I scored a free ticket to the "$250,000 Game Show Spectacular" (from http://www.showtickets4locals.com/) and went to the Hilton to see it today. It was more entertaining than I expected it to be. Chuck Woolery is really, really good at this kind of thing--funny and spontaneous. He's apparently there on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Bob Eubanks and Jamie Farr hosting other days.
The show consists of a bunch of game-show rip-offs that audience members are invited on stage to participate in. (If you go, it's worth knowing that nearly all of the participants are selected by random-number drawings, based on a ticket they give you upon entering, so all the stuff they tell you about standing and jumping up and down and shouting "Pick me!" is pretty much hooey.) There were quick, miniature versions of Let's Make a Deal, Card Sharks, Name That Tune, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show, plus a few other games that didn't have any apparent connection to any known television show.
In one of the attached photos (apologies for the crappy cell-phone camera resolution), Chuck and his impossibly effervescent assistant Cindy are trying to get audience members to do a disco dance as part of The Gong Show. (It's a really great gong! If I had been one of the "judges" during that portion of the show, I would have kept hitting it just for the pleasure of hearing the thing reverberate, until they took my mallet away. I have just added to my list of life goals: "Own a huge gong that you can hit any time you like, just for the hell of it.") On-stage participants all won either tickets to another Hilton show ("Menopause," Barry Manilow, etc.) or dinner at one of the Hilton restuarants. The winner of each game got between $100 and $500, usually $200.
Between games, they show clips of bloopers and funny moments from televised game shows (as you can see happening in the other accompanying photo). The best was from The Newlywed Game. Bob Eubanks asks a young woman, "What one thing does your husband absolutely forbid you to put on his wiener?" The woman instantly responds in dead earnestness, "Oh, Ben Gay."
The "$250,000" name comes from the final game, in which ten audience members are selected at random, and by basically a random process are narrowed down to one. That one picks three envelopes out of 20, and if the amount of money in those three envelopes totals exactly $1000, the contestant wins $250,000, and everybody in the audience pockets $100. Failing that, the contestant gets to keep the money that was in the envelopes, which today totalled about $700. There is only one winning combination.
How many ways are there to pick three envelopes out of 20? That would be the formula C(20, 3), which is 1140--so don't be getting your hopes up. They'll be able to run this thing a long time before having to pay out the big bucks. There were probably 200 to 250 people there today (early afternoon show on a Thursday, which I assume is probably about as small a crowd as you can expect). So you have at best a 1/20 chance of getting onstage for the last game, a 1/10 shot of being the person who gets to choose envelopes, and a 1/1140 chance of picking the right three envelopes. In other words, your chance of scoring the quarter-million are, well, about one in a quarter-million.
See other news/reviews of the show:
In keeping with being a grump about things, I have to add an observation here about how stupid people are, as a general rule. In one game, contestants had to guess whether each of seven cards would be "high" or "low." They were told that "high" cards were 10, jack, queen, king, and ace. Low cards were 2 through 8. There were no 9s in the deck. The instant they announced these terms, I thought, "There are more low cards than high ones? Doesn't that make the best strategy pretty obvious?" We weren't told anything about the distribution of the cards--specifically, whether a whole standard deck (minus the 9s) was used, whether the selection was truly random, etc. But having no other information, your best approach has to be to go "low" every time, because the seven cards you have to guess about apparently came from a deck containing 28 low cards (four each of 2 through 8) and only 20 high ones (four each of 10 through ace).
But not even one of the three contestants did this. Instead, they tried to just blindly guess. I checked as they went, and guessing "low" every time definitely would have won the game; nobody got more than three out of seven right, and two of the sets of seven contained four low cards, so guessing "low" every time would have scored a winning 4 for two of the players. Oh no, better to rely on your keenly honed psychic abilities rather than a probability-based strategy, I suppose. I have no idea why the cards were set up with this kind of inherent bias, yielding an obvious advantageous strategy. But it's not a flattering comment on the human race that zero out of three randomly selected people can think clearly enough to exploit it.
Low IQs were similarly on open display in the final game. The ten contestants were each given a roughly 12" x 8" card, one side of which was red and the other black. They had to pick one or the other and hold the card with this side forward. Then Cindy would pick at random from a deck of cards. If the card she picked was red, all of those who had red showing would play again, and those with black showing were eliminated, and vice-versa. Seven of these imbeciles picked red on the first round, and only three of them picked black, even though they could all see each others' selections and had plenty of opportunity to change their color if they wanted to.
Naturally, you're 50/50 to win either way, but the results of winning aren't equal. As it was, those picking red had a 50% chance of being one of seven players left, while those picking black had a 50% chance of being one of just three players left. Why wasn't it obvious to these idiots that it's better to have black in that situation? If any of the seven choosing red had enough brains to pass about the third grade, they would have switched to black until there were five of each color showing, after which point switching becomes disadvantageous.
