1 9 8 3 (USA)
This CBS game show worked as follows: A question was read to three contestants. The ﬁrst player to buzz in received a chance to answer. That answer, plus two additional answers, were revealed to the other players. The remaining two players then had the opportunity to select one answer.
Points (called ‘spins’) were awarded thus: three spins for the player who buzzed in ﬁrst if they had the correct answer; if they were wrong, the other player could receive one spin if they chose the correct answer. Four such rounds were played.
Players then received the opportunity to use their spins on a large electronic game board divided into 20 squares, each of which revolved rapidly.
Squares contained cash amounts, merchandise prizes and “Whammies”. The object was for a player to accumulate as much cash and merchandise as possible within their allotted amount of time without hitting a “Whammy” (which automatically wiped out all their earnings).
The player with the overall highest cash and merchandise score was the winner.
The board was supposed to hit the various squares at random, but unemployed Ohio ice cream truck driver Paul Michael Larson knew better. An avid watcher of the show, he began videotaping it to see if the Whammies really did have a pattern. After all, it was all controlled by a computer, and computer programs often have patterns.
He eventually realised that the board did indeed use only six different sequences and memorised them, and then applied to appear on the show. He finally made it in 1984 and quickly put his plan into practice.
After answering a question correctly, Larson played for an unprecedented 35 turns, bagging a total of $110, 237 – The largest win in single game-show history at that point.
As he continued to win and win, the producres realised that they had been played, but he wasn’t doing anything illegal and there was nothing they could do.
While the network publicly congratulated him (and capitalised on the publicity), the board was quickly reprogrammed to be genuinely random and the upper win limit was capped at $75,000.