Are "Deal or No Deal" shows scripted?

I only watch this show once in a while (let’s face it, the odds of someone winning the $1M are pretty slim), but I notice that on each episode that I’ve seen:

  1. Contestant is always confident that s/he has the highest amount remaining on the board in his/her case, until about the 5th Banker offer;
  2. Contestant’s “Loved Ones” always advise Contestant to say “No Deal” while the offers are up to $99,000.00; after that, no matter what’s left on the board, they start with the “That’s a lot of money, take the deal” refrain. (Do they consider that various taxes will eat up at least 1/3 to 1/2 the amount?)
  3. Contestant usually makes the deal when there’s 4 or less cases left, usually accompanied by some sort of long delay and/or interminable speech.
  4. As Howie goes through the remaining cases (“Had you said ‘No Deal’ to that amount…”), and Contestant sees what (usually) higher amount s/he could have won, instead of getting pissed, all you hear is a choir of “That’s okay”'s. (Not if I was on the show - I’d have to be restrained from violence!

Adding all these up, it sure seems scripted to me.

They’re definitely enoucraged to delay and speechify, but the reason they usually take the deal at that point is because it’s the correct thing to do. For most middle class Americans, it is at that point that the money offered is pretty close to the average expected outcome, and a middle class person’s reasonable level of risk aversion dictates that once you get pretty close to that number with a life-altering amount of money, the smart thing to do it to take it. Most (But not all) contestants take the money around the logical time to take the money, because it just makes sense to do so.

Well, for one thing, you’d feel a lot better knowing you were walking away with $193,000 or whatever your take was.

For another, you’d only have to be restrained from violence if you are (a) insane or (b) really dumb. The amount in your case is completely irrelevant, unless your plan all along was to reject every deal out of hand and take what was in your case no matter what. The only numbers that matter are the average of all the remaining values in play, which is your expected average outcome, and the banker’s current offer. Unless you’re rich and can afford to gamble away a lot of money, once the former value is pretty close to the latter the right move is simply to give up and take it. The value in your case doesn’t exist until you open it; or, more precisely, the value in your case is ALL of the possible remaining values, until it is opened. It’s Schroedinger’s prize money. So unless your plan was to open the case and take that from the get-go, it doesn’t matter.

BTW, they lowball the first 3-4 offers in order to ensure the contestant keeps playing, which is why nobody takes them.

Adding all these up, it sure seems scripted to me.

The issue with these shows is that for a typical person…the first $x amount of money has much more value than the second equal amount.

If you were sitting there with $500,000…and could double or lose it, you would be a fool to go for it. That $500,000 will make a huge impact on your life. The second $500,000…not nearly so much.

In order to make it appealing, they probably need to go many times the amount…like $500,000 to $5 million.

Even with $500,000 going to $5 million, I would take the $500,000 EVEN IF there was a 50/50 chance I would win. I also don’t think that decision is stupid or irrational.

I agree, and I think it’s odd how many of these shows are set up so that there’s very little incentive to go for the grand prize:

  • Deal or No Deal works like you say, where most people should take the offer when it approaches the mathematical EV.
  • 5th Grader asks you to gamble $475,000 of your $500,000 to win another $500,000, on a question you haven’t seen yet.
  • 1 vs. 100 asks you to make a similar gamble.
  • Power of Ten might be the worst one: you have to gamble $1 million to win $10 million, and to win you must pick a correct percentage out of a range of 11 numbers. So the EV of the gamble is not even positive, even before the normal utility argument that $10 million is not worth 10 times more than $1 million.

I’m not sure how you get from your list to “scripted,” but I don’t think so. For one, it seems natural to me, and for another, after the game show scandals of the 50s, no producer would risk his reputation that way.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the show (I’ve seen it maybe four or five times). The initial banker offers are ridiculously low. If there are ten briefcases left whose values total to $1.2M, then the proper offer from the banker would be $120k. However, in the early rounds, the banker seems to offer about half that.

When the number of cases gets whittled down to a handful, the banker’s offers become more in line with the expected (average) value of the remaining cases. At that point, the contestant has to decide whether he wants to buy a $60,000 lottery ticket that has a chance to win $250,000, when the chance of his winning it is one out of four. Most regular folks won’t take that kind of gamble.

If you would have to be restrained from violence upon seeing a briefcase that you didn’t choose, you’re probably not a good candidate to be on the show. Most regular people, having made a decision, will look for any reason to justify why it was the right decision to make.

