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Press Your Luck

Press Your Luck is a game show that ran from 1983 to 1986. It was hosted by Peter Tomarken and announced by Rod Roddy (minus the sparkly jackets). The show was perhaps most memorable for the Whammy, which would take away your money. Four Whammies would knock you out of the game.

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How It Works

Contestants earn spins by answer trivia questions. The contestants can use those spins on "the big board" which consisted of 18 monitors consisting of money, prizes, and the Whammy. Contestants were able to pass their spins to another contestant in the hope that the other contestant would hit a Whammy and lose.

Thats a lot of Money!

On one episode of Press Your Luck, one contestant named Michael Larsen memorized the board pattern and took away over $100,000 in cash and prizes, a record for game shows.

It's back!

In April of 2002, Game Show Network debuted "Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck," a revival of PYL. The show is hosted by Todd Newton and announced by Gary Kroeger.

In the revival, the first round is different. Instead of answering trivia questions for spins, the contestants take turns spinning on the board, with an option to "freeze" (i.e. stop spinning). If a contestant hits a Whammy in the first round, he's out of the round and cannot spin any more. The Whammy is now CGI, but when you come right down to it, it's still the same show.

Also, the revival features fewer chances to earn extra spins in the final round. Some of the best shows in classic PYL occurred when 2 contestants kept passing spins back and forth, because they kept earning bonus spins.


The only real decision a contestant gets to make is whether to spin or pass. (Except for someone who cracks the board pattern like Michael Larsen; that is probably no longer possible.) Occasionally, there are squares such as "move 1 space" or "pick a corner" that offer a choice. Most of the time, the correct decisions is obvious. However, a description of the exact optimal strategy is difficult.

Since the revival "Whammy!" does not feature returning champions, in this version it is sometimes correct to risk losing the game in order to win more. In classic PYL, winning the game is the primary goal. For example, in "Whammy!", if you're ahead $3000 to $500 with 1 spin left, you probably should spin again to increase your winnings. In classic PYL, this is a clearcut pass, because your opponent is unlikely to be able to get $2500 in one spin. (Only 1-2 out of 18 squares offer a chance to get that much, plus a few squares offer a bonus spin.) Even though you only win $3000, the right to return the next day is valuable.

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