Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dubioius Achievement I Remember

Michael Larson
“Achievement”: Only Successful Cheat On TV Game Show
Press Your Luck was an American game show of the 1980s, in which contestants would hit a plunger to stop a randomly shifting game board. The spaces on the board contained cash, prizes, and “Whammies”—little animated elves that would steal all of your cash should you land on one. In 1984, ice cream truck driver Michael Larson discovered with the help of his VCR’s pause button that the movements of the board were actually not random, but only appeared that way. Though the pattern was complicated, there was a pattern nonetheless. One that could be memorized.

Larson appeared on the only episode of Press Your Luck to be broken into two parts, aired over two days in June of 1984. It had to be—he couldn’t stop spinning. After nervously landing on a Whammy on his first attempt, Michael spun forty-five consecutive times without hitting another one.

He broke the bank, clearing $110,000 dollars—a record that still stands for single-day winnings on game shows with returning champions. After careful investigation, it was determined that technically, there was no rule against memorizing the board, and he was allowed to keep his winnings. Needless to say, he was not invited back and the board was reprogrammed to prevent others from exploiting the same weakness.

Listverse is one of the most fun sights out there with topics that appeal to the strange fascination in all of us for the minutia of history - fact and fallacies. I remember watching these two episodes as a teen. It was so exciting to see him win so much, especially when we had to come back and watch the finale the next day. Watching and listening to the host read off the cash and prizes this guy had won took five minutes. I know Larson's story had a bad ending but at the time it was a pretty cool thing to watch.


ThoughtCriminal said...

Watching the $10,000 Pyramid (and it's inflationary decedents) in the 70's, I was convinced that there was a some cheating going on. The contestant giving the clues would look at a screen which displayed a word that their teammate tried to guess. What I noticed was that if the person delivering clues wore glasses, the individual trying to guess the word would frequently come up with the correct answer almost immediately. I was pretty sure that some contestants could see the reflection of the screen in the glasses.

Kal said...

Now I am going to have to watch some of those old episodes to see if that is the case - dirty cheaters.