|Alex Trebek (1974–1980)|
Wink Martindale (1986–1988)
|Ruta Lee (1974–1976, daytime)|
Elaine Stewart (1975–1976, nighttime)
Becky Price, Linda Hooks, and Lauren Firestone (1978–1980)
Crystal Owens & KC Winkler (1986–1988)
|Kenny Williams (1974–1980)|
Dean Goss (1986–1988)
Syndication (Weekly): 9/8/1975 – 9/19/1976
|Merrill Heatter/Bob Quigley Productions (1974–1980)|
Merrill Heatter Productions/Century Towers Productions (1986–1988)
|Rhodes Productions (1975–1976)|
Orion Television Syndication (1987–1988)
High Rollers (also formerly called The New High Rollers) was a high-stakes, dice rolling-themed game show where "every decision is a gamble, and every move can be your last." The show was inspired by the board game Shut the Box.
- 1 Gameplay
- 1.1 1974–1976
- 1.2 1978–1980
- 1.3 1987–1988
- 1.4 The Big Numbers (all versions)
- 1.5 Returning champions
- 2 Lucky Numbers
- 3 Broadcast history
- 4 Merchandise
- 5 Gallery
- 6 Trivia
- 7 Music
- 8 International Versions
- 9 Inventors
- 10 Studios
- 11 Rating
- 12 References
- 13 Additional Pages
- 14 Links
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. As mentioned above, High Rollers was modeled on a traditional board game called Shut the Box.
In order to determine who gained control of the dice, the host 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 won control; an incorrect answer gave the opponent control. The player in control could 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 could 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 (an additional prize in the 1978 pilot). The first player to win two games won the match.
In addition to the gameplay which remained constant throughout all versions, each version had its own rules as detailed below:
The original 1974–1976 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, or even a luxury vacation. To bank this prize, 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.
Also the potential numbers to be knocked off flashed accordingly, in groups of the added numbers.
During the final seven weeks of this version (April 26 – June 11, 1976), the main game was known as "Face Lifters"; the digits were arranged in a 3×3 grid, concealing 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 this 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 dice table was positioned sideways; causing the players to sit 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. So naturally, the table was positioned vertically.
A syndicated version with almost identical rules ran weekly from 1975 to 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 best-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 best-of-three episodes) played "The Big Numbers" for (another) $10,000. Thus, a player could win over $30,000 in a single show. However, like other weekly nighttime game shows at that time, this version had no returning champions.
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, with each column containing up to five prizes. This new board ran on lights & slide projectors, and 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 the following:
- 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.
Often, the value of a prize package reached $20,000, mostly exceeding that mark toward the end of this 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 this series, each column started with one prize, with another added to it 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 the last digit in a column could a player add those prizes to his/her bank (regardless of who removed the others); as before, the contestant had to win the round to keep the prizes. Prizes that were banked but not won during a game were returned to their columns.
Alex & the Girls
NOTE: The person controlling the dice was indicated by the lighted arrow in front of them.
Here's a fabulous contestant by the name of Gene Snook.
NOTE: In the 1987 version, all incomplete rolls were edited from the program. A disclaimer for this would appear at the end of the show.
In this version, the set resembled more of the original version and the main game board was now computerized. 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") and $5,000 in spending money. Later in the run, the $5,000 spending money was dropped.
- Cookie Jar – The contestant would roll a die and whatever number the contestant rolled was worth $100 times the value of the die. However, rolling a six earned the contestant $1,500. On the Halloween episode, the game was called Trick or Treat.
- Diamond Mine – Each number from 1 to 6 was worth some type of jewelry; rolling the corresponding number won that piece of jewelry.
- 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, $10,000, or another large prize). If the odd horse won, the contestant received a small prize, such as a moderately-priced trip or $1,000.
- Driver's Test – The player controlled a game piece on a 12-space game board, arranged in a 4×4 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.
- Full House – Each number on a die corresponded to a different room of a house. The player rolled the die and won the room corresponding to that number. However, if a player rolled a six, the player won all five rooms in the house (i.e. the "full house").
- Home Away From Home – Each number on a die was worth a recreational vehicle of some type; rolling the corresponding number won that RV. A variant on this game was called High Seas, where the prize was a boat or other type of watercraft.
- 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 for rolling a six twice was known as the "Kitchen Sink", meaning the contestant won all of the other prizes; on other occasions the sixth space was known as "Your Choice", meaning rolling that number twice meant that the contestant could choose one of the five prizes available. There was also a version for the Rich & Famous.
- Love Letters – The contestant rolled a die six times to reveal letters in a six-letter word. After the six rolls, the contestant had five seconds to either answer (or at least think of an answer). Solving the word won a new car. Not solving the word won $100 a letter.
- 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. This game was never played.
- Map Game – 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). A variant on this game was called the Map & Money Game, because it supposedly had money involved; however, it was never played. Two other variants were called Island Hoppers, because the possible trips were island vacations, and For Lovers Only, because the possible trips were romantic vacations.
- Millionaire Game – Each number from 1 to 6 was worth a certain number of California Lottery tickets; whatever number was rolled, the player won that number of tickets.
