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High Rollers

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Hosts
Alex Trebek (1974-1976, 1978-1980)
Wink Martindale (1986 (Pilot), 1987-1988)
Co-Hosts/Models
Ruta Lee (1974-1976)
Elaine Stewart (1975-1976)
Becky Price, Linda Hooks and Lauren Firestone (1978-1980)
Crystal Owens & KC Winkler (1987-1988)
Announcers
Kenny Williams (1974-1980)
Dean Goss (1987-1988)
Broadcast
Vlcsnap-247309
NBC 7/1/74-6/11/76
Syndicated 9/8/75-9/19/76
Hr78
NBC 4/24/78-6/20/80
Hr86
Pilot 1986
Hr87
Syndicated 9/14/87-5/27/88
Packagers
Merrill Heatter/Bob Quigley Productions (1974-1980)
Merrill Heatter Productions/Century Towers Productions (1986; 1987-1988)
Distributors
Rhodes Productions (1975-1976)
Orion Television Syndication (1987-1988)

OPENING SPIELS:

1974-1976, 1987-1988: "And now a game of high stakes, where every decision is a gamble, and every move can be your last. Hiiiiiiiiiiiiigh Rollers! And here's the man with (all) the action, Alex Trebek/Wink Martindale!"

1978-1980: “(It's 1978!) (The New) High Rollers! And here's the man with the action, Alex Trebek!”

REST OF SPIEL (1987-1988): Thanks, everybody, and welcome to High Rollers. Skill, strategy, sabotage, and these unpredictable dice. They're the elements we have for you as our contestants try to win the luxurious prizes that are/we're (just about to be) putting on our game board. And whoever wins the best two-out-of-three game match goes on to play the Big Numbers for an additional $10,000 in cash.

GameplayEdit

Two contestants competed (almost always one male and one female in the 1987-88 version), one of whom was a returning champion (or designate, if a previous champion had just retired). The object of the game was to remove numbers off a game board containing the digits 1 through 9 by rolling an oversized pair of dice. High Rollers was modeled on a traditional board game called Shut the Box.

In order to determine who gained control of the dice, Trebek or Martindale asked a toss-up question with either multiple-choice answers, true-false answers, or "Yes" or "No" answers; whoever buzzed in with the correct answer earned a chance to do one of two things:

  • Roll the dice, an option usually taken only early in a game.
  • Pass them, forcing his or her opponent to roll. This was by far the most common decision, especially as a game progressed, with fewer good rolls on the board (and since a bad roll automatically lost the game). However, if the odds of making a bad roll were low, such as a 3 or an 11, the player who won control of the dice may take the gamble and roll.

Players removed numbers from the board based on the value of the roll of the dice (either all by itself or in combinations). For example, if a 10 was rolled, the player could remove any of these combinations: 1-9, 2-8, 3-7, 4-6, 1-2-7, 1-3-6, 1-4-5, 2-3-5 or 1-2-3-4, which were all combinations that added up to 10.

Beginning with the 1978 version, contestants who rolled doubles (e.g., 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, etc.) earned an "Insurance Marker," which could be turned in for a free roll if they hit a bad number. However, if the doubles roll itself was a bad roll, the insurance marker was translated simply into another roll, which meant that a roll of 2 (aka "Snake Eyes" 1-1) and a roll of 12 (aka "Boxcars" 6-6) were the only safe rolls whether the number itself was on the board or not.

Play continued until:

  • One player made a bad roll, meaning no combination of digits currently on the board could match that roll of the dice.
  • One player took the last remaining digit(s) off the board (the rarer outcome).

(Exception: During the short-lived "Face Lifters" format in 1976, a contestant won the game by identifying the famous person in the picture.)

The winner of the game kept any and all prizes in his/her bank (see below); in the event the bank was empty, he/she won a "house minimum" of $100 cash. Two out of three games won the match.

