Guess the PIN

Common Guessing Patterns

September 27, 2021

At the time of this writing, and after more than 1,000,000 guesses, we see a few obvious patterns in the ten most-frequently incorrectly-guessed PINs.

(It’s worth noting, by the way, that while the ten most-frequently incorrectly-guessed PINs represent just 0.10% of all possible guesses, they account for 8.08% of actual guesses.)

First, is the use of sequential digits:


While 1234 is no surprise—it’s the most common incorrect guess of all—we didn’t expect the frequency of 2345. Digging a bit deeper into the database and beyond the top ten, we see the pattern continue with 3456 (0.33%), 4567 (0.28%), and 5678 (0.21%).

The second pattern, a bit different from sequential digits, is sequential numbers:


As you can see, at least some people set out to guess a pin by sequentially starting at zero. (How long they last, however, is another matter, and perhaps a topic for a future blog post.)

Finally, the third pattern is repeating digits:


In other words, easy-to-remember and unfortunately, easy-to-guess.

Anything else you want us to investigate? Email us through the Bored Button contact form.

An Explanation of the Time it Takes to Guess a PIN

September 19, 2021

We’ve received our first question, and it’s a good one. A site visitor who’s been watching the History of Guessed PINs on the statistics page wants to know why there’s so little correlation between the number of guesses it takes to solve a PIN and the total time.

For example, the PIN 3718 took 8,820 guesses to solve, but only 10 minutes. Compare that to the PIN 3368, which took a similar number of guesses to solve (7,743 guesses), but far more time (5 hours). With similar number of total guesses, shouldn’t the time to guess be roughly the same?

The answer is in how Guess the PIN receives traffic, which at the moment, is almost entirely from our friends at Bored Button, and thus an uneven distribution.

In other words, it’s possible (and indeed, very likely) that the randomness of traffic from Bored Button resulted in far more visitors to the site while 3718 was active than while 3368 was. And more visitors means more guesses over a shorter amount of time.

The final word: time to guess is interesting, anecdotal data, but it’s essentially a random variable with little relationship to the dependent variable of guess count.

What We’ve Learned During Our
First Week

September 15, 2021

First, and most importantly, the website works!

We launched Guess the Pin one week ago, and we’re excited to have already received more than 300,000 guesses from 1,500 unique visitors during the first seven days.

That makes for some easy math with a surprising result: on average, each unique visitor made 20 guesses.

Of course, in this case the median number of guesses would be much more interesting than the average (or mean). But because we’ve committed to not associating guesses with individual visitors, we unfortunately can’t report the distribution. Which means that a single, determined person making thousands of guesses could very well skew the average.

Also of note: during our first week, the PIN was correctly guessed 20 times, with the PIN 0003 requiring only 91 guesses to solve and the PIN 0470 requiring 43,371.

Does something about 0003 make it easier to guess than 0470? Certainly incrementing one number at a time is, if nothing else, a thorough strategy for guessing, and indeed, the three guesses made immediately before 0003 were 0000, 0001, and 0002. So if you suspect someone might try to systematically guess your PIN, you’re likely better off using a higher number.

Stay tuned for more analysis.