TV | Pop Culture | 80s

How One Man Cheated To Win Over $100,000 On A Game Show

We've all imagined it: competing on a game show, getting every answer right, winning a truckload of money and retiring to enjoy the rest of our lives.

The problem is that takes a lot of hard work and luck. Who has the time to memorize all the kings of England? Even if you did, what happens if you get a question about baseball instead?

That's why Michael Larson's story is so incredible. He was an ice cream truck driver who managed to beat a TV network at their own game and win a record-breaking amount of money.

Larson appeared on the CBS game show Press Your Luck in 1984, winning $110,237 ($254,000 in today's money) by cheating. He didn't use trivia knowledge any clever tricks to break the bank, just his VCR.

Press Your Luck was a trivia game that also included an electronic board.  Some of the board's squares had prizes, or extra spins on the board, while others had "Whammys" which would erase your score.

After watching hours of the show and taping every episode, Larson managed to memorize the 5 patterns the board followed, meaning he would never land on a Whammy and could win as many prizes and extra spins as he wanted.

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CBS knew right away that something was up. Larson's episode had to be aired over 2 days, because his winning streak made the game extra long.

He would also react as soon as he landed on the right square - before he actually "knew" he had won a prize.

Still, there was nothing in the rules that said Larson couldn't memorize the board's patterns. CBS had to pay him the $110,000, which set a record for the largest amount anyone had ever won in a day.

Mental Floss

While Larson's success made him rich, it didn't last long. Within 2 years all of his prize money had been spent, stolen or lost in illegal businesses.

Even if Larson was never a real "winner," his success is legendary among game show fans. CBS kept his episode off of TV for 19 years after it originally aired, but even that couldn't keep Larson's incredible win from earning a place in TV history.

Share this unbelievable story with someone you know!

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