Friday, September 22nd, is now a day that will live in the annals of The Price is Right history books for another century. We were so shocked that something like this could happen we had to wait to make sure it wasn’t a hoax. But it isn’t. That famous Big Wheel likely broke the bank of a few sponsors.
Let’s set the scene. Friday was the 10th Anniversary celebration of the show with Drew Carey hosting it. There are actually two versions, one that started in 1956 and the second, the one we are all familiar with, in 1972. The face of the pre-Carey show was Bob Barker. Generally, contestants can get $1,000 on a $1 spin, and $5,000 or $10,000 on one follow up spin. CBS decided to mark Carey’s 10th anniversary show by upping the payout values of the Big Wheel to $10,000 for the first $1 spin and $25,000 for a second $1 spin.
The first three contestants all got $1 on their first try, pocketing $30,000 total. Then, two of the contestants who tried for the $25,000 spin hit the jackpot. In less than 3 minutes the show had paid out $80,000.
The odds of spinning $1 on the Big Wheel on the first spin are 1 in 20 because there are 20 numbers in 5 cent increments. Whatever number you get on the first spin, unless it is $1, your odds of getting two numbers to total the $1 are 20 in 381. As for what the odds are of two players pulling this off let alone three in a row is a calculation we will leave for the mathematicians. But we know it’s probably astronomical.
The show gives away cars, boats, trailer homes, and vacations on a weekly basis. Some are worth more than the $35,000 won by these two people. So why the fuss? First, everybody understands cash. Whether it is $35 or $35,000 we get it. Second, winning isn’t everything on The Price is Right. If someone wins a trailer home and they are living in a two-flat in the city, it’s hard to be happy about the prize. What’s worse is that they will have to pay taxes on everything they win, so the more cash, the better. I don’t know, but maybe they can refuse the prizes after the show.
It was a moment to remember for everyone watching, especially the contestants who won. Drew Carey being Drew Carey was about as excited as someone who lost. If you think the contestants were overreacting to their once-in-a-lifetime jackpot, keep in mind most of the people who are on the show have never won anything in their lives. Maybe $2 on a lottery scratch ticket. So take a minute to be happy for these people. They may not know that their winnings are definitely taxable, and when the Taxman cometh they will have another way to remember their experience.
Finally, there are those who reject the idea that this result is possible. They have believed for years the Big Wheel is fixed, controlled by someone backstage who can put the brakes on it. They may have a case given the odds of what happened on Friday.