What's the best way to play The Floor, according to season one's stats?

If you want to participate on The Floor, this guide will show you how to strategize, depending on where you end up on the board and who you're up against.
THE FLOOR: L-R: Host Rob Lowe and Contestant Jasper in the season premiere of THE FLOOR premiering Tuesday, Jan. 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2023 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Lorraine O’Sullivan/FOX
THE FLOOR: L-R: Host Rob Lowe and Contestant Jasper in the season premiere of THE FLOOR premiering Tuesday, Jan. 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2023 FOX Media LLC. Cr: Lorraine O’Sullivan/FOX /

One of Fox's newest game shows, The Floor has officially been renewed for another two seasons, and it's little surprise. The visual trivia game was an instant ratings hit, and it took social media by storm. But now that it is here to stay, people may be wondering what the best strategy is.

Obviously, there are many different ways to play a trivia game. There have been books written on the best strategies for the classics, but there will always be surprise strategies that completely change the game—like when James Holzhauer reinvented Jeopardy during his 33-episode-long streak in 2019.

Despite that, it's possible to analyze the game so far to see what strategies have worked best in the past. Knowing everything about everything would be a good start, but it's a bit unrealistic, especially when the categories are sometimes not what they seem.

We've analyzed all ten episodes of The Floor so far to look at what strategies work best, and which seem destined for failure. This guide to the game will include how to play for the $20,000 or the $250,000, whether to continue playing or return to the floor, and what obvious strategies might actually end your run on the show.

The rules of The Floor

The Floor features 81 contestants, each of whom begins with one square on 'The Floor.' Contestants are randomly selected to play, where they must compete against one of the players on an adjacent square. They will compete in the other person's chosen category, with each player getting 45 seconds to alternate identifying answers.

Contestants may pass on a clue, but this results in a 3-second penalty to their clock. Whoever runs out of time first loses. If the challenger wins, they keep their initial category. If the challenged player wins, they inherit their competitor's category. After each battle, the winner can choose to compete against another of their neighbors or return to the floor.

This system gives players the opportunity to build up winning streaks, but it also prioritizes randomness. Some elements of the game are entirely in the hands of the Randomizer and/or their opponents.

The winner of a given challenge takes the squares previously owned by their competitor. The ultimate goal is to be the last man standing, winning all 81 squares. This person receives the grand prize of $250,000. However, there are also smaller ways to win. Whoever has the most territory at the end of each episode receives $20,000.

This structure continues for the first eight episodes. The finale takes place over the course of two hours, with no time for the contestants to take a break, study, or win $20,000. In the final round, the person with the most territory gets to choose what category to compete in: theirs or their opponent's.

The two primary ways of winning involve earning episodic wins or attempting to survive all 80 rounds for the grand prize. Each has their merits, but they also come with unique challenges. A prospective contestant will have to carefully decide whether to seek glory or hide in plain sight.

Playing the long game

Traditionally, those who want to win the $250,000 try to keep off the radar. Becoming one of the season's "whales" is a guaranteed target on their backs, which will force them to compete more often. Either from exhaustion or lack of knowledge, they will eventually be knocked out.

Winning one round is good because it keeps the contestant out of the running to be chosen on the Randomizer. As the game goes along, their territory will be less valuable because it only contains two squares. This strategy can also work with three or four squares, but anything more is dangerous.

This strategy worked out well for season one's winner (Jacquelyn), who only participated in three battles during her entire time on the show. She also never fought more than once in a row, which allowed her to save her energy and focus on studying her opponents and their categories.

Something is better than nothing

While everybody wants to win the grand prize, there are more opportunities to win episodic earnings. Those who want to ensure that they win something will often compete in multiple rounds, progressively gaining ground to win $20,000 at the end of the episode. For example, contestant Joey won four successive battles, giving her the lead by the end of episode 6.

The problem with winning the smaller amounts of money is that it will often put a target on you, with other contestants wanting to compete against you either to claim your territory or gain the glory of having beaten a champion. This takes a lot of opportunities out of your hands.

Contestant Nicholas won five battles in a row, the longest streak in season one. However, he never got the chance to rest and was eventually taken out before the end of the episode. Nicholas competed in six battles in episode eight, yet received no money for his success. This shows the danger of pursuing the episodic reward.

Knowing when to walk away

Contestants rarely get the chance to decide to go to battle, either being chosen by the Randomizer or by a competitor. However, they have the opportunity to either stay or play after winning a battle. This is a critical choice, and it comes with a few key questions.