In addition to the gameplay which remained constant throughout all versions, each version had its own rules as detailed below:

1974-1976Edit

The original 1974-76 series featured a prize hidden under every digit on the game board, which was revealed once that digit was eliminated; that prize was then added to the bank of the player who revealed it. Two digits each contained one half of a large prize, usually a new car or boat. To bank the car, both "½" cards had to be uncovered by the same contestant. If the contestants each revealed one of the two cards, the prize was taken out of play.

During the final seven weeks of this version (April 26-June 11, 1976), the main game was known as "Face Lifters"; the digits concealed a picture of a famous person and the contestant won the game for correctly identifying the person in the picture. A player could take a guess after making a good roll. If a player made a bad roll, the opponent was allowed one guess for each remaining number in the picture; a successful guess won the game plus the prizes belonging to the numbers still on the board. If neither player guessed who it was, Trebek gave clues until one player buzzed in with the answer.

During the 1974-1976 version of the show, the contestants themselves did not actually roll the dice. That task was given to hostess Ruta Lee for the NBC daytime version, and Elaine Stewart (the card dealer on Gambit and wife of executive producer Merrill Heatter) on the nighttime version. The players sat along the long side of the dice table opposite from Trebek. Beginning with the 1978-1980 version, the hostess role was eliminated altogether and the players themselves rolled the dice, seated at one end of the table.

A syndicated version with almost identical rules ran weekly in 1975-1976. The only major difference, besides more expensive prizes being offered, was that the same two players competed for the entire show. After the first few episodes of this version, the rules were changed so that, rather than requiring players to win a two-out-of-three match, the winner of each game played "The Big Numbers." Once "The Big Numbers" were played (for $10,000), the losing player was brought back out for another game. The players played as many games as possible until time was called. If time was called during a game, the one who knocked the most numbers out won that game, their prizes (or the $100), and (in the two games out of three episodes) played "The Big Numbers" for (another) $10,000. Thus, a player could win over $30,000 in cash and prizes in a single show. However, like other weekly nighttime game shows at that time, this version had no returning champions.

1978-1980Edit

When the series was revived in 1978 (originally known as The New High Rollers), the digits were randomly arranged in three columns of three digits apiece, each column containing up to five prizes. In each round, the numbers had varying colors and typefaces as well.

The prizes ranged from the usual game show gifts (e.g., furniture, appliances, trips) to offbeat, unusual prizes. Some of the more outlandish examples included:

  • A collection of musical dolls.
  • African masks.
  • 12 portable televisions (one for the contestant and 11 for friends).
  • A fully-catered gourmet banquet for 50 people.
  • A trip to the Kentucky Derby with $100 bets on each horse.
  • A fully-equipped built-in home aquarium (stocked with exotic fish).
  • A $10,000 antique Chinese fishbowl, which was offered on the 1980 Finale.[1]

Often, the value of a prize package reached $20,000, mostly exceeding that mark toward the end of the 1978-1980 version.

One (very rarely, two) of the columns were called "Hot Columns", meaning that all three digits therein could be taken off by a single roll of the dice, thus claiming the prize(s) in that column. During the 1978-1980 series, each column started with one prize, with another prize added at the beginning of each game until the package was won, or until the maximum of five prizes per column had been reached.

Only by eliminating all the digits in a column could a player add those prizes to his/her bank; the contestant had to win the round to keep the prizes.

Alex & the GirlsEdit

ContestantsEdit

NOTE: The person controlling the dice is indicated by the lighted arrow in front of them.

RollsEdit

Here are examples for No Rolls

Gene SnookEdit

Here's a fabulous contestant by the name of Gene Snook.

Other PicturesEdit

1987-1988Edit

In 1987-1988, each game featured a different prize package in each column; unlike the 1978-1980 series and this series' pilot episode shot in 1986, the packages in this version did not carry over to the next game if they were not won. In some games, one of the columns contained the right to play one of several "mini-games".

