Krzysztof Willman has played a lot of Monopoly and enjoys sharing tips and strategy advice.
How to Win in Monopoly
The best strategy in Monopoly is to not lose, and that's about it.
There are countless videos and articles about winning strategies and cheats, but they won't tell you how to win. The only strategic way to win is to know which pitfalls to avoid to give yourself the best chance of not losing or coming in last.
So, in this article, we'll explore the booby traps of Monopoly that both amateurs and experienced players commonly step into. (I realize there are variations of the game, but this guide applies to most versions.)
7 Common Pitfalls in Monopoly
- Buying the Railroads
- Purchasing Utilities
- Collecting Multiple Properties
- Making Insufficient Trades
- Building Too Much, Too Fast
- Overpaying at Auctions
- Giving Up Too Quickly
1. Buying the Railroads
When I first started playing Monopoly, I wanted to buy all four railroads because of the potential to collect up to $200 per hit or $400 if you receive a certain chance card. However, I discovered that the cost of four railroads exceeded any gains.
On top of that, I'd have to magically collect all four before someone else intervenes and ruins my idea. There have been instances where I never landed on one or two specific spaces for the entire game, and one of those happened to be a railroad.
So, newbies, don't make the same mistake I did, and collect your $200 when passing "GO" instead of purchasing Reading Railroad—unless it's a steal at an auction, traded/sold at a cheap price, or mortgaged off due to bankruptcy.
2. Purchasing Utilities
A similar problem that's akin to the railroads is buying these lousy utilities. It's not worth spending $150–$300 for useless properties that you'll likely only use as collateral when landing on Boardwalk with a hotel.
If you do want this real estate, then make sure the prices are lower than their face values. I wouldn't be caught dead spending over $100 for one of them, because they're a waste of money and you're unlikely to get back the money you invested into them.
Focus on properties that'll pay off in the long run and not on loose scraps for short-term gain.
3. Collecting Multiple Properties
Another rookie mistake is purchasing way more things than are acceptable. You don't need a rainbow of color-coded cards because they'll only slow you down, slow the game down, and anger the other players.
Instead, I would focus on getting at least two sets of items—unless we're talking about the green and dark blue spots (most expensive). If they are your targets, then I'd either only settle on one of them or pair them off with two of the least expensive properties.
The Problem With Buying Too Much
Anyway, the problem of buying too much will rapidly become apparent when you start running low on cash. You'll struggle paying off other players and won't have enough money to buy more items of the same color to build upon. Besides not having enough to form a color set, you'll struggle building houses/hotels, and you won't have enough backup if you land on someone else's house or hotel.
As for your competitors, they will become annoyed if you're buying everything on the board. You have to let them buy things, too (respect and good sportsmanship), and—most importantly—you don't want to slow the game down further.
If you do become a rainbow collector, then I hope you'd at least make a bunch of fair trades between your opponents to accelerate the game; otherwise, you'll start seeing flames in their eyes.
4. Making Insufficient Trades
Trading plays a major role in Monopoly, and the fate of yourself and others could come down to a simple exchange. If you're trading a property or two, then make sure you get something fair in return. Don't be one of those people who trades in a dark blue (Boardwalk or Park Place) for a purple or light blue (least expensive) without additional money. (You want it to play out in reverse.)
The smartest players know how to manipulate others into thinking the deal is fair when, in actuality, it gives the initiator a slight to significant advantage. I'd advise that you attempt to get away with an advantageous offer (maybe the opponent is a newbie), but be careful not to end up on the short end of the stick.
In Monopoly and in other strategy games, you need to be in control of the situation. Every move should be calculated, and every buy or trade has to be thought of well ahead if you want to succeed. In other words, "Don't wing it and expect to win."
5. Building Too Much, Too Fast
The rules of Monopoly get more skewed when it comes to the building aspects of the game. When I played, there were no limits to how much one could build on a turn, but it's not like we could build two hotels on one property, either. Even with set limits, I think it's important to not build on every consecutive turn. However, there are notable exceptions to these building rules.
Only build immediately and in mass quantity if:
- You're building on the two least expensive sets of properties, especially on the purple ones.
- You have sufficient funds after you've finished building (preferably over $500).
- You're playing the trump card: You have nothing left to lose because other players have houses and hotels set up everywhere.
If none of those apply and you're still in the thick of it, then I'd refrain from instant gratification. Personally, I like to purchase a couple of houses for each colored property every time I pass GO or gain a plethora of cash from a card or opponent.
6. Overpaying at Auctions
I like to play without using auctions, but I've done it with them, too, and a common mistake is bidding way too high for a single property. Even worse is if those high bids are on railroads, utilities, or other inexpensive properties. I know it may be tempting to want a piece of the pie, but it's usually not worth spending so much money over it.
I could understand if it's the only property you'd need to start building, but what's going to happen if you waste most of your money on one thing without anything left to build? Not much!
You're better off giving up on the auction and opting to do a trade with your opponent. With trading, you could offer a few useless items and less cash for a property you really need. At least your cash will continue to flow, and it could be used to build something worthwhile.
7. Giving Up Too Quickly
Players often decide to quit before they lose everything, and it's very childish. Some players quit despite having a slew of remaining houses and hotels because they barely have any money at their disposal. If you have properties, then there's still a chance to win before giving up.
Anything is possible when a roll of dice controls your fate. You may miss out landing on a friend's hotel, and subsequently they may land on one of yours. It doesn't take much to flip the odds when you have enough collateral to fight back. Please don't be a sore loser. Respect the game, yourself, and your opponents, and be gracious if you do succumb to defeat.
You're Not Guaranteed to Win
You'll 100% lose if you go against my advice; that's the only thing I can guarantee. I can't say the same about winning. Even if you avoid all those pitfalls, you could still lose or end up last, but your odds of winning are much greater.
Monopoly is part strategy, part luck, because from time to time you need the dice to show the right numbers. Strategically, you'll have to navigate through landmines (hotels), hit required spaces, and outsmart your opponents in order to win.
There's a lot of moving parts in Monopoly, and game plans are nice to have, but don't think they'll assure anything. Be smart, do things you can control, and hope for some luck throughout the game. In the end, winning is an option; losing is a certainty, especially if you follow these top 7 ways to lose in Monopoly.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on August 22, 2017:
That's the opposite of me so you're doing something right. Same here.
Chad Crouch from South Africa on August 22, 2017:
I always win in monopoly but thanks for these tips. Been a while since I played though.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on January 01, 2016:
Thank you very much. I'm guilty of sticking to one strategy because it worked for a while only to find out that change is good. I love Monopoly because it's a board where tactics play a significant role and luck is more of a side character. Good luck of your next Monopoly play and hope you win!
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on December 28, 2015:
Great hub. I am guilty of quite a few of these. In fact, I tend to change it up with each game in my hunt for the perfect tactic. I will keep these in mind when I am playing my next game of monopoly as it is the decider of the overall winner. Fingers crossed for me!
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on July 16, 2015:
Agreed but players still can't seem to understand.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on July 16, 2015:
Thank you Jodah. I can understand; it is a long game after all. I like the idea of "Bankruptcy". It puts a nice spin on the entire concept of Monopoly and other games where the sole focus is to gain the most to win.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 15, 2015:
Buying properties can earn a lot of money, the rest are useless
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 15, 2015:
I used to play Monopoly a lot and the kids love it, but nowadays I just don't have the patience to sit out a whole game. We did have another game called "Bankruptcy" I think and the idea was to be the first to lose everything...I found that more fun. Good advice here though Chris.