Red and Blue Marbles Puzzle


You have two jars, 50 red marbles and 50 blue marbles. You need to place all the marbles into the jars such that when you blindly pick one marble out of one jar, you maximize the chances that it will be red. When picking, you’ll first randomly pick a jar, and then randomly pick a marble out of that jar. You can arrange the marbles however you like, but each marble must be in a jar.

Puzzle Solution:

Say we put all the red marbles into JAR A and all the blue ones into JAR B. then our chances for picking a red one are:

1/2 chance we pick JAR A * 50/50 chance we pick a red marble
1/2 chance we pick JAR B * 0/50 chance we pick a red marble

You would try different combinations, such as 25 of each colored marble in a jar or putting all red marbles in one jar and all the blue in the other. You would still end up with a chance of 50%.

What if you put a single red marble in one jar and the rest of the marbles in the other jar? This way, you are guaranteed at least a 50% chance of getting a red marble (since one marble picked at random, doesn’t leave any room for choice). Now that you have 49 red marbles left in the other jar, you have a nearly even chance of picking a red marble (49 out of 99).

So the maximum probability will be :
jar A : (1/2)*1 = 1/2 (selecting the jar A = 1/2, red marble from jar A = 1/1)
jar B : (1/2)*(49/99) = 0 (selecting the jar B = 1/2, red marble from jar B = 49/99)
Total probability = 74/99 (~3/4)

6 Thoughts on “Red and Blue Marbles Puzzle

  1. yelnatz on August 18, 2013 at 11:33 pm said:

    How’d you get the total probability? Would’ve been better if you put that step in.

  2. 1/2*1+ 1/2*49/99=74/99

  3. Put 25 Blue marbles at the bottle of jar A and put 25 Red marbles on top. Do the same arrangement for jar B also. Now your chance is 100%. This question says that you can arrange your marbles anyway you like.

  4. What about you place one red marble in 50 jars and 50 blue marbles into a jar? Shouldn’t you get 50/51 chances of getting red marble on the first go?

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