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Press Your Luck

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Press Your Luck

Press Your Luck
Created by Bill Carruthers
Jan McCormack
Directed by Bill Carruthers
Rick Stern
Presented by Peter Tomarken
Narrated by Rod Roddy
Theme music composer Lee Ringuette
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 758
Executive producer(s) Bill Carruthers
Producer(s) Bill Mitchell
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) The Carruthers Company
Distributor FremantleMedia
Original channel CBS
Picture format 480i SDTV
Original run September 19, 1983 (1983-09-19) – September 26, 1986 (1986-09-26)
Preceded by Second Chance (1977)
Followed by Whammy! (2002–03)

Press Your Luck is an American television daytime game show created by Bill Carruthers and Jan McCormack. It premiered on CBS on September 19, 1983 and ended on September 26, 1986. In the show, contestants collected spins by answering trivia questions and then used the spins on an 18-space game board to win cash and prizes. The person who amassed the most in cash and prizes at the end of the game won. Peter Tomarken was the show's host, and Rod Roddy was the primary announcer. John Harlan and Charlie O'Donnell filled in as substitute announcers for Roddy on different occasions. Press Your Luck was videotaped before a studio audience at CBS Television City, in Studios 33 and 43 in Hollywood, California.[1] The show was a revival of Second Chance, which was hosted by Jim Peck and aired on ABC from March 7–July 15, 1977.

The show was known for the "Whammy"—a red cartoon creature wearing a cape. Landing on any of the Whammy's spaces on the game board took away the contestant's money, accompanied by an animation that would show the Whammy taking the loot, but frequently being chased away, blown up, or otherwise humiliated in the process. The Whammies were created and animated by Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp, and voiced by Carruthers. Approximately 85 different animations were used.


Three contestants competed on each episode, usually a returning champion and two new challengers. The game began by asking the contestants multiple-choice questions in order to earn spins. Tomarken asked the first question and a contestant buzzed-in and provided a response. That response, plus two additional choices, were then offered to the contestants who had not buzzed-in. Providing a correct response after buzzing-in earned that contestant three spins. Selecting the correct answer from the three choices earned one spin. If a player buzzed-in and failed to come up with an answer, within five seconds, that contestant was locked out of the question in play, leaving the other two contestants to answer in multiple choice. If no one buzzed-in within five seconds, Tomarken offered three answer choices to the players. Four questions were asked, after which the first Big Board round was played.

In the Big Board round, contestants used their spins to win cash and prizes. The board consisted of 18 spaces, each of which displayed three possible items - cash, cash with a spin, a prize, a directional square, or a Whammy.

In the first Big Board round, the contestant with the fewest spins played first. In case of a tie, the contestant seated farthest-left played first. Before each spin, a contestant was asked if they wanted to "press [their] luck" or pass their remaining spins. If the contestant chose to "press [their] luck", a selector light flashed among the 18 squares, while the contents of each individual square rotated. The contestant then stopped the lights from flashing by hitting a button in front of them. If the square landed upon contained a cash amount or prize, that value was added to their score. If it contained a Whammy, the contestant lost any cash or prizes accumulated up to that point. Some squares offered the contestant a choice of two or three different squares, moved the selector light, or awarded a cash value plus an additional spin.

Play continued until the contestant ran out of spins or chose to pass. When passing, the spins were automatically assigned to the contestant's opponent with the higher score. In case of a tie, the contestant chose which contestant would receive the additional spins. Unlike spins earned by either answering questions or winning spins from the Big Board, contestants were required to take any spins passed to them. However, if a player hit a Whammy with passed spins still assigned to them, those spins were added to any spins the player earned previously. The player could then take those spins or pass them as they wished. Once a contestant had used all of their spins or passed any remaining spins, play continued with the next contestant. Play was structured such that for the first two players, control did not change until he or she exhausted or passed their spins first; by the time the third player gained control, he or she was the only one with spins. If these spins were passed, control passed accordingly. The round ended after all spins had been taken.

A second question round was played after the first Big Board round, followed by the final Big Board round. In the final round, play started with the contestant who had the lowest score. If scores were tied, the player with the fewer spins began, again starting with the contestant seated farthest-left if the tie could not be broken. Once that contestant exhausted any remaining spins or was eliminated, play continued with the next-higher scorer from the previous round and eventually to the highest scorer.

Any contestant who accumulated four Whammies over the course of the game was eliminated from further play and his or her remaining spins forfeited. Whichever contestant had the highest total at the end of the final round kept their winnings and returned on the following episode. If two or all three contestants tied with the highest total, the tied players returned as co-champions on the next episode. In the rare event that two contestants were eliminated from the game after accumulating four Whammies, the third contestant continued to play until either exhausting all of their spins, or choosing to stop and end the game. If all three contestants whammied out, then the game would end with no winner, and three new players would appear on the next show. (This scenario never happened at any point in the history of the show.)

