Game shows are a great way to make some quick cash, but only if you have a semblance of general knowledge. Always a staple fixture on TV schedules in the UK, game shows are not only lucrative propositions for the players, but also the companies behind them.
Over the last 20 years, British game shows have attracted huge audiences and that has allowed the leading games to give away some insane prizes. Although not quite on a par with winning something like the lottery, the odds of taking down a game show are a lot better, especially if you can perfect your poker face.
Remaining calm under pressure is something contestants need to be masters at and if you want to win like a game show pro then you can’t lose your cool. Indeed, a number of modern day game shows now peddle the “pressure” angle in an effort to create dramatic TV, which means you need to perfect your poker face if you want to bank some serious cash.
So, if you can think like a poker pro and learn a few trivia facts, which TV shows offer the best opportunity to make some money?
Hosted by Jasper Carrott and featuring a subtle blend of knowledge, deception and strategy, Golden Balls was not only high in value but high in entertainment. The main premise of the show was as follows:
At the start of the game, 12 random “golden balls” are drawn from a bank of 100.
To these 12 options, four killer balls are added to the mix.
Once the 16 balls have been defined, they are then distributed evenly among the four contestants.
After receiving their balls, the players must then put two on the back row and two at the front. They must then open their balls and state the financial value of each ball and this can either be a lie or the truth.
The round is then brought to a conclusion by the four players voting on the player they think has the lowest valued balls. The player who receives the most votes is eliminated and this process is repeated in Round Two with the only difference being that a new random set of 15 balls are divided between three players.
The final two contestants then need to choose whether they want to bin certain balls or win (add them to the jackpot). This process is repeated five times and if the killer ball isn’t chosen (this divides the jackpot by 10), then the players will then have a chance to win some cash by either splitting or stealing.
This is essentially the prisoner’s dilemma. If a player chooses to steal and their opponent splits, the former wins. If both users steal, then nobody gets any cash. If both players choose to split, they share the jackpot evenly. This final twist is one of the reasons this show became a huge hit and is repeated regularly on UK TV.
For a true test of your poker face, PokerStars’ Shark Cage offers the perfect game show dynamic. Pitting aspiring poker players against some of the toughest sharks in the game (note: these aren’t real sharks), this TV tournament is a mixture of entertainment, skill, pressure and, importantly, money. Those who can swim through the waters and emerge unscathed will have the opportunity to play for a final prize pool worth $1million.
However, before a player can take their seat at the final table they will have to navigate a preliminary round against a collection of pro players. In total there are six heats which are filmed at various locations in Europe as part of the EPT (European Poker Tour).
Qualifying for Shark Cage is a two-stage process. Players must first finish within the top 20 of a qualifier (a low-cost poker tournament which feeds into a more expensive event). Those who make it through one of the qualifiers then need to pass the casting stage. During this part of the audition process, players must upload an audition tape to YouTube before a phone interview. The aim of this two-stage process is to find the players with the best skills and personality to make an engaging show.
The players who make it through to one of the six heats (one qualifier for each) will take on five poker pros, such as Daniel Negreanu, and if they can win this match they advance to the finale in Monaco. Everyone who makes it through to the final will then have a chance to play for a share of $1m.
To ensure there’s an emphasis on entertainment, all players have to abide by special rules, such as ‘Don’t Get Bluffed’. No player wants their poker face to give away the strength of their hand. So, if they get bluffed and their opponent shows, not only do they receive some playful ribbing from the table, but they’re sent to the shark cage.
Additionally, each player is “playing against the clock” which means there is a time limit (30 seconds) on the action which ramps up the pressure considerably. Like Golden Balls, knowing how to perform in the face of adversity is crucial on Shark Cage and that’s the reason it has become one of the most engaging game shows in recent years.
The Million Pound Drop
In terms of pressure, there are few games that can match the Million Pound Drop. Fronted by the energetic Davina McCall and featuring a cool million in cold, hard cash, the aim of the game is simple: you must stake your cash on the answer you think is correct.
The game starts with two (sometimes one or four) contestants, £1m and five trapdoors. After reading out the first question, McCall then asks the players to put money on the correct answer. Splitting the money is permissible, which means players can hedge their bets and stake varying amounts on multiple trapdoors.
Once the time limit has run out, all the wrong answers will open their trapdoors and any cash placed on top will fall down a chute and away from the players. This process continues for eight rounds, with the number of options reducing as the game progresses (Rounds Five-Seven have three options and the final round has two possible answers).
If the players manage to make it through the eight rounds and answer the final question correctly, they will win whatever money is left in their stack. Traditionally players never make it through to the final round with £1m and one of the main skills in the game is to remain calm and manage your money sensibly throughout the rounds.
Look Like a Pro: Show Your Poker Face
As you can see, staying calm and knowing how to perform under pressure is a key component of high-stakes game shows. While you may not have to be the next Negreanu to bank a six-figure sum on the TV, it certainly pays to have a steely demeanour and the ability to think logically under pressure when you’re on a game show.
Indeed, whether you find yourself on one of the shows listed in this article, or something such as Fifteen To One, an affinity for staying cool, calm and collected is the key to winning some big money.