Game Shows Wiki

Chuck Woolery (1985)
Geoff Edwards (1985-1994)
Larry Anderson (1995-1996)
Jack Gallagher (1996-1999)
Pat Finn (1999-2009)

Maiquel Alejo (1991-2009; credited as Maiquel Suarez until 1997)

Charlie O'Donnell (1985)
Rich Hardaway (1986–1998)
Jackie Taylor (1998–2003)
Randy West (2003–2009)

The Big Spin Logo Big Spin 2000.PNG
Regional Syndication throughout California: 10/28/1985 – 1/10/2009
Fred Tatashore Productions/
Alexander Media Services (1985-1991)
Cal Image (1991-1999)
Jonathan Goodson Productions (1999-2009)

The Big Spin is the long-running California lottery game show where contestants spin a giant wheel hopefully to win $1,000,000 (later up to $3,000,000).

Getting on the show[]

When the California Lottery first started, there was only one kind of scratcher ticket. All participants who won a $100 prize sent in their tickets to participate in a random draw; one out of every 2,000 tickets sent in was selected, and the participant qualified for The Big Spin. (In the earliest days, there were 20 spins per week, not all of which were televised.) Later, instead of the $100 winners qualifying for the draw, qualifying tickets had their own symbol; as more of these tickets were printed, the chance of qualifying for the draw became 1 in 4,000.

Ultimately, the lottery produced a Big Spin scratcher. This scratcher has numerous dollar amounts from $1 to $500. There are also TV SHOW, SPIN, and TICKET spaces. Matching three of a given word or amount wins the specified prize. TV SHOW scratcher winners went to the 10-person elimination rounds, while SPIN scratcher winners went right up to the Big Wheel, usually at the end of the show.

Although the show ended, replaced by Make Me a Millionaire, Big Spin Scratchers for a time were still in circulation. Winners who would have gone to The Big Spin had a choice - become a contestant on Make Me a Millionaire, or spin the wheel or play Aces High on an untelevised Big Spin episode.

A player who buys a $5 Fantasy 5 ticket gets a coupon to mail in for a "second-chance" draw. Winners of this random draw originally played the Fantasy 5 Dream Machine on The Big Spin, but now become contestants on Make Me a Millionaire.


The Big Wheel[]

Spinning disturbed a ball, which then bounced off pegs along the circumference of the wheel. This wheel differed from other game-show wheels (such as the one for Wheel of Fortune) in that it did not have a flipper to slow it down. Whatever space the ball rested in for at least five seconds was the amount won. The wheel had to make three complete revolutions in order for the spin to be considered valid.

When the series started, the wheel was made up of 40 $10,000 spaces, 30 $50,000 spaces, 20 $100,000 spaces, and 10 $2-million spaces. When Geoff Edwards took over, the $2-million spaces were replaced by five $1-million and five $3-million spaces. Later still, the $3-million spaces were replaced by a sixth $1-million, a 41st $10,000, and three "Grand Prize" spaces (the jackpot started at $3 million and went up $65,000 [later $25,000] per spin; there were 20 spins per week, not all of which were shown, and the highest jackpot won was $15,220,000). After that, the wheel added $25K, $50K, $100K, and $500K spaces, along with a "DOUBLE" space; landing on it earned another spin at double value, including the "Grand Prize".

When the state started Lotto in 1986 (which was the main reason most people voted for a lottery in the first place), interest in the "scratch-off ticket" games that led to the show dropped sharply, and so did the prizes. As such, in 1988, the "Grand Prize" spaces were changed to $1-million spaces.

On August 22, 1987, Dave Flynn, a truck operator from Los Angeles, spun and won $3,825,000 when the ball landed on the Grand Prize slot. The ball stayed the required five seconds before eventually falling off the gold wedge.

In 1995, the wheel was changed again, as "DECISION" spaces were added, which offered a player $50,000 to stop or another spin of the wheel, at the risk of landing on a smaller amount. In 1999, the "DOUBLE" and "DECISION" spaces were removed in favor of "TRIPLE" spaces, which earned a second spin at triple value. Any subsequent spins that land on "DOUBLE" or "TRIPLE" did not count and the wheel was respun. These spins were cut from the show as they did not influence the outcome.