In the first Big Board round, cash amounts ranged from $100–$1,500 and prizes typically were worth no more than $2,000. The second round featured cash amounts from $500–$5,000, and prizes potentially worth $6,000 or more. Three special squares also appeared throughout the course of the show. The first, Double your $$, added a cash amount equal to the contestant's score at the time. This square later became Double Your $$ + One Spin, awarding a spin in addition to the cash amount. Add-A-One added a "1" to the front of the contestant's current score (e.g., $0 became $10; $500 became $1,500; and $2,000 became $12,000). The third, $2,000 or Lose-1-Whammy, offered the contestant a choice of adding $2,000 to their score, or removing a Whammy received earlier in the game. Add-A-One was only featured in the first Big Board round, with the others only appearing in the second Big Board round.

One square present in both Big Board rounds was Big Bucks. This square, appearing third from the right in the bottom row, automatically moved the selector light to the corresponding position in the top row. When the show premiered, the top dollar values in this square in Round One were $750, $1000, and $1250; the $750 space was later doubled to $1500. For the second round, from the show's pilot episode to cancellation, the top dollar values were $3000 + ONE SPIN, $4000 + ONE SPIN, and $5000 + ONE SPIN.

Limits on winnings

Any contestant who won five games or exceeded the winnings cap retired undefeated. From September 19, 1983 to October 31, 1984, any contestant who won over $25,000 retired undefeated, but kept any winnings up to $50,000. The CBS game show winnings cap was raised to $50,000 on November 1, 1984, with the champion able to keep anything up to a maximum of $75,000.

Home Player Spin

"Home Player Spins" were featured three times during sweeps periods: May 14–June 8, 1984, January 21–February 15, 1985 and October 21–November 22, 1985. Each of the three contestants was assigned a postcard with the name of an at-home player prior to the start of the episode. One spin in the final round was designated as the Home Player Spin at the start of the round, and when that spin occurred, whatever the contestant landed on during that spin was added to their own total and also awarded to the home player. If the contestant hit a Whammy, the home player received $500. If the contestant landed on a space that awarded money and an additional spin, the in-studio contestant received the money and the spin, but the home player only received the money.

At the close of the October–November 1985 contest, that episode's in-studio winner drew a card from a bowl containing the names of each of the 75 at-home participants featured over the five-week period. After drawing the name, the contestant took one spin on a modified board that showed only cash values and directional squares (no Whammies, prizes, or squares that offered additional spins were present). The value landed on, multiplied by the total number of spins earned by the three contestants in the second question round, was then awarded to the home player whose name was drawn.

Broadcast history

Peter Tomarken on the set of Press Your Luck for the 1983 pilot.

Original CBS Run

Peter Tomarken, who had just ended a 13-week gig as the host of Hit Man on NBC, was tapped as host for Press Your Luck. The pilot was taped on May 18, 1983,[2] and the actual show began both tapings and airings four months later on September 10 of that year.[1] The show premiered on September 19, 1983 on CBS at 10:30 AM ET (9:30 CT/MT/PT), replacing Child's Play, and placing it between The New $25,000 Pyramid and The Price Is Right.

On January 6, 1986, CBS relocated Press Your Luck in order to make room for a Bob Eubanks-hosted revival of Card Sharks. Press Your Luck replaced Body Language in the network's 4:00 PM afternoon time slot (12:00 p.m. EST in the New York City area,[3] and 11:00 a.m. PST in the Los Angeles area.[4]) The last episode of the show aired on September 26, 1986, but it was not acknowledged as the finale. The final tapings took place in August of that same year, when its cancellation was first announced.[5] After the show ended its run, CBS returned the 4:00 PM timeslot to its affiliates.


During the Winter and Spring of 1987, 130 episodes of the show were sold to Republic Pictures for Syndicated reruns to a handful of local stations. These episodes originally aired on CBS from February 25 to August 23, 1985,[6] and were also the first to be shown on USA Network from September 14, 1987 (the day USA Network picked up the show for its block of afternoon game show reruns) to March 11, 1988. Press Your Luck remained on the schedule until October 13, 1995.[7]

The series was later purchased by FremantleMedia, who also owns the Goodson-Todman and Reg Grundy libraries. Since then, the company has handled revivals and video game licenses, such as with Whammy! and the 2009 video game.

