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Split or Steal? A creative (and kind) use of logic and manipulation

Apr 28, 2012 By Abraham

Here’s the deal. £13,600 are on the line. Each contestant must choose Split or Steal. If they both choose Split, they each get half of the money. If one chooses Split and the other Steal, the one who chose Steal gets all the money. And if they both choose Steal, nobody gets any money.

Before they choose, they are allowed to discuss their plan together. It is a battle of wits, combining both logic and the ability to read and manipulate one’s opponent. Check out how one ingenious contestant chose to let this scenario play out…

(If you don’t need the introductory explanation and want to skip straight to the good part, go to 2:25.)


  1. Kevin says:

    The logic is flawless!

    -Nick PROMISES to take the steal ball, something that is obviously an unorthodox move given the audience’s reaction.

    -In addition to promising to take the steal ball, Nick promises to share half of his winnings with Abraham. (Ibraham, Ibrahim? I can’t tell through the accent)

    -The key is that Abraham is convinced Nick will take the steal ball

    -This FORCES Abraham to take the split ball if he wants to have any shot at the money.

    -Once Abraham is convinced Nick intends to take the steal ball, Nick is in a no-lose situation, either ball gets him money.

    -This fact BOTH saves Nick from thinking he will be “stolen from” as well as gives him the chance to go back on his “word” and be an altruist on TV, all while losing nothing in the process…


    1. Marci says:

      Would what Nick did work with the prisoners dilemma though? I’ve been trying to think it through and I can’t figure out if there is a way to force someone to either cooperate the way he did.

      1. Chet says:

        In the standard prisoner’s dilemma the prisoners aren’t allowed to communicate, so there’s no way to pull the same trick.

        1. Marci says:

          But if they were would there be anyway to insure that you benefit? Because Nick promised that he would pick steal and so if the other guy picked split he would share the money with him after the show. But since the prisoners dilemma deals with punishment, theres no way to “share” that the same as with money.
          I’m just trying to wrap my mind around all of it and think it through. Its like cheating with tic tac toe, if you put your sign in certain places you’ll either win or draw but never lose.

  2. lechroom says:

    Not to mention the fact that it insures that Ibrahim won’t be tempted to change his mind and choose “steal”, which would have been a possibility if Nick had done the obvious and suggested they both choose “split”.

    Ibrahim was left with the choice of possibly getting no money (if he’d split and Nick lied), or DEFINITELY getting no money (if he’d chosen to steal as well).

    Well played, you limey chunk!

    1. Kevin says:

      The beautiful thing is, the way Nick played it, If Ibrahim went the fatalist route and played steal, he would have had all the money!

      1. Scott says:

        Exactly. If I were Ibrahim, I would have picked steal out of spite and both of us would leave with no money, then get a big surprise upon the revealing.

  3. Aaron says:

    Anyone notice how he wasn’t bothered that Nick didn’t keep his word when he ended up with half of the money?

  4. Tim says:

    I’m such a middle-schooler; I couldn’t help but chuckle every time they referred to their “two golden balls.”

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