Use Game Theory to Win Your Holiday White Elephant Gift Swap

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I feel that knowing how to avoid winding up with the dud gift at a White Elephant Gift Swap is a valuable life skill.

Ben Casselman over at FiveThirtyEight explains it to those of us who don’t have an advanced degree in game theory.

Casselman’s strategic advice boils down to stealing the best already-opened gift as long as you think it’s better than the expected value of the unopened gifts to come — easy if your turn comes toward the end of the swap, but less awesome if you’re one of the first to go. Therefore, in addition to following Casselman’s three steps for smart swapping, it’s very important to choose your seat strategically.