Press Your Luck

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Press Your Luck
Premiere September 19, 1983
Finale September 26, 1986
Creator Bill Carruthers
Jan McCormack
Host Peter Tomarken
Network/Provider CBS
Style 30-minute game show
Company Carruthers Corporation
Episodes 758
Origin USA

Press Your Luck is a game show that aired on CBS. The show was a revival of a short-lived ABC game show from 1977 called Second Chance.

The show pitted three contestants who earned turns (or in the show's vernacular, "spins") on a game board by answering questions. The questions are asked, and the first person to ring in answers. That answer is offered as well as two additional possibilities for the other two players. A player getting the right answer by ringing in receives three spins. Players correct on the multiple choice gets one spin. Four questions are played.

The players now face the game board, comprised of eighteen windows surrounded by a string of lights that flash randomly from one to another. Each window features one of three items which change at about 3/4 of a second at a time. The windows contain money, prizes and "Whammys," which are little cartoon gremlins (on "Second Chance," they were Devils). The player with the fewest spins earned goes first and hits a plunger to stop the board. Whichever window the lights stop is what the player scores, if money or prizes. Stopping on a "Whammy" wipes out the player's score (it appears via computer animation in front of the player's score and performs some cartoony stunt to erase it). At any time after the first spin, a player may pass his/her remaining spins to the player with the highest money score (if no score, player's choice). Four "Whammys" eliminate a player from further play.

Many of the windows with money also contain additional spins, which keep the player's turn going as long as he/she doesn't pass his/her spins. A player with spins passed to him/her must play them. If he/she hits a "Whammy," the spins are transferred to being "earned" spins and can take them or pass them. Some windows contained elements of progress. Among them through the run:

  • Big Bucks (window #12) automatically redirects to the biggest cash value on the board (window #4).
  • Go Back Two Spaces (window #6) redirects to window #4.
  • Add-A-One (window #7) plants a 1 as the first digit to the contestant's score. Only appears once in the first round.
  • Advance Two Spaces (window #11) redirects to window #13.
  • Double Your $$ + One Spin (window #7 or 16) appears once in round two.
  • $2000 Or Lose 1 Whammy (window #15).
  • Across The Board (window #17) redirects to window #8.
  • Pick A Corner (window #6) appears in round two.
  • Move One Space (window #9 in round one, #18 in round two) allows either forward or backwards.

The highest money amount in round 1 is $1500 and the board features medium sized prizes. The largest money amount in round 2 is $5000 and features higher ticketed prizes. The player who has the highest score is champion and wins everything tallied. Up to 1984, a player could only accumulate up to $25,000 in winnings on any CBS game show. In late 1984, the ceiling was raised to $50,000.

The show sparked a minor controversy in 1984 when Michael Larson, an unemployed truck driver, appeared on the show and in a contest that encompassed two shows won $110,237 off 45 spins. He had apparently memorized the board patterns, which were programmed at six random patterns and was able to hit money windows with additional spins. CBS feared another Quiz Show Scandal, but Larson had actually done nothing wrong. He merely taped shows and committed the board patterns to memory. After this incident, the board was reprogrammed with 22 random patterns to make it significantly harder to memorize.

Press Your Luck aired at 10:30 AM Eastern on CBS up to January 3, 1986. Apparently, CBS was at odds about renewing The Price Is Right, which followed at 11 AM, but had a change of heart when the revival of Card Sharks, which replaced PYL, was optioned. The following Monday Press Your Luck was moved to 4 PM Eastern (12 Noon Eastern in several markets with CBS owned-and-operated stations) where it played out to its finale on September 26. CBS reverted the time period to affiliates afterwards. Repeats of the show went into syndication in select markets (through Republic Pictures) and then went into replays on cable's USA Network. The show later became one of Game Show Network's staples and is currently running regularly on Buzzr. It was revived in 2002 for Game Show Network under the new name Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck. Todd Newton hosted the new show.

In 2006, Press Your Luck was an element in the limited summer series Gameshow Marathon on CBS. Fremantle and Blue Orbit Inc. launched a revival of Press Your Luck for ABC which had a sneak preview on June 11, 2019 and had its official debut on June 12, 2019.


Member Role Duration
Support Staff 1 2 3
Rod Roddy Announcer * * *
Bill Carruthers Whammy voices * * *
Jim Cummings * * *