By the end of the series, a spin of the wheel always closed the show, whether the spinner got three "SPIN"s on the Big Spin scratcher or was the winner of Aces High.

The top winner of Aces High went up to spin the "Big Wheel". People who had "SPIN" three times on "Big Spin" Scratchers also got to spin the wheel, although ultimately they did so without being televised when they had the alternative of going to Make Me a Millionaire.

10-Player Rounds[]

In these games, introduced in 1995, ten players competed for a chance to go to the Big Wheel. One player would go on, the rest would get various amounts of money.

From 1991-1995, everyone went up to a giant "Scratcher" with a grid of numbered video screens. The contestant had to choose three numbers and if two "Wheels" were matched, they would go to the wheel. Or, they would end up with $25,000. They had the option to take $40,000 and leave, or play on.

Winner's Circle[]

A simple game of chance. Ran from 1/2/95–11/98.

Ten players stood around a circular maze. A motorized ball named "Scooter" was dropped in the center, moving randomly. The game ended when the ball fell through a hole. The player standing behind the hole went on to the Big Wheel round; the others won $1,500.

California Countdown[]

The first two-round elimination game. Ran from 11/98-12/26/98.

Ten players stood behind a letter in the word "CALIFORNIA." When announced, the amounts were displayed. Seven players won a cash amount from $1,750 to $2,500. Three players then went to the second round, where each player chose a part of a California map (or one of three surfboards). One player went to the Big Wheel, the others won $4,000 or $5,000 depending on what section of the map (or surfboard) was selected.

California Gold[]

A reworking of California Countdown. Ran from 1/2/99-11/8/03.

The first round had ten players, each standing behind a mock dynamite plunger. Players pushed down the plunger, revealing either the word "Gold" or a money amount. The second round originally had gold dust, switching to gold nuggets (taken out via pegs) in May 1999. The player to get ten gold nuggets without going over went to the Big Wheel, and the loser got $5,000.

In the event the two players tied, the buckets chosen went out of play and the carts were emptied. Finn would ask the players to each pick one more bucket. High score spun the wheel, and low score won $5,000.

Aces High[]

The last 10-player elimination round, introduced on November 15, 2003. Usually played near the beginning of the show, but if there were no people going directly to the wheel, it was in the second half. Rarely, two Aces High games were played.

First round[]

There were 20 cards on a conveyor belt, 10 of which were visible at any time. Each player stood behind one of the cards, which were either:

  • One of two Aces
  • A $4,000 card
  • One of two $2,000 cards
  • One of five $1,750 cards

All players entered a vote to advance the cards 1, 2, or 3 spaces. The cards then moved to a starting position, determined by random draw, and finally they moved the sum of all players' votes, from 10 to 30 spaces. The people who got money cards won the amount on the card. The two people who got the Aces went on to the second round.

Second round[]

The two players who won the second round competed for the chance to go to the Big Wheel. Each player had four card wheels, each with three cards: the Queen, the King, and the Ace. The hand was randomly determined by spinning all four wheels, and by the player pressing down on a card to stop them. The ranks, from highest to lowest, were:

  1. Four of a Kind
  2. Three of a Kind
  3. Two Pair
  4. One Pair

After the first spin, the player with the lowest hand could spin any of his cards to try to get a better hand. If the player succeeded, the other player had a chance to spin. If the hands were tied, a one-card tiebreaker occurred.

The loser got $5000; the winner went to the Big Wheel (see above).

Fantasy 5 Dream Machine[]

A Bagatelle-like game, introduced in 1995 and named the "Fantasy 5 Dream Machine" because a player had to purchase five tickets to receive an entry form, which was filled out and sent in; one or more entries were drawn for each show.

At the start, the player pushed a button starting the first play, depositing a ball into the machine. The ball then bounced off pins and "spinners" to land in one of five spaces (from left to right):

  • $10,000
  • $40,000
  • $25,000
  • $20,000
  • $30,000

On subsequent plays, if the ball landed in an occupied space, the amount from that space was deducted, but the amount would be won back if the ball landed in that space again. The maximum was five plays; the contestant had the ability to stop at any time. If all five spaces were filled at the end of the game, a $25,000 bonus was added for a total of $150,000; otherwise, the player won the total of the amounts from the spaces filled by one or three balls apiece. In the 14 years the Dream Machine was played, only 2 people won $150,000.

