How Man Won Crazy Money By Hacking A Game Show

How Man Won Crazy Money By Hacking A Game Show

From the beginning, Michael was a man with
a plan. On the Saturday afternoon of May 19, 1984,
during the second round of a taping of the CBS game show Press Your Luck, Michael put
that plan into action. When all was said and done, Michael walked
away with over $100,000 in cash and prizes, at the time the largest one-day total ever
won on a game show. This is how Michael Larson cracked the Press
Your Luck game show code. Michael, a Mister Softee ice cream truck vendor
from the small town of Lebanon, Ohio always had a tendency towards get rich quick schemes. He liked to watch infomercials that promised
the viewer the secret to earning riches. Michael believed that game shows contained
secret hacks and that if he could just crack one, he’d win. In the fall of 1983, Michael became fascinated
with Press Your Luck, a brand new daytime broadcast game show which had premiered in
September of that year. Press Your Luck was billed as a cutting edge
game show featuring flashy, technologically advanced audio-visual equipment. The game show had simple rules and a straightforward
structure. Each episode began with the host asking the
three contestants a series of trivia questions. The opponents would buzz-in; the first person
to hit the buzzer would get to try to answer the question. Correct buzz-in answers earned three spins,
while correct multiple-choice answers earned one spin. At the end of each round the players would
take turns spinning on the massive game board called the ‘Big Board’. The Big Board was made up of 18 backlit squares,
through which constantly rotated cash and various prizes such as appliances, jewelry
and vacation packages. The Big Board also contained a pick known
as a “Whammy.” During a spin, an indicator light rapidly
shuffled around the squares, lighting them up. The player would then choose when to slam
down a big red button, halting the indicator. The contestant then won whatever prize was
featured in the illuminated square. At the end of each spin, the player had the
option to “press their luck” by spinning again or they could pass any remaining spins
to the next contestant. If a player landed on the show’s trademark
Whammy, a tiny cartoon gremlin in a red suit would steal all the money they’d won up
until that point, sending the hapless contestant back to zero and passing the turn to the next
player. After obsessively watching Press Your Luck,
including recording episodes to VHS and pausing to study various frames, Michael discovered
that the light selector moved around the Big Board in 5 patterns. He also realized that when counted clockwise
with #1 being the top left corner around the board, the fourth and eighth squares always
had cash and never were Whammies. Furthermore, square #4 always contained the
largest cash amount and in the second round, contestants were awarded an additional spin
if they landed on those spots. Theoretically, Michael could play the Press
Your Luck Big Board in the second round for as long as he wanted if he could memorize
and use the patterns. So that’s exactly what he set out to do. Over the next several weeks, Michael memorized
every possible pattern. Then in May of 1984, Michael scraped together
some money and bought a discount airline ticket to fly out to Los Angeles and audition For
Press Your Luck. Though Michael was charismatic and clearly
loved the show, later the show’s contest coordinator Bob Edwards claimed that he had
a funny feeling about Michael from the start and didn’t trust him. Unfortunately Bob’s decision not to cast
Michael was overruled by executive producer and director Bill Carruthers. Michael was booked as a contestant for the
fourth episode of a Saturday afternoon taping; his episode was meant to air Friday, June
8, 1984. The two contestants competing against Michael
were Janie Litras, a dental assistant, and Ed Long, a Baptist minister. Ed was Press Your Luck’s returning current
champion, having won $11,516 on the previous episode. The show began like any other with an excited
live studio audience and host Peter Tomarken engaging in some friendly banter with the
contestants. Michael got off to a rocky start, on the second
trivia question, he pressed the buzzer prematurely, interrupting Peter. He gave an answer that in addition to being
wrong, was quickly revealed to be a poor answer when Peter completed asking the question. Michael finished the round earning only 3
spins, while Ed earned 4 and Janie 10. Per the game rules, since Michael had the
lowest number of spins, he got to play the Big Board first. On Michael’s first spin, he faltered and
hit a Whammy. But then Michael took a deep breath and focused,
concentrating on the board. He hit square #4 twice for $1,250 and finished
the round with $2,500; however, he was still in last place. Ed and Janie each finished the round without
a Whammy and won $4,080 and $4,608, respectively. In the second trivia round, Michael did slightly
better and earned 7 spins. Once again since he was in third place, he
got to play first at the Big Board. Michael carefully relied on his pattern strategy,
aiming for squares #4 and #8. He quickly won over $10,000. He also deviated from the pattern to win prizes. Landing on square #7 won him a trip to Kauai,
Hawaii worth $1,636, square #17 was worth $700 and a spin, square #6 earned Micheal
the “Pick a Corner” and he was given the choice of $2,250 in square #1, $2,000 in square #10,
or $1,500 and a spin in square #15. He choose square #1 with $2,250. Then he won a sailboat worth $1,015 by landing
on square # 7. The director began to get worried, an episode
of Press Your Luck ran for a 30 minute time slot and generally they would cut to commercials
when a contestant hit a Whammy and there was a break in the play. With Michael sticking to his memorized patterns
and hitting targeted squares each time he spun, he was on a roll with no break in the
game play. The director decided to simply keep filming. As Michael continued to spin, earning his
way to $40,000, up in the control booth the show’s executives took notice, something
wasn’t right. Michael was unnaturally lucky, the odds of
hitting a Whammy were one in six spins and Michael had already spun over 10 times. Meanwhile, the studio audience was going wild,
cheering Michael on each time he added more money to his winnings. Michael basked in the spotlight, grinning
