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Winning at Guess Who? (and Variations): 15+ Tips / Tricks / Strategies

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

‘Guess Who?’ is a board game that was highly popular back in the 1980s. School kids loved to play the game as it was fun, easy to learn, and didn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to finish. Even today, ‘Guess Who?’ is a fairly popular board game enjoyed by families all over the world. 

The premise of ‘Guess Who?’ is simple; guess the opponent’s mystery card before they are able to guess yours. This is done by asking a series of yes or no questions. Each player is allowed to ask one question per turn and has to rely on their deduction, observation, and elimination skills to outwit their opponent and win!

If you are having trouble beating a player at ‘Guess Who’ and would like to learn more about what you can do to beat them, you have come to the right place. Here, we will look at some of the best tips, tricks, and strategies to increase your chances of winning at ‘Guess Who?’ no matter who you face.

1. Narrow Questions

There are usually two types of questions that one can ask in ‘Guess Who?’; narrow questions and broad questions. Narrow questions are often seen as the superior choice as they allow you to eliminate many more potential suspects faster than broad questions. For example, does your person wear glasses?. However, it can also be a risky tactic, as we will learn later on. 

2. Broad Questions

Broad questions tend to apply to many characters. Broad questions have a greater probability of being answered in the affirmative but also result in only a small number of characters being eliminated per question. It is a safer option but can cause you to lose repeatedly if you are not careful. 

3. How Many Guesses On Average To Win?

Given that you are playing the original version of ‘Guess Who?’, it will likely take your opponent, on average, seven questions to guess your character. This is if they use only basic strategies such as the ones provided in the instruction manual. 

As such, in order to be better than them, you need to guess their mystery person in six moves or less to win. Don’t worry; we will get to the “how you can do that?” part shortly.

4. Character Attributes

It is important to remember that every single attribute in ‘Guess Who?’ applies to exactly five people. So, for example, five people will have blonde hair, five people will wear glasses, five people will have a mustache, and so on and so forth.

5. The Use Of ‘OR’ – Compound Questions

How can you guess an opponent’s mystery person in under 7 turns? By asking compound questions. This is the ultimate strategy to master when it comes to ‘Guess Who?’ as by asking compound questions, you can potentially eliminate anywhere from 5 to 20 characters in one single question!

The best way to ask compound questions is by using ‘or’. So, for example, instead of asking a basic question such as, “does your person have white hair?” you can ask, “does your person have white hair, or red hair, or wears glasses?”

Framing your question this way is perfectly legal and within the rules of the game. Your opponent still can only answer yes or no but based on that answer, you can potentially eliminate a lot more people. 

6. Math & Probability

‘Guess Who?’ is a game of probability. Your opponent has 1 out of 24 possible cards. Thus, it is probable that you are able to guess their character on the first move. No matter how small the probability may be. In the same manner, if you were to eliminate one card per turn, it would take you 12 turns to guess your opponent’s card. 

Understanding the math behind the game can give you a fair idea as to how close your opponent is to guessing your card and how close you are to guessing theirs. This allows you to strategize accordingly in order to gain the upper hand. 

7. Championship Play

To really improve your chances of winning, always opt for the championship play option in ‘Guess Who?’. Championship play is a best of five matches. It is the best way to ensure that the player with the superior skill emerges the victor rather than a player relying solely on luck.

8. Winning The Game In Two Turns!

In the 1982 version of ‘Guess Who?’, there is a way where you can beat your opponent in a matter of just one or two turns. As there is only one African American person and only one child, asking the question is, “your character dark-skinned?” or “is your character a child?” could potentially lead to a one-question victory if your opponent answers in the affirmative. 

9. Distinct Characteristics

Each person in ‘Guess Who?’ has distinct characteristics that can make them easier or harder to guess. Good players will always focus on asking questions related to the distinctive characteristics of each person in the game. 

This is why it is always best to draw a mystery person that has less distinctive characteristics as compared to more, as it makes them much harder to guess. 

10. The Worst Identities To Draw In Guess Who?

People in the game with six or seven distinct characteristics are by far the worst to draw as it makes guessing those characters much easier for your opponent. 

Characters with six distinct characteristics include Anne, Claire, Maria, Peter, Robert, and Susan. If you chose Anita as your mystery character, well, in that case, you will likely need a miracle to win. Anita is the only person with seven distinct characteristics making her the easiest to guess. 

11. The Letter Strategy

An easy and extremely effective strategy that you need to adopt into your game immediately is the ‘letter strategy’. The best way to be able to eliminate half of the options on your board is to start by asking the question, “Does your person’s name start with the letters A-G?.” Regardless of the answer, you are guaranteed to eliminate half of the characters on your board.

12. Don’t Count Your Own Card

An easy trick that players often don’t realize is that you aren’t actually guessing from 24 characters but rather 23. How? Well, your opponent can not possibly have the same mystery person as you have. Thus, your mystery person can also safely be eliminated from the board. An extremely handy tip if you didn’t know!

13. The Binary Search Strategy

The best way to ensure a guaranteed win in ‘Guess Who?’ is to use the binary strategy whereby each question you ask eliminates at least 50% of the people on the board. So, after your first question, you should have 12 remaining characters. For the next question, you should have six. On the 3rd question, you should have three and then two until you are finally left with one. 

This way, you are guaranteeing a win in at least every five turns. A feat that is tough to beat! 

14. Best Secret Identities In ‘Guess Who?’

The best secret identities you could hope to draw in ‘Guess Who?’ are David, Eric, Frans, and Paul. These people only have three distinct characteristics, making them much harder to guess.

15. Different Editions

If you are struggling to win in the classic edition of ‘Guess Who?’ there are plenty of other special editions you can try to give you a competitive edge. Maybe you are a Star Wars fan, a Disney fan, or even a Marvel enthusiast? There are plenty of special editions of ‘Guess Who?’ games that are more in line with your interests.  

16. Achieving a 90%+ Win Record

To be a master at ‘Guess Who?’ and achieve that elusive 90%+ win record, you need to combine all the strategies and tips you have learned in this guide in every game you play. 

Using a combination of narrow and board questions, the letter strategy, and the binary approach, you can greatly improve your chances of not just winning but dominating your opponents!

Final Thoughts

The reason why ‘Guess Who?’ was so popular back in the 1980s is that it’s simple, easy to learn, and a game that players of most ages can play and have fun with. However, like most other board games, there are plenty of tips, tricks, and strategies that can help you get better. 

We hope our selection does exactly that for you the next time you are having a ‘Guess Who?’ battle with one of your friends or family members!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.