Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Foolish Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Older Gameshows

What if you watch Super Lotto results every week, and you think you see a pattern? You carefully track numbers for a few more weeks and find out that you're actually right. There is a pattern. What's next? Of course, you'd go out and buy a ticket at just the right time!

And that's exactly what Michael Larson did in 1984. He taped "Press Your Luck" on his VCR and watched shows in glorious slow-motion as simple patterns emerged from his TV screen. Of course, he bought his ticket, too! He went on the show and won $110,237 in cash.

Here's an excerpt from Tom Hopkins' retrospective in the November 26, 1994 issue of Dayton Daily News:
Larson began watching carefully, videotaping programs so he could study them later by slowing them down and studying the freeze frames.

His goal: Figure out how to determine where all the "whammies" were. If you could do that, he decided, avoiding them would be relatively easy.

"I wanted to see if there was a random to those lights, or if they were going in order," he recalls.

"I moved it from frame to frame and wached the lights go from one square to another. I started seeing little three-number runs that looked like other three-number runs, and I knew there was some commonality.

"Six weeks into it, it just came to me. I finally determined there were only six patterns of 18 numbers."

Memorize the patterns, and he could strike it rich.

Larson bought an airline ticket and headed for Los Angeles.
Now that's great use of technology.

If you ever want to see the entire story, you can watch GSN's 2003 special, Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal, when they air it again.

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