5 Pirates Fight for 100 Gold Coins Puzzle

Puzzle: There are 5 pirates in a ship. Pirates have hierarchy C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5.C1 designation is the highest and C5 is the lowest. These pirates have three characteristics : a. Every pirate is so greedy that he can even take lives to make more money.  b. Every pirate desperately wants to stay alive. c. They are all very intelligent.There are total 100 gold coins on the ship. The person with the highest designation on the deck is expected to make the distribution. If the majority on the deck does not agree to the distribution proposed, the highest designation pirate will be thrown out of the ship (or simply killed). The first priority of the pirates is to stay alive and second to maximize the gold they get. Pirate 5 devises a plan which he knows will be accepted for sure and will maximize his gold. What is his plan?


To understand the answer,we need to reduce this problem to only 2 pirates. So what happens if there are only 2 pirates. Pirate 2 can easily propose that he gets all the 100 gold coins. Since he constitutes 50% of the pirates, the proposal has to be accepted leaving Pirate 1 with nothing.

Now let’s look at 3 pirates situation, Pirate 3 knows that if his proposal does not get accepted, then pirate 2 will get all the gold and pirate 1 will get nothing. So he decides to bribe pirate 1 with one gold coin. Pirate 1 knows that one gold coin is better than nothing so he has to back pirate 3. Pirate 3 proposes {pirate 1, pirate 2, pirate 3} {1, 0, 99}. Since pirate 1 and 3 will vote for it, it will be accepted.

If there are 4 pirates, pirate 4 needs to get one more pirate to vote for his proposal. Pirate 4 realizes that if he dies, pirate 2 will get nothing (according to the proposal with 3 pirates) so he can easily bribe pirate 2 with one gold coin to get his vote. So the distribution will be {0, 1, 0, 99}.

Smart right? Now can you figure out the distribution with 5 pirates? Let’s see. Pirate 5 needs 2 votes and he knows that if he dies, pirate 1 and 3 will get nothing. He can easily bribe pirates 1 and 3 with one gold coin each to get their vote. In the end, he proposes {1, 0, 1, 0, 98}. This proposal will get accepted and provide the maximum amount of gold to pirate 5.


Difficulty level of the puzzle : High

One Thought on “5 Pirates Fight for 100 Gold Coins Puzzle

  1. Don’t quite understand the solution.
    1. Why would Pirate 4 (in 4 pirate case) or Pirate 5(in 5 pirate case) die?? Is it not the highest designated Pirate who is at risk i.e. Pirate 1 who is in charge of doing the distribution??

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