Get Out of Jail Free

I love Monopoly. Hours and hours of my childhood were spent playing it. While I understand the hesitation or distaste many people have for the game, whenever someone complains about the length I simply say, “You’re playing it wrong.” Because it’s true: if Monopoly takes more than an hour or an hour and a half, you are doing it wrong.

The object of Monopoly is to bankrupt the other players. It is a net zero-sum game with properties that has enough random chance to keep things interesting. Buy everything you land on, then as soon as you can, negotiate trades with the other players to consolidate your assets so you can charge more for rent. A fat stack of cash is not necessarily a good thing, because you should be building houses and hotels as soon as possible. Watch the location of the players, and understand that sixes, sevens, and eights have the highest probability with two dice. Once all (or almost all) of the properties are purchased, go to jail. Well, stay in jail. You can’t go to jail on purpose, but you can stay in jail for up to three rolls. Rolling doubles gets you out, but there’s a 16.7% chance of doing so. If you stay, and the other players are moving around, they land on your properties and you don’t land on theirs. Hence, you get money and they lose money.

My kids are now old enough to play Monopoly, so I’m thrilled. But they are still getting the hang of the strategy and the odds, so I usually win. Mercilessly. Once, one of them sat on two undeveloped monopolies and $1000+. I circled the board a few times, passed Go for the capital, then developed her into oblivion. Only after the victory did I explain what she did wrong. 

Capitalize on your strengths in order to get ahead exponentially; don’t ever be content where you are, but constantly seek new ways to improve your position. Life lesson learned the hard way; educate yourself; push yourself; take measured risks; live like it’s your only life to live.

Another time, it was clear to me that I was in a bad position. My son built up on orange (like I taught him), but I had a couple bad throws that landed me on Income Tax (another life lesson learned the hard way), and I couldn’t win. So I resigned. I then explained why I lost. Life lesson learned the hard way: admit when you fail; don’t take it personally; blame nothing but random chance; try again later.

Monopoly is a great game to teach kids life lessons, not just about money and math. It is cold and unforgiving, just like life. It is filled with seemingly random events and unfair cards. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you can always get out of jail.

Because your baptismal certificate functions like a get out of jail free card.