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The Press Your Luck FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

    This FAQ documents the cult-classic game show that aired originally on CBS from 1983-86.
**UPDATED LAST: July 2nd, 2o13

    With Press Your Luck now back on the air on Game Show Network, and with so many questions afloat, I thought I would put most of them together to make an FAQ, that way these questions wouldn't be asked so frequently, and they could be answered here!

**NOTE: I had to reword some of these questions because.....well...they were worded incorrectly. Well, ya know. :-) Also, it's been SEVEN years since I updated this thing...so some of the answers may seem weird, but I left them up for nostalgic purposes.

Some of your questions regarding certain episodes can be found on my PYL Episode Guide.

Q: What is Press Your Luck?
A: Are you serious? It was a game show that featured three players going for the BIG BUCKS, while they were trying to avoid the whammy. It originally ran on CBS from 1983 to 1986, and multiple times on reruns on different networks. It is currently airing in reruns on GSN. If I ask you this and you miss the question...then in the words of Peter Tomarken, "I can turn ugly."

Q: Who hosted it? Who was the announcer of the show?
A: Peter Tomarken hosted the show. He also hosted Hit Man, and most recently, Paranoia (as well as a round of "Whammy"). The main announcer was Rod Roddy, who announced for the classic show, The Price is Right for over 18 years. (RIP, Rod and Peter) To further answer this question, there were two sub-announcers for the show. John Harlan and Charlie O'Donnell subbed for Rod while he was on vacation.
    Updated answer: Todd Newton hosted "Whammy! The All New PYL" which was on Game Show Network.

Q: Who was it that won over $100,000 and memorized the whole board? (There are more questions like this.....)

Michael Larson...

A: All of those questions about someone memorizing the pattern and winning over $100,000.
That would be Paul Michael Larson who took the show for $110,237 in cash and prizes. He did NOT memorize the whole board. He only memorized the light pattern since the slides shuffled randomly. Before his episodes taped, there were 5 patterns on the board, and he started taping shows and slowly looked for patterns.
    So he borrowed the money to get to L.A. to try out for the show, and he bought a shirt from a thrift store for only 65! Lucky for him, he made the show, and he utilized those memorized patterns he had in his head and started getting on a roll! On his first few spins, he hit some bucks, but he also hit some prizes. Finally, he started taking the board for all of the money....

Every time he stopped on a square, he would stop on square #4 or #8, which were both squares that would guarantee Larson an extra spin....with four being the BIG BUCKS square. He went over forty spins without hitting a whammy, and when it was all said and done, he was the champion with over $110,000! That took care of a few questions right there.

As a matter of fact, GSn came out with a documentary based on this very incident, which first aired in March, 2oo4. That documentary, in which yours truly has a credit in the end, is called, "Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal". Watch out for it on GSn! It really answers many questions surrounding him and his strategy and features interviews with people associated with the show.

Before you ask about the patterns, go online and either look up the Big Bucks documentary, or check out THIS WEBSITE documenting all of the patterns that were used in the show's run, including the infamous five Larson patterns!

Q: What IS a whammy?
A: Oh......if you really don't know right now. Ok, leave...NOW!
They were the red creatures that took all of your money away.

Q: How many different whammies were there?
A: In total, I'd say there were about 80 whammies. Brian Sapinski's whammy site lists pretty much all of them here.

Q: What slide colors were the whammies on?
A: Yes, I have been asked this enough times already. The whammies had a YELLOW background behind them. I have pictures of whammies all over my site! Not joking. :-)

Q: What happens if two contestants whammy out, and the last player still has spins left?
A: Obviously, s/he still has to take those spins left, if they want to. That is called "playing against the house." In other words, the player keeps spinning until they want to stop.

Q: Has someone ever played against the house?
A: Oh yes, a few times, actually. The first such incident happening on the 5/17/84 show.

Q: Has there ever been a game where everyone whammied out?
A: Nope; the only way for that to happen is if the player playing "against the house" also whammies out, and nobody would be that stupid. :-)  ......actually, that almost happened twice in the summer of 1985. GSn recently aired a "lost episode" where the player going against the house nearly whammied out!

