Deal or No Deal is a game show that is currently airing - in the United States - on the NBC network. The American version, which is copycatting predecessors like the versions in the UK and Australia, is hosted by actor-comedian Howie Mandel of Bobby's World fame. (It's not the same Howie; with a bald head, tan, goatee, and earing he looks more like a pirate than the pale, congenial, curly-haired Bobby's World guy). It premiered on December 19, 2005 and ran for only one week, airing each night that week. It scored high ratings, prompting a comeback after the Olympics, airing - again - every night the week of February 7, 2006 through March 3, 2006. After that it moved into regular weekly slots, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 8:00 PM, 7 Central. That schedule lasted until the end of the season, Monday, June 5.

The creator, John De Mol, must be a genius or close to it. Deal or No Deal should be the basis of a class on how to create game shows. Keept it simple, offer lots of money, and make it exciting. While it may seem complicated when trying to explain the concept in text which I'm about to do, it's not once you understand it. And the best way to understand it is to watch it.

But we can't do that here.

The premise of Deal or No Deal (heretofore referred to only as "Deal" for the sake of brevity) is fairly simple. It is basically the same in other countries with slight (sometimes not-so-slight) variations, but in the U.S.A. before the game begins a third party randomly shuffles 26 different prize amounts in 26 briefcases. When it begins, they are brought out onto stage by 26 gorgeous models and placed on glass tables. The contestant playing, who can be anybody much like Who Wants to be a Millionare or The Price is Right, chooses one of the cases. Neither the contestant, nor the host (Howie), knows what is in the cases. The case the contestant chooses could be a money amount anywhere from $.01 (one cent) to $1,000,000 (one million dollars). Well that's how it was originally. In its second stint, midweek the maximum prize amount began to go up, first to $1.5 million, then to $2 million.

The next step is for the contestant to choose six of the remaining 25 cases. The models open the cases to reveal what dollar amount is inside. If the opened cases reveal the low amounts, like the penny or $1 or $5 or even $100, it is good for the contestant because it increases the odds that the amount in their case is high. Conversely, if they choose cases with high amounts, like $500,000 or $1 million, it is bad because it increases the odds that a low amount is in the contestant's case. This is because once they look at all the cases, the "banker" - a mysterious figure who sits in a skybox and is never seen save for a silhouette sometimes - calls down to the host (the banker's voice is never heard) with an offer to buy the contestant's case. If the banker feels that the contestant could have a lot of money in their case, his offer will be higher. If it appears the contestant may have a low amount, the banker's offer is lower. The banker purportedly also makes offers based on the psychology of the contestant. If it appears the contestant is more likely to cave, the offer is also lowered somewhat.

After the offer (the first one usually ranges from $25,000 to $38,000) the host asks the contestant the all-important question: "Deal, or no deal?" If the contestant wants to take the deal, they push a little red button on the table in front of them and end their game. If they want to play on, they must say "NO DEAL!" Then the process is repeated where the contestant will only draw four cases. If it is repeated again, they choose another five cases, then if it continues again, four cases, then three, until it gets to the point where each time the contestant only chooses one case at a time. This can continue until the contestant only has two cases left unopened - theirs and one in the gallery. At this point, the host offers to the contestant the chance to switch their case with the one in the gallery. This has only happened a few times so far.

At some point early in play, the contestant brings out three or four supporters (family members, friends, etc.) to help them out in their decision making. Sometimes they are much needed. As the cases whittle down and play continues, the excitement and the risk builds, especially if the contestant is turning down offers for high amounts, like $100,000 or more. This is the point that viewers can really get into the game and scream at their televisions for the contestant to take the deal, knowing that they could be turning the banker down an offer to buy their case for a huge sum of money that could only actually contain something like five dollars.

Odds and Strategy

When a contestant is presented with the original 26 cases, he or she has a 3.85% (1 in 26) chance of selecting a case containing any of the available amounts. That means only a 3.85% chance they have the top prize. The more the low amounts are revealed, the chances go up that the contestant could have a high amount. Vice versa with higher amounts. If the big money amounts stay in play, especially if the top prize does, the banker's offer skyrockets. However, once low amounts are eliminated, the odds go up that the next case the contestant reveals contains a high amount, which lowers the banker's offer. Choosing to go on once a very high amount has been offered can be mightily stressful: if $5, 10$, or $1 million is still in play and the banker is offering you $400,000 for your case, should you take the deal? What if your case has the million? The odds are greater that it doesn't. Decisions, decisions...


  • Highest potential bank offer: $1,000,000 (March 1, 2006, after the player accepted $407,000)
  • Highest bank offer: $407,000 (same game as above)
  • Lowest bank offer: $2 (February 28, 2006) (Declined). After refusing over $100,000 the last high amount was revealed to the woman, $300,000, at which point she only had either $5 or $1 left; she was the first person to choose what was in her case; it was a good deal, the case contained the $5
  • Most money won (Deal): $407,000 (March 1, 2006)
  • Most money won (No Deal): $75,000 (December 23, 2005)
  • Least money won (Deal): $23,000 (December 23, 2005)
  • Least money won (No Deal): $5 (February 28, 2006) - mentioned already above

These haven't been updated lately as you can tell. Sorry.

ABC actually almost became Deal's American network. They originally picked it up in early 2004 for launch that spring. A pilot was made with Briton Patrick Kielty as host and a $2.5 million top prize. They didn't air it and eventually lost its rights to the show.

Australia, whose version began in late 2003, was the first country to air it. It was followed by the Dutch, French, Indian, Israeli, Italian, Mexican, Polish, the UK, and the US versions. The prizes and formats vary. For instance, in Italy, the stinker prizes a contestant can win are salami, a year's supply of soap, and a live performance of the host's (Pupo) favorite song, "Su Di Noi."

If you want to see the show live, free tickets to the show in Los Angeles can be obtained from online.


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