May 12, 1975
Mr. Steve Selvin
Asst. Professor of Biostatistics
University of California, Berkeley
Thank you for sending me the problem from "The American Statistician."
Although I am not a student of a statistics problems, I do know that these figures can always be used to one's advantage, if I wished to manipulate same. The big hole in your argument of problems is that once the first box is seen to be empty, the contestant cannot exchange his box. So the problems still remain the same, don't they. . . one out of three. Oh, and incidentally, after one is seen to be empty, his chances are no longer 50/50 but remain what they were in the first place, one out of three. It just seems to the contestant that one box having been eliminated, he stands a better chance. Not so. It was always two to one against him. And if you ever get on my show, the rules hold fast for you -- no trading boxes after the selection.
Next time let's play on my home grounds. I graduated in chemistry and zoology. You want to know your chances of surviving with our polluted air and water?
(In The American Statistician, August 1975, Vol. 29, No. 3, Selvin, Steve, © 1999-2006 Let's Make A Deal (A Joint Venture) All rights reserved.)