I don’t know if I’d call it scripted but they sure do a lot of things to make sure the show flows how they want it to.
Casting is probably the main key here. They purposely cast players who believe in luck, fate, karma, etc. have a lose grasp of odds, and wear their emotions on their sleeves.
They probably give them pep talks and pump them up before the show convincing them the are going to “win big” and change their lives. I’m curious as to in the history of the show what the earliest departure has been for a contestant.
It also appears that when making the decision to say “Deal” or “No Deal” that the participant is waiting for an offstage cue before giving their decision. Even though they may know immediately if they’re going for it or not they are probably told to wait for the cue by the producers in order to build the drama.

You can make the argument about 5th Grade for every question; 1 Vs. 100 had at least 1 $1M winner; and Power of 10 - since it’s been cancelled for low ratings (plus Drew is busy enough with Price Is Right) - it speaks for itself.

November 13, 2007 (unaired).

Howie: “We’ll offer you ten bucks if…”
Contestant: “Done.”

God, where is America’s sense of humor? Look, the violence line was SARCASM - not that I’d actually waste time even applying to a game show. However, in the imaginary scenario of if I did choose wrong, some blame would be allocated to peer pressure if everyone convinced me to take a bad deal. Lighten up!

SNL parodies don’t count!

Which gives creedence to my charge that it’s scripted… were I to see an episode where NONE of the OP criteria applies, maybe I’d be convinced differently. Until then, I’m convinced it’s just as scripted as Howie’s (alledged) ad-libs. (I saw his act years ago - back when he wore the glove on his head - he couldn’t ad-lib a burp in a soda-drinking match…)

Did SNL do that? :smack: I don’t even watch it anymore.

That’s the part that pisses me off. “COME ON! You know you’re not going to take the offer just close the damn lid!” :mad:

Then again, I didn’t think the lady would be offered ~$105,000 with a $1000 and $200K case remaining. She was…TURNED IT DOWN…and walked away with $1000. :smiley:

I don’t watch it all that often, myself, but I did see a few episodes during the writer’s strike when they seemed to run it a lot, and several times the very first offer was over $100,000! What they realized is, it really doesn’t matter what the first offer is, there’s so much more of the game left to play, no one’s ever going to take it at that point and walk away. I know I wouldn’t.

I thought on 5th Grader you can quit after seeing the question, except for the final question. If I’m wrong, and you have to choose whether to continue before seeing the question in all cases, then that makes it more likely people will quit early, not less.

I saw the million dollar winner on 1 vs 100, if it’s the same one you’re thinking of (a geeky guy who Bob Sagat was making jokes about for most of the show). His win was based on a pretty flukey scenario where all of about 15 remaining people got a question wrong that he got right. If a couple of them had answered correctly, then he might have quit rather than risking his half mil.

It seems to be a requirement that every contest offer a complete paranormal analysis of why they selected the number that they did. “This is my uncle Louie’s dentist’s birthday” or whatever. Just pick the number.

Every offer must be met with these words “that’s a lot of money”.

No contestant will ever take the first two offers. Don’t even bother thinking it over.

Any contestant who proceeds without a safety need is an idiot. So you’ve got $500K and four other cases < $1000. Take the deal rather than walk out smarter but poorer.

What I’m really hoping to see is a contestant with just two cases left- the penny and the million. Then go for it and miss.

Couldn’t have been an SNL parody - it was funny.


I can’t imagine the show is scripted. What you have to remember is that the perceived value of money does not grow linearly when compared to the amount, IIRC it grows logarythmically to the amount. Contestants will want more until they get to the elbow of the curve (the “life changing amount”), and then they’ll start second guessing themselves. That is, the value tends to grow nearly linearly until you reach that “life changing amount”, and then the risk of losing it all is greater than the value of doubling it, so that you have to be offered more and more to make it worth while.

If I were to take a stab at it, for an average American, I’d guess that $100k is right around the elbow point; less than that, and you think you can just get a nice car and a vacation, above that, you can pay off a chunk of your mortgage or retire or something. This explains why the family starts to say “ooh, that’s a lot of money” because it IS a lot of money. It’s a heck of a lot easier to be rational from the side lines than when you’re the one in the hot-seat. Either way, a purely mathematical approach of expected value simply isn’t taking into account human nature or the nature of money.

I’ve noticed also that when the odds are in the contestants favor and they have a safety net Howie will mention it often and call it smart play.
However, as soon as the board goes bad and the odds are against the player Howie (on cue) starts his banter about “having the guts” to go on and if they “feel in their heart” that they are still holding the million dollar case.
That should be the contestants cue to walk away.

[Moderator Hat ON]

I think this’ll do better in (::pauses to add drama, cut to commercial break, return::slight_smile: The Game Room.

[Moderator Hat OFF]