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Cash Holdings Needed to Survive a
Go Around the Board

Because selling houses back to the bank is such a bummer, it is imperative that you hold enough cash to survive a go around the board.  But, at the same time, you do not want to be too conservative because, while you are trying to develop your monopoly, somebody else may land on the third property of their color and immediately put hotels on it.  In general, if you own nothing else than your monopoly, you need to hold $95 to survive a go around the board without having to sell any houses back to the bank if nobody lands on your property, but this question can be answered more precisely.

Let us assume that you hold the only monopoly but that there is another color that one of your opponents holds two of and that he is desperately hoping to land on the third of.  Your objective is to develop your monopoly as quickly as possible before your opponent completes his.  Of course, if somebody else lands on that third property and blocks your rival, then there is no longer any time crisis; you can crush your opponents at your leisure.  But, in the meantime, you need to know what the minimum cash holdings are to survive a go around the board.

The following chart shows the expected cost of each property in a single go around the board, assuming that you pay to get out of jail, which you would if you are anxious to collect your salary so you can buy another house or two.

  Expected Cost
Baltic, Mediterranean 0.76  
Vermont, Connecticut, Oriental 2.72  
St. Charles, Virginia, States 4.76  
Tennessee, New York, St. James 7.67  
Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana 9.71  
Atlantic, Ventnor, Marvin Gardens 10.69  
Pacific, North Carolina, Pennsylvania 12.31  
Park Place, Boardwalk 12.30  
Electric Company, Water Works 8.96 different
  22.39 monopolized
B & O, Reading, Pennsylvania, Short Line 18.22 all different
  27.33 two, one and one
  36.44 two and two
  59.21 three and one
  145.74 monopolized
Community Chest and Chance -13.76  
Luxury Tax 9.68  
Income Tax 27.57  
Jail 11.69  

The use of this chart is best explained with an example.  Suppose that you have Boardwalk and Park Place and nothing else, having traded away all your other properties to get that monopoly.  You have just passed Go, collected your $200 salary, and have $250 burning a hole in your pocket.  Should you buy a $200 house or hold your cash for expenses?

The total cost of the colored properties other than the ones you own and Baltic and Mediterranean, which you have probably jumped over after collecting your salary, is 2.72 + 4.76 + 7.67 + 9.71 + 10.69 + 12.31 = 47.86.  Suppose that one of your opponents has Reading and B & O, one has Pennsylvania and one has Short Line; so add 27.33 for railroads.  If the Electric Company and Water Works are owned by different players, add 8.96 for utilities.  Subtract 13.76 for Chance and Community Chest since they are generally good for you and here we are summing up expenses.  Add 9.68 for Luxury Tax but ignore Income Tax because you have probably jumped over it after collecting your salary.  (If you landed on Income Tax, the decision has already been made for you:  the tax man gets the house and you get another long march around the board.)  Add 11.69 for bailing oneself out of jail; this is just for the $50 bail as the added cost of running the gauntlet again has already been taken into consideration with the 5.92 turns needed to get around the board, greater than the five that is usually quoted.

Thus, you need to hold 47.86 + 27.33 + 8.96 – 13.76 + 9.68 + 11.69 = 91.76 dollars.  If you spend $200 of your $250 on a house for Boardwalk, there is a good chance that you will have to sell it back to the bank for half price before you reach Go again.  This is why it is not a good idea to trade away everything you own, particularly money makers like railroads and utilities, to obtain Boardwalk and Park Place.  They will not hold their houses against undeveloped property.  Note that we are here assuming that nobody lands on Boardwalk or Park Place in the next go around the board.  This is because we are trying to avoid the desperate situation where somebody absolutely must land on your property or you are going to have to sell the houses off of it.

Following is a chart for the cash holdings that you need when holding a red monopoly against various combinations of railroad and utility monopolies.  It assumes that, after collecting your $200 salary, you have landed far enough forward that Baltic, Mediterranean and Income Tax are no longer a concern when deciding how much to spend on houses.

  Utilities Different Utilities Monopolized
All railroads different 85.24 98.27
Two railroads owned together 94.35 107.78
Two and two railroads owned together 103.46 116.89
Three railroads owned together 126.23 139.66
Four railroads monopolized 212.76 226.19

Clearly, it is very difficult to develop a monopoly if that is all you own.  But, if you also own two railroads (even if the other two are owned by the same player) and one utility, the outlook is much better.  Your expected expenses are 50.45 + 18.22 + 4.48 – 13.76 + 9.68 + 11.69 = 80.76 dollars but your expected income is 3(18.22 + 4.48) = 68.10 so you only need $12.66 cash holdings to survive a go around the board and can put most of your salary into houses.