Game Show Network (GSN) aired the show from 2001-2009, airing episodes from February 1984-November 1985. GSN resumed airing the show in 2012, airing episodes from the September 1983 premiere to February 1984, and has recently begun airing episodes from November 1985 to early 1986. From 2001 to 2003, Larson's episodes did not air on the network until they were incorporated in Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal – including footage not aired during the original CBS broadcast. Currently, reruns of the show can be seen on GSN at 9:30 am ET on weekdays (with the exception of Thursday).

On June 8, 2006, Press Your Luck was featured as the fourth round of Gameshow Marathon on CBS.

Notable contestants

Michael Larson

In 1984, a self-described unemployed ice cream truck driver named Michael Larson made it onto the show. After watching the show at home with the use of stop-motion on a VCR, Larson discovered that the presumed random patterns of the game board were not random and was able to memorize the sequences to help him stop the board where and when he wanted. On the single game in which he appeared, an initially tentative Larson spun a Whammy on his very first turn, but then played 45 consecutive spins without hitting a second one. The game ran for so long that CBS aired the episode in two parts June 8 and 11, 1984. In the end, Larson earned a total of $110,237 in cash and prizes, a record for the most money in cash and prizes won by a contestant in a single appearance on a daytime network game show. Although this record lasted until 2006 when Vickyann Chrobak-Sadowski won $147,517 in cash and prizes on the Season 35 premiere of The Price Is Right, it still remains the record for highest single-day winnings on a series with returning champions.

Although CBS investigated Larson, they determined that figuring out the patterns was not cheating and let him keep his winnings. The board was subsequently reprogrammed with up to 32 new patterns to help prevent another contestant from being able to memorize the board as Larson had.

Later, in 1994, TV Guide magazine interviewed Larson and revealed the background of this episode including his decision to pass his remaining spins after he lost concentration and missed his target squares.[8]

Larson, through meticulous watching of the show, had figured out patterns to key off of the square next to the square in the upper left-hand corner of the board (which, in that he numbered the squares from the upper-left clockwise, was numbered "2") and that, several squares later, would end up either on a spot on the right side of the screen in which all three slides would contain smaller amounts of money plus a spin (numbered "8") or the spot in the top center of the screen (numbered "4") in which the "Big Bucks" (the largest amounts of money) plus a spin always resided. Not only would he not hit a Whammy if he landed on those two squares, but he would also be guaranteed to continue gaining more spins as long as he desired.

The story, and this strategy, were told in a two-hour documentary on GSN titled Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal in March 2003. GSN also aired a special rematch edition of Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, featuring the two runners-up from the show, host Tomarken and Michael Larson's brother James (Michael had died of throat cancer in 1999).

In July 2010, Michael's brother James, and his former wife at the time of winning, were interviewed for PRI's This American Life for the episode Million Dollar Idea.[9]


Aside from Michael Larson, several contestants later found fame outside of game shows:

Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck

In 2002, a revival titled Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck (shortened to Whammy! in 2003) hosted by Todd Newton premiered on Game Show Network. New episodes initially aired through 2003, and reruns continue to air on GSN.

Several changes to the rules and aesthetics of the game were made. Three new contestants appeared on each episode with no returning champions, much less cash was available, the board was entirely computerized (as well as redesigned), and the first question round was eliminated. Additionally, "Big Bank" spaces were added to the board in season two, which placed an accumulating jackpot to a contestant's bank when that contestant landed on the space and answered a question correctly.

International versions


The series was presented by Ian Turpie with John Deeks as announcer on Seven Network from 1987–88. Grundy Worldwide packaged this version, with Bill Mason as executive producer. This version used the same Whammy animations as the original, as well as a similar set (a Grundy tradition); however, the Big Board used considerably lower dollar values. Prior to this, there was an Australian version of Second Chance that aired in 1977 on Network Ten hosted by Earle Bailey and Christine Broadway and also produced by Grundy.[13]


A German version entitled Glück am Drücker ("Good Luck on the Trigger") aired on RTLplus in 1992 with Al Munteanu as host. It had an animated vulture named "Raffi" steal cash and prizes from contestants instead of Whammies.

Another revival, Drück Dein Glück ("Push Your Luck"), aired daily in 1999 on RTL II with Guido Kellerman as host. And just like Glück am Drücker, Instead of Whammies, a shark called Hainz "ate" the contestant's money. This version also had a unique rule where landing a car won the game automatically, regardless of the scores.


GMA Network aired a version called Whammy! Push Your Luck from 2007–08 hosted by Paolo Bediones and Rufa Mae Quinto; it used the same (redubbed) Whammy animations as the 2000s updated American version.


A Taiwanese variety show called Slugger Attack aired a segment based on this game on Taiwan Television from 1985–1995. It used a naughty ghost instead of animated whammies.