  • Around The World: Each number on a die corresponded to one of five available trips; rolling a 6 won all five trips (i.e., "a trip around the world"). Regardless of the outcome of the game, the winner also receives $5,000 in spending money.
  • Dice Derby: This game mimicked a horse race; one horse was designated with even numbers (2, 4 and 6); the other odd numbers (1, 3 and 5). The contestant rolled the die and the appropriate horse moved one space depending on the outcome. The first horse to move four spaces on the track would win the race and a prize for the contestant. If the even horse won, the grand prize was a new car (or sometimes a trip or $10,000 cash). If the odd horse won, the contestant received a small prize, a moderately-priced trip or pocketed $1,000.
  • Driver's Test: The player controlled a game piece on a 12-position game board, arranged in a 4x4 ring of spaces. He/she had four rolls of a die to make the piece land exactly on the "CAR" space (which was seven spaces away from the starting position). The piece always moved toward the "CAR" space; if a roll caused it to overshoot the target, the next roll would have the piece reversing direction.
  • It Takes Two: A different prize was assigned to each number on the die. The contestant continued to roll the die until he/she repeated a number, winning the prize corresponding to that number. Frequently, the prize associated with the 6 was the "kitchen sink", meaning that the player would win all five other prizes if they rolled a 6 twice.
  • Love Letters: The contestant rolled a die up to four times to reveal letters in a six-letter word. Solving the word at any time won a new car.
  • Lucky Numbers: The contestant chose a number between 1 and 6, and then rolled the die. A correct hunch won the player a new car.
  • Map Game/Island Hoppers: An earlier version of "Around The World", played on the pilot and the series premiere. It was played identically to "Around The World", except in this game a 6 did not win all five trips (but rather a sixth, more expensive trip).
  • Rabbit Test: This game, which was played sparingly, took place center stage. The models wore fur coats. One coat was a fake, while the other was real rabbit fur. If the contestant could "feel out" the real fur, they won it. In the pilot, the rabbit was the secondary prize with the top prize being a mink coat.
  • Wink's Garage Sale: Six prizes, including a worthless gag gift, were available. Rolling a 6 won the junk prize; the others were the usual game show prizes.
  • Smiling Wink's Car Lot: In this game a each number on a die represented a new car - except number 6, which represented a Clunker (junk car), but at least the car was operational. The player rolled the die and whatever the number lands on the player won the corresponding car.
  • Duel of the Dice: This was only played in a pitch in the pilot. The contestant faced off against a monkey named High Rollers. The contestant rolled the dice first. The number that came up was the number that the monkey had to beat. Then the monkey rolled the golden dice, and if the contestant had the higher number, he/she won a trip and $1,000 in traveler's checks.

ContestantsEdit

RollsEdit

Game BoardEdit

Wink holding the DiceEdit

Wink & the GirlsEdit

The Big Numbers (all versions)Edit

In the bonus game, called the "Big Numbers", the champion attempted to knock off numbers on a new, bigger gameboard (except for the 1978-1980 series, which was played using larger numbers on the same gameboard from the main game). Insurance markers were still awarded for doubles; during the original 1974-76 version, this was the only time insurance markers factored into the gameplay.

In the earliest episodes of the 1974-1976 version, players had an opportunity to stop and take the money ($100 per number eliminated) after a good roll. If they held an insurance marker, a player could roll again after making a bad roll. However, a bad roll with no insurance markers not only ended the game, but the player also would lose all the money accumulated in the bonus game. If the contestant cleared all the numbers, he or she won $10,000, with a car being offered for removing at least eight numbers. The rules soon changed so that Big Numbers was played for $10,000, with a Big Numbers loss awarding $100 for each number eliminated.

From 1978-1980, if all nine numbers were knocked off, that player won $5,000 cash plus a new car. The car was later dropped as a prize, with Trebek explaining that it was due to the energy crisis during the last few weeks of this version. As before, if a contestant failed to eliminate all nine numbers, he/she received $100 for each digit that was eliminated from the board. The same rules for the Big Numbers were applied to the Martindale version, with $10,000 at stake. Also, on the Martindale version, the winning contestant rolled a pair of "golden dice" when playing the Big Numbers.

The Big Numbers bonus round was used in 1981 on Las Vegas Gambit (which was coincidentally hosted by Martindale and dubbed “Gambit Galaxy”). The only difference was that on Las Vegas Gambit, winning this game was worth an accruing jackpot of prizes instead of a flat $5,000.

