The Winner’s Big Money Game – Here’s how I would improve it

Ah, the Winner’s Big Money Game.


The infamous, often derided and criticized end game that has divided the $ale community for generations.

A quick introduction for you newbies…..


When it made it’s debut towards the end of 1987, $ale’s champion for the day had to solve four, six-word clue puzzles in twenty seconds (originally five puzzles in twenty-five seconds) to win that day’s top cash prize. To start, Jim gave the champ a choice of three colored envelopes (red, yellow or blue) each containing the puzzles that would be played.

Once the game began, the player started to hear and see the words of each puzzle one at a time, and if he/or she knew the correct answer, had to hit the plunger to stop the clock.

If he/or she solves four correctly before time ran out, they would win $5,000. For every return trip for the champion, the cash prize would increase by $1,000 regardless if they won or not until it reaches $10,000, and then the next WBMG for a returning champion would be for a new car. If he/or she succeeds, they would earn the right to play one more game in which winning that match would mean they would play for $50,000.


That feat was accomplished just once, in 1988 by Rani White who won a total in excess of $141,00o in cash and prizes.

On the surface, it’s not that bad of an endgame, quite challenging and competitive……for another game show.

Simply put, the WBMG just did not mesh well with the format and culture that is Sale of the Century. It was added only by a mandate from the NBC network which demanded that $ale have a traditional endgame, and as true fans of the show know, $ale did not require such.

That was just one of the factors in SOTC’s cancellation in March 1989. (Thanks alot NBC, you  frickin’ idiots.)


However, in the event that $ale ever returned to the air someday, and they do bring back the Winner’s Big Money Game……here’s how I would improve it, which would be a better to the style of play and culture that is SOTC.

Instead of a progressive cash jackpot, there would be a prize board of nine numbers (in a nod to the Winner’s Board format). Six of them would include the most expensive, high-end bonus grand prizes (whose value is like the ones from the Winner’s Shopping Format), and three would have cash amounts of $10,000, $15,000 and $25,000. Behind each of the numbers was a card, displaying the name of the prize. The new champion would pick a number from the board, and to win that prize would have to solve four puzzles correctly in twenty seconds or less. After the game, regardless of if he/or she won or not, then that number they chose would be uncovered to reveal that prize they played for.


To clear the entire board of the nine prizes, that champion would have to WIN to do so. He/or she can remain on the show until they are either defeated in the main game, or has successfully cleared the board.

If they do pull it off, then they be faced with two choices. Either take all the nine major prizes and retire, or risk the nine major prizes they’ve won for a chance to play one more match on the next show to win the ultimate cash jackpot of $100,000. If they chose to take the risk, they would have to win to secure the nine prizes, the 100K bonus, and he/or she would retire undefeated. Lose and they would lose all nine prizes and retire from the show left with whatever cash and prizes they’ve won from the main game.

And finally, I would rename that brand new and improved end game the Winner’s Grand Prize Game.

I would think such improvements would be beneficial.

What do you think?


About jburnham21

I like stuff, especially the ones that don't suck.
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1 Response to The Winner’s Big Money Game – Here’s how I would improve it

  1. Doug Morris says:

    Greetings. Wish I found your website under happier circumstances. I found this and your Tumblr site after word came of Jim’s passing.

    With that clarified, here’s what I would’ve done with the WBMG. Basically, I’d merge it with the original shopping format.

    For example, let’s say a new champion is crowned after a tense speed round — and said new champion ran his score up to $59 (obviously, he bought at least one instant bargain en route to victory). After Jim recaps the missed questions and runs down the prizes the runners-up collected, the champ and Jim meet center stage — as the “jewelry-themed” podia meet each other.

    Instead of $5000 cash, the champ finds out from the announcer he’s playing for a pool table which retails for roughly $2500 — “yours on ‘$ale of the Century’ for only $250.” Obviously, the champion can’t afford to pay $250 for the pool table; he only has $59.

    Here’s how Jim “remedies the problem”. Jim let’s the champ choose one of three puzzle packs (red, yellow, blue), puts 20 seconds on the clock and informs the player he must solve a puzzle correctly to double his score from the front game. Building on $59, the first correct solution to a puzzle would double up to $118, the next to $236 (if only the champ made a few less mistakes or declined an instant bargain or two) and one more for $472 (more than enough to win the endgame and buy the pool table).

    With each successive victory, the prizes retail for more and more — and the low $OTC prices would increase along the way. The new car level’s discount would be in the neighborhood of $1000.

    Bottom line: When the winner’s board came into the picture, the idea of “America’s biggest bargain sale” was starting to go out the window. The idea waned further when the third instant bargain was replaced with instant cash (which should’ve been attached to an instant bargain — but that’s another subject for another time).

    Even with the format changes that shortened what should’ve been a much longer run, Jim was a perfect fit for this and the original “Card Sharks”. May he rest in peace.


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