A Turkish version of PYL called Şansini Dene ("Try Your Luck") aired on Kanal D from 1994 until 1996, hosted by Oktay Kaynarca.

United Kingdom

An ITV version ran for two seasons from June 6, 1991 to September 20, 1992 on ITV in the HTV West region, with Paul Coia as host. The series was made on a small budget, using a point-based system with the day's winner receiving £200. This eliminated much of the excitement present in other versions, and declining ratings led to a switch from prime time to Saturday afternoons during the first season. When the show's second season premiered in 1992, it was moved to Sunday afternoons. The show was canceled following the second season due to budget cuts that resulted from the ITV franchise auctions, as well as lower ratings figures.


Video games

In 1988, GameTek released a home computer game of Press Your Luck for IBM PC compatibles and the Commodore 64.[14] Ludia Inc. (now part of RTL Group, which owns the show franchise) along with Ubisoft released an adaptation called Press Your Luck: 2010 Edition on October 27, 2009 for PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS and Wii. Prior to this, on August 24, 2010, the game was released for the Playstation 3 (via PSN) as part of the Game Show Party bundle pack (PS3 only) that also included Family Feud: 2010 Edition and The Price is Right: 2010 Edition.[15] and on PlayStation 3's PSN download service from August 24, 2010.[16]

Slot machine games

Shuffle Master was the first to develop a video slot machine version based on the show in 2000. It was also featured in the PC game "Reel Deal Casino: Shuffle Master Edition" in 2003. Currently, WMS Gaming developes video slot machines based on the show like the "Big Event" version with Todd Newton of Whammy! fame in 2008, a "Community Bonus" version in 2010 and a "3-reel mechanicals" in 2011. A now defunct online slot game was once developed for online UK casinos.

Online games

GSN featured a short-lived interactive version of Press Your Luck that featured a play-along element as rerun episodes of the show aired simultaneously.

Kiosk game

A kiosk version debuted at Planet Hollywood in 2011.

DVD game

In 2006, Imagination Entertainment released a DVD TV game hosted by Todd Newton of Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck fame, with Peter Kent as the announcer. The DVD game included three Question Rounds and three Big Board Rounds.[17]

Handheld game

An electronic handheld game was released by Irwin Toys in 2008.[18]

Lottery game

Several U.S. states have included Press Your Luck scratcher games in their state lotteries.

Facebook games

In January 2012, an app developed by Fremantle subsidiary Ludia and based on Press Your Luck debuted on Facebook.[19] Ten contestants compete in a single-question round together, all answering the same multiple-choice questions. There are six questions in total, each worth between $500 and $1,000, or a Whammy. A correct answer earns the question's value multiplied by the number of contestants who answered incorrectly or ran out of time (e.g., answering the $500 question correctly with three other contestants answering incorrectly earns $1,500). Bonus cash is given to the three contestants who answer the questions correctly in the shortest amount of time. Answering the Whammy question incorrectly causes the contestant to lose any money accumulated to that point.

The top three contestants go on to the big-board round, with each getting five spins. Gameplay is similar as on the 1980s series.

In September 2012, Ludia released Press Your Luck Slots on Facebook.[20]

iOS games

Ludia released an app version of Press Your Luck Slots for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad on April 22, 2013.


  1. ^ a b "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  2. ^ taping on 18 May 1983"Press Your Luck"Image of ticket from . Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  3. ^ New York Times; 1986 TV listings
  4. ^ Los Angeles Times; 1986 TV listings
  5. ^ "Afternoon Delete". Broadcasting Journal. 18 August 1986. p. 36. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  6. ^ your luck personable%22
  7. ^ David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 176
  8. ^ "THE DAY THE GAME SHOW GOT WHAMMIED", TV Guide, Nov. 1994
  9. ^ "Million Dollar Idea". This American Life. 
  10. ^ "Steve Bryant on". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Ralph Strangis Official Website". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Memorable Guide to Australia Television". Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  14. ^ for DOS"Press Your Luck". Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  15. ^ "Ludia to Put Its Spin on "Press Your Luck"; Signs Exclusive, Multi-Year Deal with Fremantle". Reuters. October 29, 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  16. ^ Jando, Eva. "Coming Tuesday to PSN: Press Your Luck for PS3". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  17. ^ DVD Game on"Press Your Luck". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  18. ^ Handheld Game on"Press Your Luck". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  19. ^ Mack, Christopher (January 9, 2012). "Press Your Luck on Facebook Review". Gamezebo. 
  20. ^ "Ludia and FremantleMedia Enterprises Announce "Press Your Luck® Slots" Game Now Available on Facebook®". Financial Post. Financial Post. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 

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