PicturesEdit

1978-1980Edit

1987-1988Edit

Lucky NumbersEdit

Main article: Lucky Numbers

A pilot for a 1985 game show titled Lucky Numbers was produced, with Trebek hosting; this time, John Harlan announced, and Debbie Sue Maffett assisted Trebek.

Similar to High Rollers, a roll of a 7 was always a bad roll and forced the game to go into the "Danger Zone", with another 7 ending the game. Plus, rolling "snake eyes", a 3, an 11, and "boxcars" were "wild numbers", used to light up any number except the last one, which, due to fairness, had to be rolled naturally. The bonus round was played the same way, with $500 awarded each time a number was lit (if a person rolled a number that was already lit, or rolled a "wild number" when one digit was left unlit, the contestant just earned $100 more). If all six numbers (4-5-6-8-9-10) were lit, the contestant won $10,000. If a 7 was rolled, the contestant could either take the money and walk away, or roll again to light up any remaining numbers. If a 7 was rolled again, the bonus round and all bonus round winnings were lost.

Although the pilot never made it to television, its theme music became the main theme for the 1987-1988 version of High Rollers.

Broadcast historyEdit

NBC, 1974-1976Edit

Although Alex Trebek, a Canadian, made his American television debut on NBC a year earlier on The Wizard of Odds, most observers would cite this game as the show that made him a household name. In fact, High Rollers replaced Wizard at 11 a.m./10 Central on July 1, 1974, making Trebek one of a few hosts in daytime history to move from one canceled show on a Friday to a new one on a Monday.

High Rollers did considerably better than Wizard of Odds against CBS' Now You See It although it took the show nearly a year to force Now You See It off the air (ABC did not begin its network feed until 11:30/10:30 then). It also handled Tattletales successfully for several weeks in the Summer of 1975. However, when The Price is Right returned to CBS' morning schedule in August another Heatter-Quigley game, Gambit moved to 11/10 against its sister, giving viewers a highly-unusual choice between two games that both featured oversized gambling paraphernalia and were produced by the same company.

NBC, in a major scheduling shuffle, moved High Rollers to Noon/11 Central in December for six weeks. Although facing an ailing Let's Make a Deal on ABC, it went nowhere against CBS' The Young and the Restless which was just beginning its 33-year dominance of that time slot. January 19, 1976 saw the first version occupy its final time slot, 10:30/9:30, where it battled the last half of CBS' Price is Right. The time slot changes alone probably alienated a large number of viewers by that point, indicating that NBC had no confidence in the show. High Rollers' turbulent two-year history came to an end on June 11; NBC found itself resorting to reruns of Sanford and Son to fill the gap.

Syndicated, 1975-1976Edit

With Heatter-Quigley's Hollywood Squares performing highly as a twice-weekly syndicated favorite, the company decided to venture on the glamorous tone of High Rollers as another winner. However, the market was saturated with weekly versions of daytime hit games by this point, and High Rollers seldom if at all found itself in the coveted Prime Time Access slots before network prime time programming began for the evening. Thus, High Rollers lasted only one season, airing mainly in odd weekend slots.

NBC, 1978-1980Edit

By 1978, NBC's future was bleak. The network's primetime lineup was dead last and its daytime lineup fared no better. With numerous games failing to catch on with viewers (with the exceptions of Card Sharks which enjoyed a 3-plus year run and Wheel Of Fortune which stayed on NBC until 1989), network officials probably opted to take a nostalgic tack and revive former favorites.

With a revamped format, NBC called High Rollers and Trebek into service again in April at 11:00 AM (10:00 Central). Although once again placed against Price is Right and facing sitcom reruns on ABC, NBC did not move the program around various time slots during this version. It managed respectable ratings against both networks, but, in a housecleaning that also involved The Hollywood Squares and Chain Reaction, NBC canceled it in 1980 to make way for David Letterman's short-lived talk-variety experiment.

Four years after the show's final NBC episode, Trebek began hosting the 1984 revival of Jeopardy!, a position he has held ever since.

