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Game On: How to Play to Win at Dating Apps

Strategies for gaming the algorithms that control your love life.

Key points

  • Gamification is built into the design of many popular dating apps.
  • Skilled dating app users know how to play the game strategically.
  • Tips for using the apps include logging on often and starting fresh when needed.
Source: insta_photos/Shutterstock

Dating apps can be a lot like games. Take Tinder, for example: Tinder is designed to be played like a game of cards. A swipe left on a profile "card" in the deck is a dislike and a swipe right is a like. You win when you and another person both swipe right on each other’s profiles, indicating a match. Even the Tinder algorithm used to (until recently) rely on Elo scores, which are the same ratings used to rank players in competitive games. Knowing a bit about how these algorithms work can put you at an advantage when it comes to improving your matches. What follows are five tips for mastering dating apps by beating the algorithms at their own game.

  1. Get your game face on. Every time someone swipes left or right on your profile, they are providing the dating app with feedback about your desirability. The more desirable others find you (i.e., the more people who swipe right on you), the better your matches will be. The desirability of the people doing the swiping also matters and can increase your own ranking. So what’s the best way to get right swipes from desirable partners? It all starts with having a good profile. Tweaking your profile (e.g., by taking a few new photos) is a simple way to improve the quality of your matches since it determines which way others will swipe when they see you.
  2. Don’t swipe right on everyone. Whether you’re overwhelmed by options or frustrated by low response rates, you might be tempted to swipe right on everyone and see who matches with you. However, if high-quality matches are your goal, this probably isn’t the best strategy. When you’re too liberal with your swiping, you’re signaling to the algorithm that you’re not very picky. Dating apps would be wise to save their best profiles for people who are harder to satisfy, which could leave you with whatever is left over. It’s also common for dating apps to stack the deck so that the best cards come first and to recycle profiles that you previously discarded, which means there’s little benefit to over-swiping.
  3. Swipe consistently. Something that’s important to understand about dating app algorithms is that they learn from your behavior. To predict who you’ll be interested in in the future, they rely on knowledge about who you (and people like you) have liked in the past. This is a good reason to be careful with letting friends swipe for you. Dating apps have no way of knowing if you’ve handed the swiping off to someone else and will assume their preferences are your own, even when they’re not.
  4. Get on the app more. Dating apps don’t want to match people with dead profiles. If you don’t log in regularly, your profile won’t be prioritized by these apps’ algorithms. According to Tinder, one easy way to get better matches is to be more active on the app. The more you use it, the more you’ll be shown to people you might like.
  5. If all else fails, start fresh. Dating apps keep track of your history. If one day you wake up and decide to try something different, it could take a while for the algorithms to catch up. Most dating apps don’t have reset buttons for their algorithms, although maybe they should. Until then, if you’re desperate for a do-over, you can always give yourself a fresh start by creating a new account.


Elo, A. E. (1978). The rating of chess players, past and present. Arco Publishing.

Pardes, A. (2019, May 25). This dating app exposes the monstrous bias of algorithms. Wired.

Sharabi, L. L. (2022). Finding love on a first data: Matching algorithms in online dating. Harvard Data Science Review, Issue 4.1.

Tiffany, K. (2019, March 18). The Tinder algorithm, explained. Vox.…

Tinder. (2019, March 15). Powering Tinder—The method behind our matching.…

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