Game Shows Wiki
Mike Stokey (1961–1962)
Dennis James (1962–1963)
Warren Hull (1963)
Johnny Gilbert (1968–1969)
Chuck Henry (1975)
Stan Chambers (1961–1963)
Beat the Odds 1962 Alt.png
KTLA 5 (Daily): 7/17/1961 – 8/23/1963
Syndication (Daily): 12/16/1968 – 9/5/1969
Unsold Pilots for ABC: 1/10/1975, 2/7/1975
Bill Derman Productions for Bing Crosby Productions (1961–1963)
Carruthers Company in association with ABC (1975)

Beat the Odds was a game show from California where contestants formed words while trying to avoid "Sammy the Whammy".


Two contestants took turns stopping the two spinning letter wheels in front of them. When the wheels stopped, the player in control had to give a word that begins and ends with the letters showing. Each word added 100 points to their score.

When spinning the wheels, if at any time Sammy the Whammy appeared on either one of the two wheels, that player lost all his/her points and control of the wheels. So, before each spin, the player in control could decide to freeze on his/her current score and pass control to his/her opponent. The first player to reach 1,000 points won the game.

There were two formats in the game.

Format #1 (Stokey's Version)[]

Main Game[]

The words the contestants gave had to be four letters or more. When the wheels stopped on letters, the player in control had ten seconds to give a word. All words given had to be deemed acceptable by a word authority. If they ran out of time to give a word, their score at that point would automatically be frozen.

When a player gave three acceptable words all in the same turn, every acceptable word thereafter in that turn would be worth a bonus prize if they won the game.

When a player reached 900 points, they then had fifteen seconds to give a word that is five letters exactly. If they could, they won the game and played the Champion's Game.

Champion's Game[]

The winning contestant would pick a letter in the word CHAMPION. Seven of the letters had a picture of Sammy hidden behind them, while the last one had the name of a grand prize. Champions stayed on the show until they found the grand prize and/or won eight games (whichever came first).

The same grand prize remained in play until it was won; after which it was replaced with a new grand prize.

Home Game[]

At the end of the show, viewers would have a chance to win a prize. Stokey would draw eight postcards from a revolving drum, and put each of them under the first appearances of each letter in the show's name, from left to right. To be eligible, a postcard had to have one of those letter instances circled. If the postcard had a repeated letter circled, it was deemed void.

After the first eight postcards were drawn, a ninth postcard would be drawn, and the circled letter would be the letter in play. If that viewer's postcard had that same letter circled, they won the prize. Otherwise, they won a consolation prize.

Format #2 (James' Version)[]

Main Game[]

Here, bookend letters appeared, along with a requirement of how many letters it had to contain (5 or more, 5 exactly, or 6 or more). Any word could be accepted unless the opponent challenged a word. Each acceptable word without a challenge earned that player 100 points and they kept control, but if the player's word was challenged and was successful, he/she lost 100 points and control went to the challenger. If the points they lost went past their freeze point, they would still be frozen, but at 100 points less.

The winner of each game became the champion, received a prize and faced a new challenger. If the champion managed to win four consecutive games, they would get to play one final game "against the board" for an increasing cash jackpot.

Jackpot Game[]

In this game, the contestant would attempt to reach 1,000 points by giving words that had to be five letters exactly and deemed acceptable. Unlike the main game, if Sammy appeared on either or both wheels, he would give the contestant another 100 points instead of taking points away; when the contestant reached 900 points, however, hitting Sammy on the next spin automatically lost the game. Thus, the contestant had to land on only letters and give an acceptable word to win the jackpot.

In either case, if both wheels stopped on Sammy, the contestant would win a bonus prize.

In this format, champions stayed until they played the Jackpot Game, or were defeated.

Home Game[]

This was now played at the mid-point of the show. The postcards still had to be eligible in the same way; however, there were now seven prizes that could be won. Whichever letter was circled, that was the prize the viewer won. Most of the letters each applied to only one prize; the eighth letter, however, was the "Lucky Seven" letter, which if circled, won the viewer all seven prizes (later a jackpot).

1975 Pilots[]

The 1975 pilots were mostly the same as the second format except with these differences:

  • Contestants played for money instead of points. They could choose to play for any value up to their current scores with the first word worth $100.
  • After each spin and announcement of the letter & requirement, the word became a toss-up. The player to buzz in first got the first chance at coming up with a word using the requirements. If they didn't come up with a word in time, the opponent would attempt to give a word.
  • When challenging, decisions on challenged words were made by Dr. Robert Stockwell (the same doctor from the ABC version of Password). Each challenge had to come within three seconds. Incorrect challenges lost $100, while the opponent gained the word's value. Otherwise, the challenged contestant would simply lose the $100.
  • A contestant could only freeze twice on any amount during the game. If losing a challenge took them past one of their freeze points, it was lost, and any unfrozen money would be vulnerable to the Whammy.
  • Sammy the Whammy was replaced by a boring bolt of lightning (originally, Sammy was a ghost-like creature), but the effect was the same.

The game was now played as a best-of-three match. Each game had the following word requirements:

  • 4 or more
  • 5 or more
  • 6 or more
  • 5 exactly (tiebreaker only)

The first player to reach $1,000 won the game, indicated by a $1,000 trophy. The first player to win two games won the match and the right to play for $5,000.

Bonus Round: Hidden Words[]

In the bonus round, the winning player attempted to guess ten words within 60 seconds. Each word was five letters long, and as in the game, they begin and end with the letters showing, but they were now answers to clues posed by the host. Each correct word was worth $100, and solving all ten words won $5,000.


Derman Productions wanted to sell Beat The Odds to syndication before the Gilbert era. And the pilot they did for that was just a replay of a Hull episode from 1963. Unfortunately, it didn't sell.


Game Show Pilot Light article on 1962 pilot
Game Show Pilot Light article on 1975 Pilot #3
David's Beat the Odds (1975) Page

YouTube Videos[]

Full Dennis James episode from 1963

Pilot #3 (taped February 7, 1975) in full