Syndicated, 1987-1988Edit

During a temporary boom in network and syndicated games in the mid-1980s, many formats of the 1960s and 1970s returned in new versions. Although Trebek was no longer available (due to hosting both Jeopardy! and Classic Concentration at the time and despite his having hosted a pilot for a revival called Lucky Numbers that didn't sell in 1985), former Gambit host Wink Martindale took the helm, with the expectation that his many years on Tic Tac Dough would translate the new High Rollers into an instant success.

This was not to be, for reasons not dissimilar to the failure of the first syndicated version (see above). Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! had become the overwhelming choices for viewers, with other syndicated games getting squeezed out into low-rated slots such as late nights. A syndicated revival of Family Feud would be the final nail in the coffin and High Rollers wound up another in a list of unsuccessful revival attempts, a trend that eventually led to most game shows disappearing from the airwaves by the early 1990s. However, despite the failure of the syndicated revival, reruns of High Rollers were picked up by cable's USA Network and ran on there from September 19, 1988 to September 13, 1991.

Returning championsEdit

Except the 1970s syndicated version, players on the 1974 version could stay until they lost or won 5 matches (7 matches for the 1978 version). In the 1980s version, winning 5 matches was originally worth a new car, but by the time a player finally retired undefeated, this bonus had been dropped, thus leading to more cars being offered in some mini-games, and often during the main game. On the Wink Martindale version, a contestant named Darlene Hubert became the biggest winner on that Version, winning all 5 of her matches. Darlene retired from High Rollers with a total of $49,154 in Cash and Prizes.

MerchandiseEdit

Board GamesEdit

E.S. Lowe/Milton Bradley (1975)Edit

Two editions based on the 1974 version called Big Numbers: The High Rollers Game was manufacturered by E.S. Lowe who did the first edition while Milton Bradley released the second edition in 1975. (NOTE: Both editions feature Alex Trebek on the cover.)

Parker Brothers (1988)Edit

A Board Game based on the short-lived 1987 version was released by Parker Brothers in 1988, featuring host Wink Martindale on the cover with two generic contestants.

Computer GameEdit

Box Office (1987)Edit

A computer game based on the short-lived 1987 version was released by Box Office in 1987; like the Parker Brothers home game, it also featured Wink Martindale but this time, holding a pair of golden dice on the box cover.

GalleryEdit

Press PhotosEdit

TicketsEdit

MusicEdit

1974, 1978 - Stan Worth

Prize Cues

"Bumpity-Bump #1"
"Candy Drawer"
"Do the San Francisco"
"Little Big Band Sound Book #1"

Several bumper cues from this version were recycled into Let's Make a Deal.

1987 - "Bubble Gum" by Michael Camillo for Score Productions (originally recorded in 1985 for Lucky Numbers)

International VersionsEdit

  • An Australian version, based on the 1974-1976 U.S. era, aired on the Seven Network for a bried period in 1975. The host for it was Garry Meadows and the dealers were Delvene Delaney and Suzanne Fox. The announcer was Max Rowley.
  • A Japanese version called SuperdiceQ hosted by Doi Over aired on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) from 1980 to 1984.

InventorsEdit

Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley

TriviaEdit

We've Got Your Number used the same dice from the original show.

Sound EffectsEdit

The time's up buzzer from the 78-80 version was the same buzzer used on Wheel of Fortune. Not only that, the sound heard on the 87-88 version when someone rolled doubles was later implemented in Wheel of Fortune when a clue puzzle was solved and a chance to earn a bonus was announced. Also on the 78-80 version, the sound heard when a contestant had a bad roll was the NBC Claxon.

ReferencesEdit

  1. High Rollers: Final Episode Part 1 ($10,000 Chinese Fish Bowl)


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LinksEdit

High Rollers @ Game Shows '75
High Rollers @ Tim's TV Showcase
James Vipond's High Rollers '87 Page
The High Rollers Compendium
Rules for High Rollers @ Loogslair.net
Rules for High Rollers @ The Game Show Temple
Josh Rebich's High Rollers Rules Page
Flash game for the 1987 Big Numbers

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