- Paris or Bust – The contestant rolled a die and if they rolled 2, 4, or 6, they won a first-class trip to Paris. If they rolled a 1, 3, or 5, they won nothing.
- 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. Sometimes, the rabbit was the secondary prize with the top prize being a mink coat.
- Screen Play – Each number from 1 to 6 was worth a television set of some type; rolling the corresponding number won that TV.
- Shop Till You Drop – Played similarily to Cookie Jar, The contestant would roll a die and whatever number the contestant rolled won a shopping spree worth $1,000 times the value of the die. However, rolling a six earned the contestant a $10,000 shopping spree.
- Wild Wheels – The player would roll a die; if they rolled 1, 3 or 5 the player won a new car. If they rolled a 2 or 4, the player won a thousand gallons of gas. However, if they rolled a 6, the player won two cars.
- 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 number came up, 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.
Wink holding the Dice
Wink & the Girls
The Big Numbers (all versions)
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 1974–1976 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 $100 per good roll. If they held an insurance marker, a player could roll again after making a bad roll. However, a bad roll without insurance markers not only ended the game, but the player also would lose all the money accumulated. If the contestant cleared eight numbers, they won a new car; if they cleared the last remaining number, they also won $10,000. The rules soon changed so that Big Numbers was played for a flat $10,000, with a Big Numbers loss awarding $100 for each number eliminated.
From 1978 to 1980, if all nine numbers were knocked off, that player won $5,000 & a new car ($10,000 in the pilot). Later shows offered just the car as the grand prize. The car was later dropped as a prize and the $5,000 was once again offered, 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 this version, the winning contestant rolled a pair of "golden dice" when playing the Big Numbers.
The Big Numbers bonus round was also 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.
Except the 1970s syndicated version, players could stay until they lost or won five matches (seven on the 1978 version). In the 1980s version, winning five 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 Martindale version, a contestant named Darlene Hubert became that version's biggest winner, winning all five of her matches, and left the show with a total of $49,154.
- 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, "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.
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.
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.
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 track 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 held until his death in 2020.
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.
E.S. Lowe/Milton Bradley (1975)
Two editions based on the 1974 version called Big Numbers: The High Rollers Game was manufactured 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.)
Gameplay was similar to the original run of the show, in that each number hid a prize. In this case, it was a cash prize between $50 and $500 (no physical prizes and no 1/2 prizes). Some of the questions written for the first E.S. Lowe edition were kind of vague, where the given answer is only one of several possibilities (Examples: WHAT IS A STOVE? RANGE / WHAT IS A HEAVY SUBSTANCE? LEAD). The second MB edition's questions are more specific and more closely resemble those used on the show, which included TRUE OR FALSE or multiple choice questions.
Parker Brothers (1988)
A Board Game based on the short-lived 1987-88 version was released by Parker Brothers in 1988, featuring host Wink Martindale on the cover with two generic contestants.
Gameplay was similar to the 1987-88 version with a question book, actual prize cards, cards for mini-games, $10,000 cards, number cards 1 thru 9 and money chips of various dollar amounts.
Box Office (1988)
A computer game based on the short-lived 1987-88 version was released for the IBM-PC, Apple II and Commodore 64/128 computer systems by Box Office in 1988; like the Parker Brothers home game, it also featured Wink Martindale, but this time wearing a tuxedo and holding the golden "Big Numbers" dice on the box cover.
Monthly Taping Schedules
We've Got Your Number used the same dice from the original show.
The time's up buzzer from the 1978–1980 version was the same buzzer used on Wheel of Fortune. Not only that, the sound heard on the 1987–1988 version when someone rolled doubles was later implemented in Wheel of Fortune (albeit abbreviated) when a clue puzzle was solved and a chance to earn a bonus was announced. Also on the 1978–1980 version, the sound heard when a contestant had a bad roll was the NBC Claxon.
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 from Let's Make a Deal.
1987 – "Bubble Gum" by Michel Camilo for Score Productions (originally recorded in 1985 for Lucky Numbers)
- An Australian version, based on the 1974-1976 U.S. era, aired on the Seven Network for a brief 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. Even though this version had similar rules to High Rollers, enough of it was changed so that TBS wouldn't have to pay the licensing fees (which is a common practice in Asia). The front game itself was completely different. Both contestants had to hide a tako (octopus) behind the nine spaces on the board. After that general knowledge questions are asked. If a contestant answered a question correctly, he/she would force the opponent to pick a number on the board. If it was safe the game would continue, but if they picked the tako, they would lose. The winner received ¥10,000 (about $100) for every time they went to the board and survived. If in the case both contestants didn't get a question correct, the contestant with the next correct answer would force their opponent to go twice. There were rare occasions on the show where contestants placed their tako on the same number. The bonus round was similar to the American counterpart. The only exception was that behind two places on the board had the words "Don" on them. If the contestant chose those two numbers consecutively, he/she would automatically lose. Don Don in Japanese means a fast beating heart. If all nine numbers were knocked out, the contestant would receive ¥1,000,000 (about $10,000).
Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley
|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|
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