Press Your Luck (Johnsonverse)

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Genre: Game show
Running Time: 22 minutes (CBS/WBC daytime)
44 minutes (WBC primetime)
Country: United States
Network(s): CBS (1983-1986)
WBC (1999-)
Distributed by: Republic Pictures (1983-1986)
Johnson Television (1999-)
Starring: Peter Tomarken
Narrated by: Rod Roddy (1983-2003)
Neil Ross (2004-)
Seasons: 3 (CBS)
22 (WBC daytime)
2 (WBC primetime)
Episodes: 761 (CBS)
3,000+ (WBC daytime)
14 (WBC primetime)
Release Date: Original series
September 19, 1983 – September 26, 1986
WBC daytime
September 13, 1999 - present
WBC primetime
June 12, 2019 - present

Press Your Luck is an American television game show created by Bill Carruthers and Jan McCormack. It premiered on CBS daytime on September 19, 1983, and ended on September 26, 1986. The format is a retooling of an earlier Carruthers production, Second Chance, hosted by Jim Peck and which aired on ABC in 1977.

The game featured contestants collecting spins by answering trivia questions, and then later using the spins on an 18-space gameboard to win cash and prizes. The contestant who amassed the highest total in cash and prizes kept their winnings for the day and became the returning champion. Peter Tomarken was the show's original host, and Rod Roddy was the primary announcer. John Harlan and Charlie O'Donnell filled in as substitute announcers for Roddy on different occasions.

The show was known for the "Whammy", a red cartoon creature with a high-pitched, raspy voice. Landing on any Whammy space caused the contestant to go bankrupt and start over from $0, accompanied by an animation that showed the Whammy taking the loot, but frequently being blown up or otherwise humiliated in the process. The Whammies were created and animated by Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp, and voiced by Bill Carruthers.

Starting on September 13, 1999, a new version, again with Tomarken and Roddy, began airing on WBC. The current announcer is Neil Ross after Roddy's death from cancer in 2003. A new weekly prime time version with Tomarken and Ross began airing on WBC on June 12, 2019, and continued as a limited summer series. This version was renewed for another season which premiered on May 31, 2020.



Three contestants competed on each episode, usually a returning champion and two new challengers (if a champion retired undefeated, then three new contestants would appear on the next episode).

Each game began with a trivia round where the contestants tried to earn spins, which was then used on the show's gameboard, referred to as the Big Board. A question was posed to the contestants, who tried to be the first to buzz in with a correct answer. Once a contestant gave an answer, the remaining opponents were given a choice of that answer or two additional answers provided by Tomarken and selected one. If the contestant that buzzed in gave the correct answer, it earned three spins. A correct multiple choice answer was worth one spin. If none of the three contestants buzzed in with an answer within five seconds, three answers were given to the contestants and they earned one spin each if they chose correctly. If a contestant buzzed in but failed to give an answer, that contestant was locked out of the question and it was treated the same way as if nobody had buzzed in.

After four questions were asked, play moved over to the Big Board. The board consisted of 18 spaces arranged in a 6×5 rectangle, each of which had a screen in it that displayed one of three items which changed rather rapidly, and a randomizer light which the contestants stopped by hitting their buzzer. The most common spaces offered cash, with an extra spin attached to some of them, and prizes, with some being directional spaces that either allowed the contestant to choose between two or three squares, or moved their position to a different part of the board. Cash amounts and prize values were added to the contestant's score, while landing on any of several Whammy spaces reset the contestant's score to $0.

In the first Big Board round, play started with the contestant with the fewest spins unless there was a tie, in which case the contestant seated furthest left started. For each square the contestant stopped the randomizer light on, the value of that square was added to the contestant's bank and that contestant kept playing ("pressing his/her luck") until running out of spins or deciding to pass. Any passed spins went to the contestant's opponent with the higher amount of money (or, if tied, the opponent chosen by the passing contestant). A contestant receiving passed spins had to take them and could not pass until all the passed spins had been used. Spins awarded from hitting spaces offering them were placed in the earned column, and hitting a Whammy caused the contestant's remaining passed spins to move to the earned column, allowing the contestant to pass. Play continued until the contestants exhausted all of their spins, or earned a total of four Whammies, in which they were eliminated from the game and their remaining spins (if any) forfeited.

Once all spins had been played, a second round of trivia questions followed with the same rules as before. A second Big Board round followed, with much higher stakes in play. This time, contestants played in order of their scores (lowest to highest) unless there was a tie between two or more contestants, in which case the contestant with the fewest spins started the round. Any passed spins, as before, went to the opponent with the higher score.

The contestant in the lead at the end of the second Big Board round became the day's champion, kept his/her winnings, and returned on the next show as long as the show's winnings limits were not reached (see below). If two or all three contestants finished the match tied, they returned on the next show. In the rare occurrence that two contestants Whammied out of the game and the remaining contestant had spins left, the remaining contestant was given a choice to end the game or keep spinning to try to win more money. The choice was given after each spin the contestant took, and the game continued until all spins were exhausted, the contestant stopped the game, or the contestant Whammied out. If the contestant managed to Whammy out, the game ended with no winner and three new contestants played on the next show.

Board values

In the first Big Board round, cash amounts ranged from $100 to $1,500 and prizes typically were worth no more than $2,000. The second round featured cash amounts from $500 to $5,000, and prizes potentially worth $6,000 or more. Three rare but special squares also appeared throughout the course of the show. The first, Double Your $$, multiplied the contestant's dollar amount at the time by two. This square later became Double Your $$ + One Spin, awarding an extra spin in addition to the multiplied 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, $2000 or Lose-1-Whammy, offered the contestant a choice of adding $2,000 to his/her score ($2,000 was automatically added if the contestant had no Whammies), 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. The top dollar values in this square in round one were $1,000, $1,250 and $1,500. For the second round, the top dollar values were $3,000, $4,000, and $5,000, all of which awarded an extra spin.

In both rounds, the value of a prize was announced only after it had been claimed, and a new prize was put on the board in its place (the aforementioned Add-A-One and Double Your $$ [+ One Spin] spaces were also treated as prizes in this respect).

Limits on winnings

Any contestant who won five games or exceeded the winnings cap (whichever occurred first) retired undefeated. From September 19, 1983 to October 31, 1984, any contestant who won over $25,000 retired undefeated, but was allowed to keep any winnings over that amount up to $50,000. The CBS game show winnings cap was doubled to $50,000 on November 1, 1984, with contestants now being allowed to keep any winnings over that up to $75,000. The winnings cap was abolished in the WBC version.

Home Player Spin

"Home Player Spins" were featured at various points over the course of the series' run. Each of the three contestants was assigned a postcard with the name of a home viewer 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 came up, whatever the contestant landed on during that spin was added to their own total and was 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 contestant received the money and the spin, but the home player only received the money. If the contestant landed on a prize instead of money, then the home viewer would also win that prize.

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 cash amounts with 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

(1983-86, CBS)

Rebroadcasts, syndication and digital television networks

(1999-present, WBC daytime)

The revived Press Your Luck began airing on September

(2019-present, WBC primetime)

Notable contestants

Michael Larson


International versions






United Kingdom


Video games

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Online games

Kiosk game

DVD game

Handheld game

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