" of a high IQ and the well-paying jobs that (theoretically at least) go with it. Instead they reward those who have some kind of hobbyist niche knowledge, or have learned how to do puzzles really well, or are really quick at pressing the buzzer. Most of those are skills or opportunities that lots of people who are unemployed, retired or working as carers can take up and become very good at.

Incidentally, have a listen to the Quiz Show episode of This American Life, which delves into some of the secret inner world of game shows. It doesn't answer your question but it might interest you.
posted by andraste at 3:43 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Method three: Gambling

I don't know what the scene is like in the UK, but poker is absolutely beatable for a decent amount of money for a smart person if you have patience and emotional control. It's not even that hard at the lower stakes at casinos.
posted by callmejay at 10:06 AM on June 3, 2015

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