One riddle form the old times of piracy. It is getting more popular again in certain parts of the world so it brings the puzzle closer to real life problem :-)

Five pirates stole a treasure – exactly hundred gold coins.

Pirates have a special way of dividing their loot:

  • The oldest one suggests how he would split up the loot.
  • Everyone votes.
  • If he gets more than half votes they split the loot according to his proposal.
  • If he doesn’t the others kill him and the process starts all over again – without the dead pirate.

All pirates are very used to this way of dividing and they never break the rules. Everyone’s top priority is his life. Second is money. And if there is no money or life involved in his decision he likes to harm the others.

How will they split the loot?


Start thinking from the other end.


If there is only one pirate left its easy – he takes it all.

If there are only two youngest pirates left on the boat the older one dies every time because the youngest just says no kills the older guy and takes the loot.

It means that if there are three pirates left on the boat the second youngest will agree with the oldest guy no matter what to save his own life. It means that the oldest pirate takes all gold.

What if there are 4 pirates? The second oldest will never agree with dividing because he is next and if it gets to him he takes everything. It’s necessary to pay the two youngest pirates. They wouldn’t get anything is the fourth one was to be killed so he needs to give just one gold coin to each.

Finally 5 pirates. The oldest pirate needs two votes. He will hardly convince the second oldest as he would have to give him more than 98 gold coins. On the other hand it’s easy to pay the third guy as he wouldn’t get a single coin if the fourth pirate was to divide. He needs to give him just one coin. Two youngest guys would get one gold coin each in next step. So he can just give two gold coins to one of them.

Oldest: 97 second oldest: 0 third: 1 one of the two youngest 2 the other 0 according to the oldest pirates will.