Game Shows Wiki
Bob Grossi (1987-1988)
Paul Tapie (1988-2000, 2000-2004)
Mike Armstrong (2000)
Leilani Barrett (2004-2006)
David McCreary (2007-Present)
Sharon Bicknell (1987-2004, 2007-2017)
Michelle Duda (2004-2006)
Cherie McClain (2007–2017)
Alissa Henry (2017-Present)
Broadcast (Syndication, Ohio area)
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Original Run: 2/7/1987 – 9/30/2006
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Revival: 10/6/2007 – Present

Cash Explosion is a game show for the Ohio Lottery that is the longest-running lottery show.

Format 1 (1987-1989)[]

Seven players, each of whom entered a "Cash Explosion" ticket with three "ENTRY" symbols scratched off, competed in a race to reach the top of a seven tier pyramid. Each had a box of seven cards in front of them, numbered "-2" to "3". Each player drew a card, then moved up the pyramid by those number of spaces.

In every contestant's track was a randomly designated bonus square. Landing on it gave the player the option to leave the game and take a new car or stay in the game. Regardless of their decision, once two bonus squares had been revealed, all other bonus squares were voided; this was to avoid giving away seven cars.

The first person to land on the final square by exact count won $50,000. If any player returned to the start line at any point in the game, they were eliminated.

The losing contestants were each given $1,000. Those players could take the $1,000 or trade it away for one spin of a wheel containing various amounts of cash and/or prizes (later limited to only cash). The odds of spinning something worth more than $1,000 were high, so players often spun the wheel.

Toward the end of this format, each player was staked $1,000. For each legitimate move up or down the track, the player won/lost $50 (i.e., a "2" was worth $100 in addition to moving up the track 2 spaces; a "3" for $150; a "-2" for a loss of $100). Still later, moving up or down was worth $100 per move. Reaching the goal augmented the player's total to $50K, while the others could keep their cash or trade it away for a spin of the wheel.

Format 2 (1989-2006; 2007-2017)[]

Semi-Final Round[]

Four people compete in the Semi-Final Game. They originally faced a 24-space game board with six columns of four rows. The columns were labeled D-O-U-B-L-E and the rows, P-L-A-Y. On October 3, 2009, the board was increased to 36 spaces, and now consisted of nine columns of four rows. The rows are now labeled C-A-S-H, and the columns, E-X-P-L-O-S-I-O-N.

On a player's turn, the columns randomly flash. They press their button to stop the lights on a column, and pick one of the four rows in that column. They win whatever money is behind the space represented by that row/column combination, originally between $250 (later $1,000) and $3,200, later between $1,500 and $5,000.

There were originally three special spaces on the board. Two of them are marked "Double"; if picked, the contestant gets another turn, and whatever they land on next is doubled. (If that turn results in the other "Double" card being hit, they get a third turn, with whatever they land on being multiplied by four; in this event, a player could win as much as $12,800 on a single turn.) The third special square is the "Bonus" card, which not only contains a money amount, but a new car. Originally the contestant had to choose whether he/she wanted the car (dropping out of further play if they took it) or the money, but by 1993 contestants simply won the car. By 2001, the car was replaced by a $25,000 bonus; in either case, the bonus didn't count towards their score, the money behind it did.

In 1999, a second bonus prize was added to the board. This bonus prize was four years of prepaid tuition at any four year college or university in Ohio, along with extra cash thrown in to make the prize worth $20,000. This was later replaced with Ohio Lottery tickets attached to a dollar amount. In all cases, like the standard Bonus card, the value of these prizes was not added to the score, but the dollar amount attached to them was. The second bonus prize was dropped by 2001.

On October 3, 2009, the number of special spaces was increased from three to nine, as two $10,000 cash bonus squares were added, along with four more double squares. Every time a player hits a double square, as before, they get an extra turn, but now, each of the letters in E-X-P-L-O-S-I-O-N now conceal cash amounts; landing on one of those letters reveals a dollar amount that is doubled, from $4,000-$10,000. This ALSO prevents players from landing on a another double or bonus space. As part of the show's 25th Anniversary, from 2/25 to 8/18/2012, five additional $5,000 bonuses were added.

On June 28, 2014, a "Game Changer" effect was added to the 3rd round, thus raising the drama and turning the tide of the game for the players. The Game Changer is hidden in one of the columns for each of the players. 

After each player has three turns, the one in the lead wins the game, has their score doubled (bonuses do not count), and advances to the Championship Game. All other contestants leave with whatever they had won.

In the event of a tie for the lead after three rounds, a tiebreaker round is played. Originally, the tying players each picked a playing card from a set of eight, with the highest value card winning; these were later replaced by cash amounts from $100–$800, again with the highest amount winning. The current format has four amounts hidden behind the word "CASH".

A second Semi-Final Game is played with four new contestants and a new board, exactly as before.

Championship Round[]

Original format[]

The original Championship Round format was very much like The Price Is Right's Showcase Showdown. The two Semi-Final winners face off against the returning champion. The bonus round was played with a wheel (originally 3 wheels one for each player). One space was labeled "Double", while the others were numbered 1-9. To begin, a target number was selected randomly. Each contestant got a chance to spin the wheel, and could spin either once or twice. Landing on "Double" meant they could spin again, and whatever number they landed on was doubled. The person who came closest to that target number without going over was the winner. If there was a tie, the tying players each picked a playing card from a set of eight. The player with the highest card won.

