For some, white elephant gift exchanges are about ending up with the best gift of the group, even if you have to beg, borrow or steal. By nature the game is unpredictable but here’s a few situations you can watch out for to help you get the gift that you want.
There will be popular gifts that many people in the group will want. You should consider stealing a popular gift even if it’s not something you would like to take home with you. It may be stolen later from you, giving you the opportunity to steal from a wider selection of gifts. You may even want to steal a popular item even if it will be frozen to you. After the game ends you can negotiate a swap with whoever is holding the gift you really want.
If you have a chance to steal but aren’t interested in any of the opened gifts, you will be forced to open a new one. If you suspect the gift you brought will be popular and it’s still on the table, you may choose to open it in hopes that it will be stolen from you later in the game when you have more opened gifts to steal. This won’t do you any good if you think the player who goes after you will steal your gift. You may want to keep your mouth shut about opening your own gift and keep the item that you brought.
If you don’t end up with the gift you want, you can always try to swap with someone after the game ends. You may need to sweeten the offer if they aren’t interested in the gift you have.
If you open something that you hope to keep, don’t let the group know that you’re interested in it. If they know it’s something you really want they may steal it from you for leverage later, or they may genuinely become interested in it themselves.
If you see that someone desperately wants something you may want to try to steal it yourself. It can be a good bargaining chips for side deals and gift swaps.
Keep people guessing by using clever wrapping. Try to bluff players by wrapping your gift in the shape of something else. Check out this clever gift wrapping from Reddit.
There may be an opportunity to use the restrictions on stealing to your advantage. For example, Let’s assume your group only allows a gift to be stolen twice. If someone opens something that you really want but suspect others will want to steal also, you don’t want to be the first one to steal it, it will just get stolen from you later. Steal something else instead that you think that someone else in your group really wants and allow another player to steal the item you have your eye on. Later when someone steals the gift you’re holding you can steal the item you’re after and it will be yours to take home. Basically, choose the most desirable present that you don’t actually want.
You could form an alliance with others players and split whatever the group wins. You don’t steal valuable items from each other unless you need to lock a gift.
Buy something only you would want and steal it.
If you’re gift is food and you want to keep it just take a bite. No one’s stealing it now.
If you end up with something you don’t want and no one else seems interested in stealing it, do your best to act like it’s a big win.