I don't understand why people fail to think and act logically in such situations. It's not like it took any hard math or deep deductive logic to figure this out. There was maybe a ten-second window in which Chuck was asking if everybody was happy with their choices, the contestants were all gazing up and down the row at each other's colors, looking dumb, without anybody changing, and I was sitting in the audience, looking at the 7/3 split, and mentally screaming, "Change to black, you red-card cretins!" But I guess they couldn't hear my thoughts (a fact for which I suppose I should be grateful). People can be so dim-witted it makes you want to just shoot them on the spot and put them out of their misery. Except, of course, that they're too stupid to understand how miserable and pathetic their existence is at that level of intelligence.
I just Googled "newlywed wiener Ben-Gay" to see if others have commented on the clip I described above--because it must be at least semi-famous--and one of the hits was this blog post: http://giveamanapaintedfish.blogspot.com/2007/10/show-me-money.html. But that led me to read a previous one from the same author (http://giveamanapaintedfish.blogspot.com/2007/10/wee-o-ortne.html), which is about how head-slappingly idiotic people are about basic strategy in even such a strategy-thin game as "Wheel of Fortune." It's a hilarious post, very much in keeping with what I observed today about how many people walk around functionally brain-dead. I have no idea who this blogger is, but I think he and I could enjoy a few hours of yelling at hopeless game-show contestants together.
Despite the moronic side of humanity being made manifest at the Hilton yet again today, it was a decently fun way to kill 90 minutes, if you're so inclined--and especially if you can get yourself in for free. And it takes place in the same theater that Elvis used to revive both Vegas and his own career from 1969-1972, which makes just being there pretty cool (even though it's now mainly used by the distinctly un-cool Barry Manilow--not that I dislike Manilow, but you can't call both him and Elvis "cool" and have the word mean the same thing, and I suspect that even Barry himself would concede that point).
Incidentally, I recently bought an Elvis CD consisting of live recordings from those famous shows at the Hilton, though it was then called the International. Great CD, if you're into Elvis (and who isn't???). See http://jiath.notlong.com/. I just now learned, though, that there's a second "gold" version of this CD that has a second, bonus disc containing the entire first Elvis Hilton concert from August 21, 1969. Elvis connoisseurs say that that may have been the greatest performance of his entire career. Dang. Now I wish I had gotten that one instead!
One final note: On the back of the show ticket is a +$10 table-games coupon. For any even-money bet of $10 or more, this coupon adds a free $10 to the bet. I never play blackjack or craps or roulette, for a bunch of reasons (mainly: they don't excite me in any way, and I understand pretty deeply that they're essentially just throwing money away). But I'm also smart enough to recognize that deals like this turn a negative expected value into a positive one. On the roulette wheel, for example, I can now bet $10 and have just a little under a 50% chance of winning $40. That's a bet I'd love to be able to put down a few thousand times in a row. Suppose you do it 1000 times (not that the Hilton is likely to give you 1000 of these coupons, but this is just illustrative). You'd expect to win 18 out of every 38 times betting on odd or even or red or black, because in each case there are 18 winning slots for the ball to drop into and 20 losing ones, (including 0 and 00). In 1000 trials, that's 474 wins at $30 each (they push you $40, but it's only a profit of $30, because $10 of that is just your bet back), for $14,220. You'd lose your $10 the other 526 times, totalling $5260, giving you a net gain of $14,220 - $5260 = $8960 in 1000 spins. So the average profit (expected value) per spin with the coupon is +$8.90. I put my $10 and my coupon on "odd" and, of course, the nasty little ball insisted on landing on 12. But it's still one of the few smart table-game bets you can make in this crazy city, especially for being a free bonus with a free ticket.
Addendum, November 5, 2007
I went again today. It was a virtually identical show (no surprise there) except that it was hosted by Bob Eubanks, who I didn't enjoy as much as Chuck Woolery. Didn't win anything. The back of this ticket had a 2-for-1 cocktail offer, instead of the $10-added betting coupon. Dang. I assumed that I would score $10, but I guess not every ticket gets one.
Once again, during the high-low card game, not a single one of the three contestants picked up on the fact that there are more low cards in the deck than high cards. And, once again, the strategy of picking "low" every time would have won, because one of the rows had six of its seven cards low!
Predictably, again, in the last game, the people on stage didn't figure out the red card/black card optimal strategy. Eight of them went red and only two black on the first round. The card drawn was red, so the best strategy would have lost, but still--just being one of the two people selecting black there meant that your odds of being the person picked to play for the $250,000 prize zoomed from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4! People can be so dense sometimes....