Match 3/Cash Challenge[]

A new bonus round called "Match 3" was in place by 1994, debuting on Cash Explosion's seventh anniversary show. In the new bonus round, nine squares were put on a board (or six squares if a champion had retired undefeated the previous week). Behind each one was one of the contestant's names, and each name was used three times. The contestants took turns picking squares off the board, uncovering the names behind them. The person whose name was uncovered three times first won the game and the right to return the following week. Starting with the October 3, 2009 show, three cash bonuses totaling $25,000 (two $10,000 spaces and one $5,000 space) were added to the board. If a contestant selects a bonus space they win that amount of money and control passes to the next contestant in line. In 2012, as part of the show's 25th anniversary celebrations, the name of the bonus round was changed to the "Cash Challenge".

From 1989 to 2009, a first-time champion's winnings were augmented to $50,000, while a two-time champion doubled their money to $100,000. A three-time champion doubled their money again and retired from the show with $200,000.

Beginning October 3, 2009, contestants no longer retire after winning their third game. First-time champions still win a total of $50,000, two-time winners $100,000, and three-time winners $200,000 (bonuses not included). However, a champion wins an additional $100,000 for every subsequent week they win thereafter. Champions can remain on the show until defeated, with no monetary limits or maximum number of appearances. Under this format, the highest amount awarded was $520,000, which was reached by Terri Waddell on the October 20, 2012 episode, when she was defeated during her record-breaking seventh appearance on the show.

From November 19, 2016 to May 27, 2017, bonus prizes were added to the board; usually merchandise such as cell phones or TV's.

Format 3 (2017-present)[]

On September 2, 2017, the format was altered once again. This time, the eight players played one at a time, facing three rear-projection screens; one for the board, one for the score totals, and a "Bonus Board" holding the names of sixteen lottery games (including the namesake Cash Explosion). In front of them is a touchscreen of twenty numbers, hiding money, two doubles, and a "BONUS" space. The player would select three numbers, and receive the total of those numbers. If a double is found, the player would select a letter in the word "SPOTLIGHT", and earn double that amount. If a "BONUS" is revealed, the player would select the name of a game and be awarded the money behind it, from $10,000-$50,000, with one space worth $5,000 and an automatic trip to the Cash Challenge (referred to as the Instant Cash Challenge). The two high scorers at the end of the game have their totals doubled and move to the Cash Challenge. The Cash Challenge is played the same, though with the bonuses removed and more numbers added in case more players qualify. If the main game ends in a tie, a tiebreaker game is played where before the game, the players each pick a card numbered 1 through 50. The player with the highest number wins. 

Starting with the July 21st 2018 episode, the Instant Cash Challenge spaces were replaced by a mini game called Second Chance, a game changer where the 6 runners up get a Second Chance to go to the Cash Challenge. The 6 runners up face the words Second Chance in which the letters randomize. The players must hit a button to stop the letters. The letter they land on is locked in with their name. The player whose letter flashes and has the highest number from set of numbers gets $5,000 and a trip to the Cash Challenge. On the June 1st 2019 episode, the Second Chance was altered to have the runners up simply call out the letter of their choice. Later it was altered with a touchscreen similar to the main game to select their letters and lock in similar to the main game.  

Anniversary Specials[]

On 8/18/12 and 8/26/17, Cash Explosion celebrated its 25th and 30th Anniversary with special episodes. The 25th Anniversary was an hour-long, with the first half being a standard show. The 30th Anniversary was filmed at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo and featured a $30,000 bonus on the front game board. Both specials featured 12 players who won a second-chance drawing of special anniversary tickets. Three semi-final games were played; the winners went to the Cash Challenge, and the winner had their score total bumped to $250,000/$300,000.

Cash Explosion XL[]

From 6/3 to 8/19/17, in honor of the show's 30th Anniversary, the show was drastically revamped, abstractly echoing Make Me Famous, Make Me Rich. Three teams of twelve now played; while the front game itself stayed the same, each team member had a turn at the board. Each team member won the total earned (bonuses are won individually), the winning team then picked a letter in "CHALLENGE"; each letter had a number, high number wins. That person gets their front game score doubled and heads to the Cash Challenge, which is played the same.


Player Areas[]


Entry Tickets[]

Press Photos[]


The show was replaced in October 2006 with Make Me Famous Make Me Rich, due to sagging ratings and drooping ticket sales. However, the replacement did even worse in ratings and ticket sales, leading the Ohio Lottery to announce that Cash Explosion would return in October 2007.

In March 2020, production of the show was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When production on the show resumed in May of that year, the format of the show was changed to feature contestants playing from their homes via video chat, with most of the games being played as usual.

The show is not limited to Ohioans; anyone from across the US is allowed to be contestants.

As of 2022, Cash Explosion is the only lottery game show left in the United States.

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Mike Jackson


”Tonight’s winning numbers, and the winners of a spot on the (date) Cash Explosion play at home show, are coming your way live from our Cleveland studio. Good luck!” - Announcer


Official Site

YouTube Videos[]

1989 Cash Explosion promo from WOWK in Huntington, WV (has Wheel of Fortune promo before it)
Clip of a 1987 Show
Contestant J.R.
Clip of an intro from 2002

Uncertain Placement[]


Full Episodes[]

February 1987
January 9, 1988
From 1989 (2nd Round & Bonus): Part 1, Part 2
May 9, 1998

Anniversary Shows[]

25th Anniversary Special
30th Anniversary Special