How to Win A White Elephant Gift Exchange And Go Home With Something You Actually Want

It's that time of year again when friends, family, and co-workers gather for holiday parties — and all the wacky traditions that come with them. Sure, you could just do an office Secret Santa, pull names, and have everyone go home happy. Or, you could get a little more creative and host a white elephant gift exchange — just make sure you have a foolproof plan in place first.

First, a quick refresher on how it all works. If you've never done a white elephant gift exchange before, the rules are pretty simple. To participate, everyone has to bring a gift, which all get put into a pile. Before the game begins, everyone draws a number out of a hat. The number determines the order in which you get to pick a gift. Here's where the game gets tricky: when it's your turn, you have the option to either pick a new gift from under the tree, or steal one that someone else has already picked. However, a gift can only be stolen twice, and then it's considered "locked," meaning it officially belongs to the third person who gets it.

Most would say it's best to go last because you get to see all the gifts and then choose, but if all the good ones are already locked then you're kind of out of luck. So how can you ensure you'll get a gift you actually want?

As my friends and I discussed whether we would get good gifts or gag gifts, my roommate mentioned that she knows a secret to getting what you want at a white elephant gift exchange. Impossible, I thought. If you've ever played the game, then you know there really is no strategy. It's a game of chance.

But after listening to her explain her method, I had to admit it seemed like a good bet. So in the season of giving, I thought I'd share the secret. Other white elephant champions might hate me for spilling the beans, but it's not a fair game unless everyone knows how to play (and cheat).

1. Form an Alliance

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First things first, you need allies. The game works best if you form a group of three. Basically, the three of you will be working together to get the gift (or gifts) you want. When the first of the three picks a gift, they will look to the other two for guidance on which gift to steal or which to choose from under the tree. When the second of the three goes, they will have the opportunity to either lock the first choice gift or steal a new gift with guidance from the other two, and so on.

2. Have a Secret Code

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In order to communicate without outing yourselves, you'll need to have a secret code. Something that says, "That's the gift we want!" So if someone opens a gift and that's the one your teammate wants to steal, they'll cough and the second teammate will agree with a second cough. You get the idea. Also, good gifts are easy to spot, so it shouldn't be too hard.

3. Lock the Gift You Want

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The goal is to lock the gift you want. If you have the opportunity to lock the gift you want, then do it. That means the gift has already been stolen once, and you have the chance to steal it a second time, thus making it indefinitely yours. Your other two teammates will potentially have the chance to do the same, but at least you know you'll have one good gift to share.

4. Split the Winnings

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That's right, if you form an alliance, you're going to have to share. So if you get a $30 gift card to Starbucks, then you each get $10 to spend. But the other two will have to split their gifts as well, so it's a win-win for everyone.

Don't know what to get for your gift exchange? Check out these 50 holiday gifts under $50.

Images: Jonas Nordlund/Flickr, Giphy (4)