In the 2003-2009 format, if there were no contestants going directly to the wheel at the end of the show, three Fantasy Five Dream Machines were played with Aces High in the second half of the show.

Once a month, a special award was announced, usually honoring a "Hero In Education", which would be presented by a celebrity guest. The California Lottery has donated over $20 billion to state public schools since its inception in 1985.

Other Games[]

During the run of the show, various other games were played, all tying in to various instant tickets.

Whirl Win (1992-1998)[]

A player takes part in trying to get as much money as possible in 30 seconds in a glass box. The player can pick specially marked sheets from the ground or in the air and put them in boxes on his or her sides. When time is up, the player's winnings are counted in the boxes and in their hands. There are one hundred sheets marked $100, and ten sheets with $1,000. If the player gets the marked sheet worth $25,000, the player automatically wins that amount.

The format is similar to the bonus round in the 2002-2003 version of Beat the Clock, and the bonus round of The Diamond Head Game.

Monopoly (1996)[]

One lottery winner played in this adaptation of the board game. Starting at GO, the player began by choosing to move forward either 2 or 7 spaces, which takes him/her to either Community Chest or Chance, sending the player to yet another space on the board (revealed by the appropriate card). They were then given four rolls of the dice. Each property concealed either an amount of money from $4,000 to $7,000 in $500 increments, or a Top Hat. If a Top Hat was revealed, the player could either cash it in for $10,000 or keep it in an attempt to find a second one. Before the game, the player also placed hotels on two properties, which added an extra $7,500 if he/she landed on that property. Landing on Go to Jail halved the money (and also ended the game), while Income Tax & Luxury Tax took money away; passing GO earned $200. Getting two Top Hats bumped the money to $50,000.

Dream Home (1996)[]

Three players begin the game. Each player chooses a key, which opens one of three doors. Behind each door is either $1000, $2000, or a large key, which means the player wins a chance at the grand prize.

In the second round, the player chooses three keys out of 18 available. 16 keys win an amount of money associated with one room of the home (from the $15,000 kitchen to the $40,000 garage), 2 keys for each of eight rooms. One key opened the booby prize - the $8,000 closet - and one opened the grand prize: a $180,000 dream home. After each key is used, the player can choose to take the room they won or give it up for the next key.

Wizard of Odds (1996–1997)[]

Three players took part. Each player took turns hitting a button, which sent a ball up from a hopper containing 100 balls. Most balls had a dollar amount from $1,000 to $6,000, which was added to the player's score. Other balls won bonus turns, took money away, or disqualified a player immediately. Some balls had a lightning bolt on them; if one of them was drawn, the player could cash it in for $10,000 or hold on to it in the hopes of drawing a second lightning bolt. If successful, the player won $50,000. Otherwise, each player got 5 turns. The minimum a player could win was $4,000.

Fame and Fortune (1998–1999)[]

Three players started. In the original version, each player chose a letter from a board of 16, each number having a number from 1 to 16. The two players with the highest numbers advanced to the next round; the third place player left with $5,000. In the second round, the board had 9 numbers, each concealing an amount of money from $7,000 to $13,000. The player who chose the higher amount advanced to the third round, the loser took home the amount he/she picked.

In the third round, the player chose one of four stars. Three concealed amounts of money which were added to the player's total, while one hid a "Jackpot Star" behind it, which won $75,000.

During "Big Spin 2000", a couple changes were made: Only the player got to see the number/money amount chosen. After everyone picked, the player secretly decided to keep their picks or make another choice from the board.

Fun in the Sun (1997-1998)[]

Four players played. Each player chose one of four keys. One key unlocked the door to a 1998 Ford Mustang. After all the keys were chosen, the players tried to unlock the door, one by one. The player that unlocked the car won it, along with $12,000 for taxes and licensing fees. The others left with $2,500.

