How to Start a Monopoly Game

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Whether you’ve somehow never played a game of Monopoly before, or it’s your first time taking charge and getting everything set up, knowing how to start a game of Monopoly is important, but not always straightforward.

It’s not helped by the fact that a lot of people play with their own ‘house rules’ which differ from the official ones included in the box.

So, use this guide to learn exactly how you should be starting a Monopoly game. Between this and the other little known Monopoly rules, you’ll be set to be the perfect Monopoly game host.

How do you set up a Monopoly game?

To set up a classic Monopoly game, you need to place everyone’s token on Go, distribute $1,500 in cash to each player using the correct denominations, and shuffle the Chance and Community Chest cards, placing them in their correct spots.

It’s also good practice to make sure the property cards are in the correct order and the cash in the bank is spaced out within the sections of the game box so that it’s easy to grab the right bills.

Monopoly set up

Looking for a shorter game?

According to the official instructions, you can shuffle the property cards first and deal three random cards to each player, which they then own. They don’t need to pay for them. There are other rules to speed things up too, but those are used in-play rather than when setting up.

How much money do you get at the start of Monopoly?

In a standard game of Monopoly, each player starts with $1,500. It should be distributed as two $500 notes, two $100 notes, two $50 notes, six $20 notes, five $10 notes, five $5 notes, and five $1 notes.

Monopoly money at start

If playing in the UK, the rules are exactly the same, just swap the $ for £ – there’s no fancy currency conversion needed! Most versions of Monopoly use these same rules, but some versions do have others.

For example, in Monopoly Empire, each player starts with $1 million, which is broken down simply into one $500k note, four $100k notes, and two $50 notes.

Monopoly Millionaire, by comparison, starts each player with $372,000 in their bid to become the first millionaire.

Some Monopoly games have different starting cash depending on the number of players. Monopoly Junior’s a great example – two-player games begin with $20 per player, three-player games with $18 per player, and four-player games with $16 per player.

Check out this guide on how much money you start a Monopoly game with to find out more.

Do you start on Go in Monopoly?

All tokens start on Go when you begin a game of Monopoly, and your first roll of the dice does not count the Go space. This means that it’s impossible to land on the first space after Go in your first turn, since your minimum dice roll is 2.

Monopoly tokens on Go to start

Actually, Mediterranean Avenue is one of just four spaces on the board that you cannot land on in your first turn. The others are the Chance space just before Park Place, Park Place itself, and Luxury Tax.

Any of the spaces from Short Line previously can be landed on with a combination of doubles and then non-double rolls, e.g. double-6, double-6 and then 11 would take you to Short Line.

And Boardwalk is reachable if you roll either a double-6 and then a 10 (either 6-4 or double-5), or double-5 then double-6, landing you on Chance, if you then draw the “Advance to Boardwalk” card. You can’t then make it to Mediterranean Avenue though as that would only be achievable if you’d rolled two doubles, landed on chance, and then rolled double-1, which would land you in jail.

Go is also reachable on your first roll using the Community Chest “Advance to Go” card.

Who goes first in Monopoly?

All players roll the dice to decide turn order, according to the official Monopoly rules. The banker rolls first, then every other player. The player with the highest roll starts, and turns then pass to the left.

Of course, you can use any rules you want to decide turn order if you don’t care about following the official rules. You might do youngest starts, or eldest, or tallest.

Rolling the dice

Do you have to go around the board once before buying anything?

You do not have to go around the board before you buy property in Monopoly. You can buy property on your first roll, and any property you land on but choose not to buy must go straight to auction.

The ‘taking a lap’ rule, where you need to complete one lap of the board before buying anything, is an unofficial house rule designed to make the game last a little longer and also make the game fairer so that the player going first doesn’t get too big an advantage.

Except that it still gives someone an advantage – but instead of being the player who rolled highest to start the game, it’s the player who rolls highest in their first three or four turns. That’s why Monopoly is great, there’s always an element of luck involved.

Can you go to jail on the first round of Monopoly?

You can go to jail on your first pass around the Monopoly board. In fact, you could even go to jail on your very first roll, if you’re unlucky.

You can go to jail on your first turn in Monopoly by:

  • Rolling three doubles in a row
  • Rolling a total of 30 across two doubles and a regular third roll to hit the Go To Jail space
  • Landing on Community Chest and pulling the Go To Jail card
Go to Jail on first round of Monopoly

So, let’s put that into perspective with some stats. This gets heavy, so skip this bit if you don’t like super-detailed information!

The probability of rolling three doubles in a row

There’s a 0.46% chance of rolling three doubles in a row.

Doubles make up 1/6 of the potential combinations you can roll at any one time. 1/6 multiplied by 1/6 multiplied by 1/6 is 1/216.

So, in every 216 games you play, chances are you will roll three doubles in a row on your first turn once. Yikes.

The probability of rolling 30 on your first turn

Rolling 30 and landing on the Go To Jail space on your first turn is very unlikely.

