One of the more interesting objects lugged out from the closet on that bizarre US game show The Price Is Right. When I was 7 or so, I tried to watch the show as often as possible. I didn't bid on items, I didn't try to guess the prices of toothpaste and bleach, and I sure didn't laugh at Bob Barker's jokes. I just wanted to see Plinko.

Prior to actually playing Plinko, the contestant would have to earn some Plinko discs. The host would present him or her with a pair of household objects, and the contestant would have to guess which one had the higher "retail price". If the contestant was right, s/he received a disc. If not, s/he wouldn't. This was repeated a few times.

Then the lucky person would get to climb up onto a little step-stool, and drop the disc into the Plinko board. The board itself was a bit like an air hockey table, set up vertically, with toothpicks sticking out of all the holes and a row of slots at the bottom. The slots had money markings on them, in different colors.

When the contestant was all positioned and everything, s/he would let go of the disc, and it would bounce around in the nails, doing this very entertaining herky-jerky dance on its way down to the bottom. The camera men would usually cooperate by providing great pans and views of the disc and board, and they even had a special microphone to pick up all the plinking sounds. The disc would slide into a slot at the bottom, and the lucky contestant would win some money. If they had more discs, they could do it again, otherwise, Bob showed them the door. I always thought that if I ever got to go on the show, I would bring some extra discs with me, so I could play more than three rounds. Later, I realized that they probably have a rule about that.

I tried to build my own Plinko board a couple of times, but without any success. My failure was probably due to the thickness of my crayons messing up my schematic diagrams. Also, in those days I maybe had a dime or two, to buy gumballs. The idea didn't even occur to me to go to the store and buy a board, some nails, and some Silly Putty or something to make the Plinko discs out of. So I tried to make my board out of things that were lying around. The toothpicks we had didn't fit into the holes on our dilapidated air hockey table. My brother and I tried some different things, but we always got distracted playing air hockey. I never got up the nerve to ask for one for Christmas, either. Maybe I could build one now that I'm all grown up, but I have too much to do.

The Plinko pricing game debuted on January 3, 1983 as the second of six pricing games, and is considered by many to be the most exciting of all The Price Is Right games. This new game debuted to huge fanfare as a giant disco ball descended from the ceiling with $25,000 signs around it. The game was named Plinko because as the chips fall they go "Plink, Plink, Plink, Plink," Bob Barker explained, adding, "Some of our people drink." Also debuting on the 3rd was the infamous Plinko Stick, which Bob thankfully did not have to use. The purpose of the Plinko Stick is to whack any chips that get stuck on the pegs, and few things please Bob more than getting to use his Plinko Stick (although I think he likes putting on Hole-In-One a bit more).

The rules of Plinko are straightforward. Whoever wins on Contestants' Row is given one Plinko chip. They are given a chance to win as many as four more Plinko chips by playing a fairly simple pricing game. Four products are displayed with a two-digit price listed below each. Only one of the digits is the correct digit in the price, however, and the contestant much correctly guess which one is the correct one. With each correct guess they get an additional Plinko chip. But this isn't the exciting part! No! The excitement comes when the contestant has finished earning their Plinko chips, because now comes their chance to win up to $25,000 by playing the Plinko board!

The Plinko board is a colorful slanted board with a number of pegs strewn about it. At the bottom of the board are a number of slots demarked with dollar values ranging from the horrible, horrible $0 to the super-duper incredible $5,000 (and in between, the somewhat mediocre and less exciting $100, $500, $1000). The contestant climbs the similarly colorful staircase to the top of the Plinko board, where Bob instructs them to place the chip flat on the board and let go. The chip bounces around wildly on the pegs before finally settling in one of the dollar slots -- so wildly, in fact, that a plexiglass cover had to be installed to keep chips from flying clean off the board! With five chips in the $5,000 slot, each Plinko contestant can win up to $25,000! Judy Gridley, the first ever Plinko contestant, won 4 Plinko chips and a total of $6,500. Judy gave a ringing endorsement of the game, telling an inquisitive Bob, "Oh, it's terrific!"

Now, if you thought that was exciting... hold on to your hat. Because after testing the idea out with the 25th Anniversary Special, the Plinko stakes were raised starting with the 27th season. The $5,000 slot was replaced with a $10,000 slot, making it possible to win up to $50,000! The highest total ever won while the board had a $5,000 slot was $21,000. After the ten thousand dollar spot was added, the record jumped to $23,000. The greatest Plinko victory of all time, however, was the $40,000 hauled in during the 2002 Prime-Time Army Special, when a one-time $20,000 slot was placed in the middle of the board.

The question remains: If Plinko is the most popular and most exciting of the pricing games, why does it appear so infrequently? Many suggest that it's the very rarity of Plinko that gives it charm. Some have a different theory. You see, a perfect score has never been acheived in Plinko, and Bob will not certify a "win" in Plinko without the perfect score. Thus, Plinko ruins his quest for the perfect show, resulting in far too many 5-out-of-6's. If there's one thing that bothers Bob Barker more than people who don't protect the pet population by having their pet spayed or neutered, it's a 5-out-of-6 show.

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