Q: Has there ever been an occasion where one or more players won with $0?

Llewellyn's ZERO bucks win from 1986!
A: YES! There were at least FOUR instances where a player won with $0 in a game. Those airdates were 8/1/84, 10/22/84,  1/23/85, and another one in 5/8/86.
    There was at least one instance where two people tied with $0. This was the 10/14/83 ep.

    Finally, there were TWO shows where ALL three players won the game with no bucks! This was an early 1986 episode, and the 1984 episode right after Thanksgiving.

Q: Ok, so what happens when a player wins with $0? Does that person come back or what?
A: If a player wins with nothing, then s/he comes back. In those games where everyone got $0, all three players came back.

Q: How do I obtain a copy of show # <insert number between 1 and 750 here>?
A: I will most likely have the episode. If I do not have it, you could ask around. There are many many episodes out there, so you never know.

Q: How much are you willing to sell your Press Your Luck tapes for?

Q: What episode aired on <insert date here> on <USA Network, GSN>?
A: If I don't have that exact date on the episode guide for USA Network episodes, then chances are I don't know! I was busy being a kid in elementary school when PYL ran on the USA Network! However, I do try and put in a few airdates here and there from USA and GSN. Of course, the episode guide provides all the original airdates from the initial CBS run from 1983-1986.

Q: Don't you think PYL should be revived and come back? Who should be the host? The values should be....
A: Ok Ok Ok, enough with those types of questions! First of all, the show came back for a revival on Game Show Network! Whammy! was on the air for two seasons on Game Show Network only! Todd Newton hosted the show, and most of the values are the same, with a few changes here and there, especially between the first and second seasons.

Q: But <insert name here> would make a great host...
A: What did I just say? If you said Peter Tomarken....are you some kind of Tomarkenite?
---->You know what...he would make a great host. In fact, he shot a pilot for the Whammy! revival. Todd Newton also shot a pilot for the remake of the show. Apparently, it was a very tough decision between the two hosts; however, Newton got the nod and he took over the reins as the host of the beloved PYL franchise.
I leave this question up for nostalgic and personal reasons. Sadly, Peter Tomarken has since passed away, and there are no talks at all for a revival of the show. Of course, we did see the show return for a one-time taping of "Game Show Marathon." Having attended that taping, I thought they did a great job bringing the board back to life, and I thought Ricki Lake actually did a formidable job holding down the fort, and learning a new format each week can't be easy.

Q: How many different board configurations were there?
A: There was 3 different board configurations for round one, and (correction) 16-18 for round 2. The board changed so much over the years, and some of those changes were subtle.

Q: Besides Larson, what is the biggest one-day total in PYL history?
A: That would be Becky from the 5/18/84 episode. She won $33,410. Second place would be another Michael from 1986 who won $33,380 with three whammies in his face! Rumor has it that there was an over $35,000 win.......so that may be it!

Q: What is the biggest whammy loss in the show's history?
A: Okay, the answer to this question is still being disputed among PYL historians. As far as we know, Cathy from the 8/10/84 episode lost $31,408 to the whammy, and she was heartbroken! However, it is rumoured that there may have been a whammy loss of over $35,000 in the 1986 season, but that hasn't been shown on GSn, and nobody on the trading circuit has that episode...if it did, indeed, happen.

Q: What made the dollar values change?
A: The board actually consisted of 18 slide projectors which showed 3 different slides for each sqaure. So, in total, there were a number of 54 slides. However, on the pilot episode, there were more than 3 slides because on some of the squares, there was more than one whammy. So, there may have been more. The reason slides were used was because when they changed, it had a "morphing" look when the slides changed.
--> Before you ask, and as an addendum to this question, the slides were actually quite small. In fact, they were about the same size as your typical family vacation slides from back in the day. In fact, here is a picture of my hand holding a dark blue $1500 + ONE SPIN slide that was almost used in the show, but was instead kept hidden away all these years...

The actual slide...

More questions later if needed....

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