These are the ways you can do it:

  • Roll double-6, double-6, then a six either through a 1-5, 5-1, 4-2, or a 2-4.
  • Roll double-6, double-5, then an eight through a 2-6, 6-2, 5-3, or a 3-5
  • Roll double-6, double-4, then a ten through a 6-4, or a 4-6
  • Roll double-5, double-6, then an eight through a 2-6, 6-2, 5-3, or a 3-5
  • Roll double-5, double-5, then a ten through a 6-4, or a 4-6
  • Roll double-4, double-6 then a ten through a 6-4, or a 4-6

Each specific roll has a 1/36 chance of happening, which means to get three specific rolls in a row you have a 1/36 x 1/36 x 1/36 chance, or 1/46,656 chance, or around a 0.002% chance of it happening.

As there are 18 possible combinations above, that means there’s around a 0.038% chance of you rolling exactly a 30 on your first turn. It’s exceptionally unlikely.

The probability of getting a Go to Jail Community Chest card on your first turn

This is where it gets complicated. You can reach all three Community Chest spaces on your first turn. As there are so many ways to do it, the chance of this is 0.25%.

You can land on the first one by:

  • Rolling a double-1
  • Rolling a double-5 then a double-6 to land on Chance, pulling the Advance to Boardwalk space, then rolling a 2-1 or a 1-2
  • Rolling a double-6 then either double-5, 4-6 or 6-4 to land on Chance, pulling the Advance to Boardwalk space, then rolling a 2-1 or 1-2

The second one is 17 spaces into the game. You can land on it by:

  • Rolling a double-6 and then a 1-4, 4-1, 3-2, or 2-3
  • Rolling a double-6, double-1 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-5 and then a 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 4-3, or 3-4
  • Rolling a double-5, double-1 and then 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, or 3-2
  • Rolling a double-5, double-2 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-4 and then a 3-6, 6-3, 5-4, or 4-5
  • Rolling a double-4, double-1 and then 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 4-3, or 3-4
  • Rolling a double-4, double-2 and then 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, or 3-2
  • Rolling a double-4, double-3 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-3 and then a 6-5, or 5-6
  • Rolling a double-3, double-1 and then 3-6, 6-3, 4-5, or 5-4
  • Rolling a double-3, double-2 and then 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 4-3, or 3-4
  • Rolling a double-3, double-3 and then 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, or 3-2
  • Rolling a double-3, double-4 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-2, double-1 and then 6-5, or 5-6
  • Rolling a double-2, double-2 and then 3-6, 6-3, 4-5, or 5-4
  • Rolling a double-2, double-3 and then 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 4-3, or 3-4
  • Rolling a double-2, double-4 and then 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, or 3-2
  • Rolling a double-2, double-5 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-1, double-2 and then 6-5, or 5-6
  • Rolling a double-1, double-3 and then 3-6, 6-3, 4-5, or 5-4
  • Rolling a double-1, double-4 and then 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 4-3, or 3-4
  • Rolling a double-1, double-5 and then 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, or 3-2
  • Rolling a double-1, double-6 and then 1-2, or 2-1
  • Rolling a double-5, then a double 6 to land on Chance, pulling Advance to St. Charles Place then rolling a 1-5, 5-1, 2-4, or 4-2
  • Rolling a double-6, then a double-5 to land on Chance, pulling Advance to St. Charles Place then rolling a 1-5, 5-1, 2-4, or 4-2

The third one is only reachable by:

  • Rolling a double-6, double-5 to land on Chance, pulling Advance to Illinois Avenue, then rolling a 3-6, 6-3, 4-5, or 5-4
  • Rolling a double-5, double-6 to land on Chance, pulling Advance to Illinois Avenue, then rolling a 3-6, 6-3, 4-5, or 5-4

Each of the above that involves just one roll of the dice has a 1/36 chance. Any that have two rolls are 1/36 x 1/36 = 1/1,296. Any that involve three dice rolls are 1/46,656. And any that require the exact Chance card to be pulled to match also have an extra 1/16 chance of being the right card.

And all of that is just to work out the odds of landing on a Community Chest space. I won’t list out all the calculations, but it ends up at being around 4% on your first turn.

You then need to draw the right Community Chest card, which is another 1/16 chance. So your odds of pulling the Community Chest card to send you to jail on your first turn are actually 0.25%.

If you add that to the odds of rolling three doubles in a row – 0.46% – and the odds of rolling 30 on your first turn without rolling three doubles – 0.038% – then the total odds of you landing yourself in Jail on your first turn are around 0.75% – or once in every 133 games.

Double five

How does Monopoly end?

In the official rules, a game of Monopoly ends when all players bar one are bankrupt. The last player left is the winner.

Shortened games let you end when either two players remain, or when the first player goes bankrupt. Whoever owns the highest value assets wins in those games.

A lot of people think that Monopoly is a game that lasts a huge amount of time, but most games will end within around 90 minutes if you play to the official rules and don’t introduce some common house rules that can slow things down.

The Bottom Line

Getting set up for Monopoly is pretty easy once you know the rules. You just want to make sure that everything is organized correctly so that property cards are easy to find, that everyone has their token on the Go space, and that each player has the right amount of starting cash.

At least, that’s the theory – as long as nobody argues over their token, and the game board has been kept neatly stashed away, so you don’t need to spend a long time sorting the cash from the property cards!

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