Plinko Odds, Payouts and Probabilities

Plinko, a captivating game of chance and strategy, has gained worldwide popularity, primarily through its feature on the popular game show, ‘The Price is Right’. The game’s allure lies in its simplicity and the thrill of unpredictability. But have you ever wondered about the mathematics behind Plinko? In this article, we’ll delve into the odds, payouts, and probabilities that make Plinko a fascinating study of chance and luck.

Understanding Plinko and Its Gameplay

Plinko involves a triangular game board filled with pegs. A chip is dropped from the top, and as it descends, it bounces off the pegs until it lands in a slot at the bottom. Each slot corresponds to a specific prize or payout. The game’s outcome is unpredictable, mainly due to the numerous paths the chip can take on its way down.

Decoding the Odds in Plinko

The distribution of outcomes in Plinko can be modeled using Pascal’s Triangle, a mathematical concept that reveals the number of paths a chip can take to reach each slot. The odds are not evenly distributed, with the chip more likely to land in the middle slots, forming a bell-shaped curve as the number of pegs increases.

To illustrate, consider a Plinko board with 16 lines and 17 pegs. The probability of the chip landing in each slot can be calculated using the binomial distribution formula:

P(k; n, p) = C(n, k) * (p^k) * ((1 - p)^(n - k))


  • P(k; n, p) is the probability of k successes in n trials;
  • C(n, k) is the number of combinations of n items taken k at a time, p is the probability of success on a single trial (in this case, p = 0.5 because the chip has an equal chance of going left or right);
  • k is the number of “successes” (in this case, the number of times the chip moves to the right), and n is the total number of trials (in this case, the number of pegs).

Plinko Payouts: A Game of High Stakes

Plinko payouts can vary significantly, depending on the game’s setting. For instance, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Plinko game offers prizes ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, with the odds of winning any prize being 1 in 3.97. On ‘The Price is Right’, the highest amount ever won at Plinko is $39,200.

In our example with 16 lines and 17 pegs, the payouts and corresponding probabilities are as follows:

PegChancePayout (based on bet)
Odds in BGaming Plinko

Probabilities and Expected Value in Plinko

The expected value of a Plinko game, or the average amount the game’s producers expect to give away per game, can be calculated using the probabilities of landing in each slot and the corresponding payouts. The expected value is the sum of the products of each outcome and its probability:

Expected Value = Sum(Probability * Payout)

In our example, the expected value per drop is approximately $0.879. Therefore, after dropping 1000 balls with a $1 bet each, the expected balance would be $879, indicating an expected loss of $121.

Modifying the Game: How Board Dimensions Impact Outcomes

Changing the Plinko board’s dimensions can affect the outcomes’ distribution. As the height of the board increases, the distribution of chips across the bottom slots becomes more uniform, especially when the height is three times the width. This finding can have implications for game design and strategy. Let’s take a look at Plinko Board, represented on our website.

This is the most common “Medium Risk” board. Same number of rows and pegs. But let’s look at the chances and recalculate how many players will lose or win. The chances for each peg remain the same as they are determined by the structure of the Plinko board and the physics of the chip’s descent. However, the payouts have changed so that we can calculate the new expected value.

Expected Value = Sum(Probability * Payout)

Let’s calculate the expected value for each peg:

PegChancePayout (based on bet)Expected Value
Recalculations for “Medium Risk” Plinko board

The total expected value per drop is the sum of the expected values for each peg, which is approximately 1.079.

Therefore, after dropping 1000 balls, the expected change in the player’s balance would be:

Change in Balance = 1000 * Expected Value – 1000 * Bet = 1000 * 1.079 – 1000 * 1 = +$79

So, if the player starts with a balance of $1000, after dropping 1000 balls with a $1 bet each, the expected balance would be $1000 + $79 = $1079.


While seemingly a game of pure chance, Plinko offers a rich exploration of probabilities and expected value. Whether you’re a casual player or a game show enthusiast, understanding the odds and payouts can enhance your appreciation of this captivating game. So, the next time you watch a chip descend a Plinko board, remember – there’s a world of mathematics behind every bounce.

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