and raising his arms in victory, each time he hit his desired square and racked up a
win. Soon he was at $50,000 and then $60,000. By this time an astounded Peter was begging
Michael to stop, the host’s nerves were totally frazzled. Michael’s opponents could only stand there,
dumbstruck and confused. Behind the scenes, CBS executives were calling
each other, trying to figure out a way to stop the game, the show was seriously losing
money and in danger of going bankrupt. However, as Michael wasn’t breaking any
of the game’s rules, the executives couldn’t stop it. Finally Michael stopped once he reached $102,851. By this time he had made 40 spins on the board
without hitting a Whammy. For 37 of his spins, he had won cash. After announcing he was passing his remaining
four spins, the audience gave Michael a standing ovation. Per Press Your Luck’s rules, Janie received
Michael’s remaining four spins. However, since she was the leader after the
first round, Ed, who was in second place and had two spins got to go first. A flustered Ed immediately hit a Whammy and
lost the money he had earned in the first round. Then Ed hit a square worth $5,000 and a spin. On his next spin, he won yet another spin. But then, he hit a second Whammy with his
final spin and went back to $0. It was finally Janie’s turn. On her first spin she hit a Whammy and lost
the $4,608 she had won in the first round. But she still had 6 spins, the remaining 3
Michael passed to her and 3 she had earned in the second trivia portion of the game. Janie ended up earning $9,385 in cash and
prizes in five total spins. Since she managed to hit squares with extra
spins, she only used three of her spins. Janie passed her remaining 3 spins to Michael,
a smart strategic move. If Michael got one Whammy, he’d lose his
entire winnings and Janie would win the game. Unfortunately for Janie that wasn’t going
to happen, since Micheal was operating via knowledge and not chance. Michael was agitated to have another turn
so quickly; he was tired and beginning to have a hard time concentrating. He played a few more spins. On his final spin, he won a trip to The Bahamas
valued at $2,636. Michael passed his remaining spins to Janie. She failed to earn any additional spins with
them, ending the game. Michael’s final cash total was $104,950. Overall, Michael won $110,237 in cash and
prizes; his winnings were equivalent to $266,000 in 2018. At CBS a storm was brewing. Press Your Luck’s producers and Michael
Brockman, the head of CBS’s daytime programming department met to review the tape of Michael’s
wild winning streak frame by frame. They noticed that Michael immediately, prematurely
celebrated after many of his spins, a second or two before the Big Board confirmed his
win. Clearly Michael knew ahead of time what square
he was going to land on. At first, CBS deemed Michael a cheater and
refused to pay him his winnings. However, despite going over Michael’s release
form and other documents with a fine toothed comb, the company couldn’t find a clause
in the game’s rules with which to disqualify him. It wasn’t illegal to memorize the Big Board’s
patterns. The network grudgingly paid Michael his winnings. Because he had surpassed the CBS winnings
cap of $25,000, Michael was not allowed to return for the next show. CBS immediately reworked Press Your Luck’s
Big Board to use a new set of 5 patterns. The next month they changed the patterns again. In August of 1984, the Big Board was fully
reprogrammed with 32 patterns making it impossible for any future contestant to win with Michael’s
memory trick. Press Your Luck ended up running 2 more years
until it was cancelled in September of 1986. Initially, CBS wasn’t going to broadcast
Michael’s episode, but eventually relented. It was shown as a special two part event. Part one aired Friday, June 8, 1984, with
the second episode airing on Monday, June 11. The episodes earned the highest ratings in
Press Your Luck’s history. Michael’s winning episodes were then buried
in the vault by CBS who wanted to forget the whole embarrassing ordeal. Even after the Game Show Network–GSN bought
syndication rights to Press Your Luck, CBS and the game show’s producers didn’t want
Michael’s episodes to air. Nineteen years later on March 16, 2003, GSN
was finally allowed to air the episodes as part of a two-hour documentary about Michael’s
controversial win. Meanwhile, Michael returned home to Lebanon
with around $90,000 in winnings post taxes. He invested some of his winnings in real estate,
but the opportunity didn’t pan out. Michael continued to get involved with get
rich quick schemes. In November of 1984, a local radio show held
a promotion promising a $30,000 prize for matching a $1 dollar bill’s serial number
with a random number read out on the air. Michael withdraw his remaining winnings in
1 dollar bills and spent days inspecting money in an attempt to win the prize. When he discovered that he didn’t have the
winning number, Michael redeposited some of his money, keeping the rest of the cash at
home. He came to regret this decision when his house
was burglarized and $50,00 in cash was stolen while Michael was at a Christmas Party. The robber was never found. Later Michael reached out to the producers
of Press Your Luck to suggest that they stage a “tournament of champions” show. He boasted that he could beat the reprogrammed
Big Board. They declined. Michael went into a downward spiral, eventually
getting involved in a massive Ponzi scheme. He sold shares in a fake American Indian Lottery. By the mid-1990s, he’d managed to defraud
20,000 investors out of $3 million.. With authorities including the IRS and FBI
hot on his trail, Michael fled Ohio and disappeared. His whereabouts were unknown until his death
from cancer on February 16, 1999, in Apopka, Florida. Aside from fraud and getting involved in questionable
schemes, Michael achieved an amazing feat. His legendary winning streak on Press Your
Luck necessitated keen observation skills, dedication and confidence to perform well
under pressure in front of a live audience, not to mention superior mnemonic memory skills. How good is your memory? Do you think you could have pulled off Michael’s
strategy? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
Fastest Ways People Turned $1 Into $1 Million? Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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  1. If you liked this one, you should also watch the episode about how the lottery got cracked… You'll love it…

