Dan’s Money Duck makes me think of McDonald’s MONOPOLY game. Can’t remember the last time I was in McDonald’s, but now I’m curious about the odds of winning in this popular game.

I look up the Official Rules for the 2013 game and focus only on the Instant Win Prizes of the In-Store Game. For each prize, McDonald’s discloses its value, how many are awarded, and the odds of winning. (I add “Total Value” just to see.)

Kids already understand that the higher the value of the prize the tougher it is to win it — but it’s still fun to ask them to estimate these odds. It’s also more meaningful to look only at the cash prizes and pose a question like, “If the odds of winning $5,000 cash are 1 in 40 million, then what do you think are the odds of winning $20,000 cash?”

But why are the odds of winning a pair of headphones the same as winning the top cash prize?

Also, there’s a shitload of Shutterfly photo books to be won, putting it at the top of the “total value” column by far. This only makes me wonder about its real expected value.

Turns out the odds of winning are directly related to the number of prizes given out, rather than to the value of the prize. But since most of these prizes are from McDonald’s “Prize Partners,” it sort of makes sense — McDonald’s just sets the odds based on how many prizes are given out. The highlighted yellow figure is the average of all [# of Prizes * Odds].

I wonder if this number of 602,804,203 has anything to do with how many people are in the United States. I look at the same “instant win” non-food prizes for the Canadian Game — also from 2013 — and learn that the ratio of this number to the population is about 2 to 1.

(Population for US and Canada are for July 1, 2013 — around the time the game is played.)

Excel file McD_2013_Monopoly.