First, it's important to see how many battles are left in the episode. If there are too many, it's unlikely that continuing to compete endlessly will end in success. From there, it's important for contestants to consider their category. If they are challenged in it, do they feel confident in success?

Those who inherited an opponent's category can be easy targets, so the timing of staying or playing is critical. Ideally, if they don't feel comfortable with their new subject, they can play long enough to end the episode. This gives them the opportunity to study before having to compete in it. Those who are comfortable with their subject often choose to return to the floor.

But is there a demonstrable benefit to choosing one way over another? Of the 79 chances to stay or play, there were 38 rounds where they continued and 41 where they returned to the floor. Those who continued actually had a roughly 66% chance of winning the next round. This suggests that there is a benefit to repeated plays.

However, there is a caveat to this. Playing too many times can keep the players from doing their best. A battle count of around six, with the longest streak of three, seemed to be standard for episodic winners. The contestants who competed most often (Gene with 8 battles and Nicholas with 6 battles in a row) received no money. Following the same logic, neither of the two highest-earning players ever played more than one round in a row.

While the bulk of a player's strategy will be based on whether they are aiming for the episodic or grand prizes and whether they plan to play or return to the floor, there are less obvious strategies that are important to keep in mind if you want to compete on a future season.

The luck of the draw

There are many things that you cannot control on The Floor. Because of that, it can be helpful to be aware of the possibilities you have based on luck. To begin with, the location of a player's starting square can have a major impact on their performance.

While it would seem logical to assume that players are best off when they are in the middle, season one showed a strong preference for corners and edges. There were 40 rounds where players began from their own square, and how many options they had available was relevant.

Of the 21 players who had all four possible options available to them, only 23.81% won. Although they theoretically could have chosen a topic they knew well, the possibilities worked against them. This may be because, in between episodes, they had too many options to study, especially as the game progressed.

The 10 players with three possible options had a 30% success rate, while those with only one or two won 40% of the time. Those in the true corners tended to be very successful, while those who were surrounded by an opponent often lost to the 'whales'.

You also can't choose when or how you will start playing. That is up to either the Randomizer or your competitors. There's nothing you can do to control these elements, but it might impact how you play your game behind the scenes.

Study your neighbors

Since you don't get to battle on your own terms, you should make sure to study wherever you can. Connect with your neighbors and understand what categories they might thrive in. Most importantly, study the categories around you. Make sure that you are comfortable with those directly connected to you. If you have more time, study the categories of those with large territories.

Looking back on season one, the person who was challenged won 52.50% of the time, which is just a little higher than the rate for challengers. With how close it is, knowledge is going to be what makes the difference.

In another example of the data defying expectations, only 48.98% of those competing in their original category won. However, 58.06% of those competing in inherited categories won. While some of this may be due to growing confidence in playing the game, it may also be because people tend to study inherited categories more, assuming they already know their category best.

In between episodes, study your neighbors' categories, and then your own. If you have time and energy, study the big ones. That's about all you can do to prepare for the unknown.

Strategic Recap

Looking back on season one, there are a few key trends worth noting when developing your strategy. First, decide whether you want to focus on small or large earnings. If you want the small ones, make the most of your time in battles, gaining territory for up to three battles in a row. If you want the grand prize, compete to win once, but then return to the floor and try not to make waves.

Behind the scenes, take advantage of your study time. Prioritize the subjects you are most likely to compete against and consider practicing in a similar style to the game itself. In most battles, it's about identifying visuals, not text. So make a slideshow of visuals and practice going as fast as you can.

In Battle 74, the players answered every question correctly. The one who went the fastest won, proving the importance of practicing for speed.

The best statistics from Season 1

For those curious about how different players stacked up in season one, we do have a breakdown of the top players by different metrics. When preparing to go on the show yourself, keep in mind how performance lined up with financial success (and when it didn't).

Which players won the most money?

  1. Jacquelyn: $250,000
  2. Stephanie: $40,000
  3. Jasper, Joey, Tom, and Gabriel: 20,000
  4. Sunnie and Steve: 10,000

Which players competed in the most battles?

  1. Gene: 8
  2. Jasper, Stephanie, Joey, Nicholas, Tom, and Steve: 5
  3. Gabriel, Matthew, and Arthur: 4

Who had the longest winning streaks?

  1. Nicholas: 5
  2. Jasper, Joey, and Arthur: 4
  3. Tom, Steve, Matthew, and Gene: 3

Watch reruns of The Floor on Hulu.

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