High Roller (1999–2002)[]

Two players played. At the beginning, a ball was sent along a track which consisted of five hills and six valleys. The ball rolled back and forth among the hills until it settled into one of the valleys. The player who controlled that valley (each player had 3) went on to the next round, the other player took home $5,000.

In the second round, the ball was sent along the track again, with the valleys worth from $20,000 to $75,000. After that, the player could stop with the money he/she won or send the ball down the track one more time. For this third go-round, three valleys double the player's total, one valley added $10,000, and two valleys cut the player's winnings in half. The maximum possible prize is $150,000.

Camelot's Riches (2001–2003)[]

One player took part. In the first round, the player set seven balls - four gold, two black - down a track of ramps. The balls could split up and collide until they reached the bottom of the track and crossed the finish line. If a black ball finished first, the player won $10,000; if a gold ball finished first, the player got $25,000.

For the second round, there were four gold and four black balls used. A black ball winning the race earned the player $10,000 more, while a gold ball won $75,000. After the third round, the player could either play the third round with three gold and four black balls, or with six gold and three black balls. The second set, however, would cost the player half his/her winnings at that point. A black ball coming in first added nothing, a gold ball finishing first added $75,000, but if the gold balls came in first, second, and third, the player won $250,000.

Twice as Grand Prix/Weekly Payday Raceway (2001–2003)[]

Each heat of the race begins with six lottery players. The six players were grouped into three groups of two. For each group, the player reached into a pouch and drew one of three balls out. Two were green, one was red. If a green ball was drawn, the other player took a turn with one green and one red ball. If a red ball was drawn, that player was out and the other player advanced. The winning player then tried to draw the green ball again for a one-space head start in the race.

When the race began, each player selected to go 1 or 3 spaces. The player who chose a different number than the other two got to move forward that number of spaces. After two rounds, the choice became 2 or 4 spaces. The first player to go 5 spaces and cross the finish line advanced to the final. The final was played between the three winners of each heat, and the eventual champion won $2,000 a week for 20 years ($2,080,000 total).



Main - Unknown
Others - Killer Tracks

1st Big Spin Cue - "Spike It" by Rick Braun
2nd Big Spin Cue - "Glass Torpedo" by Steve Kujala
Dream Machine Gameplay - "Hi-Technophobia" by John Hobbs
Gold Mine Gameplay - "Mission: Unknown" by Larry Wolff
California Gold Intro - "Pass The Biscuits!" by Al Capps


Fred Tatashore

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  • During the Pat Finn era, the bells and sirens from The Price is Right were used when someone won at least $1,000,000.

In Popular Culture[]

In the 1992 movie To Grandmother's House We Go, Harvey (Jerry Van Dyke), Rhonda (Cynthia Geary), and Sarah and Jule (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) have a winning ticket to a game that is a parody of Big Spin called Win-O-Lotto. The show was hosted by the late Bob Saget, with Lori Loughlin (Saget's castmate on Full House) as co-host. The wheel is similar to The Big Spin with the ball in it. Just before the show was over, the girls gave one last spin and the ball landed in the jackpot.

In the third episode of The Tracey Ullman Show, there was a segment entitled "The Lottery" where a Big Spin-esque game is played called "The Big Wheel". It says that the game is from the "Golden State Lottery" where a male host is hosting (Dan Castellaneta, of Simpsons fame). The first contestant manages to win the $1,000,000 jackpot. However, the first contestant isn't impressed with his winnings. Then, the second contestant lands on $10,000, but after jumping, it makes the wheel turn one notch over to the Grand Prize making her super excited.

The season 3 episode of Rocko's Modern Life features Filburt going on a parody-like game show of The Big Spin called, The Mega Spin. Many of the townspeople are not happy with him because he caused too much bad luck from seeing black cats and he destroyed Rocko's house by accident. The wheel had a lot of LOSE spaces except for one WIN space. Filburt spins the wheel, but it comes off and rolls out of the studio, destroying the whole town. Despite the destruction, he still lands on the win space.

Press Photos[]

Entry Tickets[]

Additional Page[]

The Big Spin/Video Gallery
The Big Spin/Gallery


Rules for The Big Spin
Geoff Edwards' tenure on The Big Spin at Game Show Utopia