Chapter 3

Pushing One’s Luck

“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is hard to imagine now, but in the early 1980s, television game shows rarely used technology to mediate the game. Results in game shows like “Jeopardy” or “The $10,000 Pyramid” were based entirely on the contestant’s ability to answer questions. After a quiz show scandal in the 1950s, many game shows introduced random elements. Shows like “Card Sharks” were focused on random processes mediated by a giant deck of cards—hardly high tech. So when “Press Your Luck” debuted in 1983, it was fairly unique.

Press Your Luck or Press Your Skill?

In “Press Your Luck,” contestants earned “spins” that could be deployed on the “big board.” The big board ...

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