  2. In this type of pages of bets it is necessary to take into account a little the luck and to use classic strategies as the "martin gala" and to go adding little by little.

  3. 3:10 Umm, I think you got the wrong picture for that 'Bob Edwards' person, because that's definitely a picture of Bob Barker from The Price is Right.

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  5. I lived in Lebanon, OH for 2 years. Cool place actually. There is a test Kroger's there that tests out marketing and I looks more like a Walmart. Just a cool thing I guess

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  8. The guy had extraordinary reflexes. I could not have pulled that off. I mean, sure, he had a serious advantage, but that still required him to be extremely accurate. Not to mention possible delays by the system itself. So yeah, it's still quite something. One also has to have cold blood to be able to keep doing it for half an hour. I mean it's insane.

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  10. soo. they still made money on the airing of the show ,breaking it up into two airings that they could sell the advertisment commerial time slots. seems like sore losers to me.

  11. He didn’t hack anything. He was just a very very dedicated fan of the show that suddenly realized that the selector had a pattern and was not randomized. He went to the show as a contestant pretending not to know. Apparently they thought he was very lucky but after a certain point, the show creator/ channel host was getting worried. The amount was getting to the point where it was getting financial worrisome. Eventually the guy decided he wanted to stop but amazingly he unintentionally kept getting the big money option. There’s a video talking all about this on YouTube

  12. 7:08 poor Ed lol.
    Lolz "A flustered Ed immediately hit a whammy and lost the money he'd one in the first round" 😅😅😂
    …..won another $5000 and hit yet another whammy.

  13. Love how America is quick to talk bad about countries and propaganda….yet when they get out smarted they do the same. What a shame

  14. Hahahaha! My memory is so bad I don't think I know anyone else who has a worse memory that doesn't have a disorder. I rely on notes and my husband for most things, lol.

  15. Be humble and don’t try to get rich quick. Michael should have just lived modestly and put his winnings into index funds and a retirement account and enjoyed the prizes. But he got greedy.

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  17. 11:08 in subtitles it says $50,00 it should say $50,000 ? (I already commented this on the comment from Infographic show, this is so that if they didn't see the reply there =) )

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