Gambit (game show)
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|Also known as||Las Vegas Gambit|
|Created by||Wayne Cruseturner|
|Presented by||Wink Martindale|
|Narrated by||Kenny Williams|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Producer(s)||Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley|
|Location(s)||CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1972–1976)
Burbank, CA (1979 pilot)
Tropicana Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada (1980–1981)
|Running time||~22–26 minutes|
|Original channel||CBS (1972–76)
|Original run||September 4, 1972–December 10, 1976
October 27, 1980 – November 27, 1981
Gambit is an American television game show based on the card game blackjack, created by Wayne Cruseturner and produced by Heatter-Quigley Productions. The show originally ran on CBS from September 4, 1972 to December 10, 1976. A slightly retooled version, Las Vegas Gambit, aired on NBC from October 27, 1980 to November 27, 1981, originating from the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The 1972–1976 version changed taping locations at CBS Television City, taping episodes in Studios 31, 33, 41 and 43 at various times.
Both versions were hosted by Wink Martindale and announced by Kenny Williams. Elaine Stewart was the card dealer for the CBS version, while Beverly Malden filled this role for the first half of Las Vegas Gambit, and was later replaced by Lee Menning.
The object of the game was that of blackjack: come as close to 21 as possible without going over (or "busting"). As in blackjack, the cards 2 through 10 were worth their face value; face cards (Kings, Queens and Jacks) counted as 10 and an Ace could count as either 1 or 11.
Martindale asked a series of questions, usually multiple-choice or true-false, to two married couples. The first couple who buzzed in and correctly answered the question won control of the next card from the top of a deck of over-sized (but otherwise regulation) playing cards. The first card was shown before the first question, but cards thereafter were presented face down.
Once a couple gained control of a card, they had the option of adding it to their own hand or passing it to their opponents. After a couple received any card (whether by choice or by having a card passed to them from their opponents), they could elect to freeze, preventing them from receiving any more cards (neither team was permitted to freeze when the two were tied). This rule prevented their opponents from passing cards to them in order to strategically force them to bust.
A couple could win the game in one of four ways:
- Reaching 21, which not only won the game but the Gambit Jackpot, which started at $500 and increased by that amount at the start of each day (or at the start of each match on Las Vegas). After being won, the jackpot reset to $500.
- Winning by default after the opponents exceed 21 ("busted"), even if the winners had no cards.
- Freezing, after which the opponents miss a question before getting a higher score and without going over 21.
- Having the opponents freeze, then getting a higher score without going over 21.
Each game was worth $100. The first team to win two games won the match and advanced to the bonus round.
For the entire original series and the first half of Las Vegas Gambit, the winning couple played the Gambit Bonus Board. They faced a large game board with 21 numbered cards (18 numbered video screens on Las Vegas Gambit), each concealing a prize. After selecting a number, the couple received a prize and a card added to their hand from the top of the deck.
The bonus game ended in one of three ways:
- The couple elected to stop before reaching 21 (especially if they feared the next card would push them over 21 or in some instances, if they won a desirable prize they wanted to keep), keeping all the prizes they chose to that point. In early episodes of the NBC version, a couple could elect to stop only when their hand totaled 17 or more.
- Going over 21, at which point they lost everything they found on the board.
- Reaching 21 exactly, wherein they won a new car ($5,000 on Las Vegas Gambit, though no bonus was given in early episodes) as well as the money in the Gambit Jackpot and the prizes selected.
Throughout the CBS version, returning champions continued until winning a grand total of $25,000, relinquishing any winnings over that amount.
From 1972–1975, the show featured an annual promotion where the first couple to get a two-card 21 (an Ace and a face card/10) in the bonus round won either $200 a week for a year (totaling $10,400) or a flat $10,000, depending on the year.
The bonus round on the CBS version often featured a subgame called "Beat The Dealer", triggered by a selected card on the Gambit Board. The couple could win an additional prize by beating Martindale (acting as the dealer, although the cards were still dealt by Stewart) in a round of traditional blackjack, with the Dealer required to hit to 16 and stop on 17 or more. This subgame was resurrected as "Beat the House" on the NBC version for a $1,000 bonus.
In addition, other special awards were occasionally scattered among the numbers. The CBS version featured markers containing $500 and one of the four playing card suits, which would earn the couple an additional $500 for every one of that suit they held (i.e. turning over a $500 diamond and holding a card with a diamond suit would earn $1,000 total). The NBC version featured markers saying "$100 Times" or "$200 Times", which would multiply the value of the next card by the figure uncovered, up to $1,100 or $2,200 for an ace.
For the second half of the NBC version, the Gambit Board was replaced by a renamed Big Numbers bonus round from the Heatter-Quigley show High Rollers. In this round, called the Gambit Galaxy, the couple was presented with a pair of dice and was required to eliminate the numbers 1 through 9 from a board in front of them. To do this, the couple eliminated numbers that added up to the total they rolled (for instance, if the couple rolled a 10 they could eliminate 4 and 6; 3 and 7; 1, 2, 3, and 4; or any other combination that added to 10). The couple won $100 for each number eliminated, and if all nine were eliminated, the couple won $5,000 and an accumulating "Gambit Galaxy" prize package, which generally totaled at least $10,000. In the event a double was rolled (the same number on both dice), an insurance marker was awarded; it could then be used in the event the couple made a bad roll.
CBS put Gambit in originally at 11 a.m/10 Central, where it defeated NBC's Sale of the Century. It also easily beat Alex Trebek's American debut program, The Wizard of Odds, which NBC began in July 1973. On April 1, 1974 (the same day Now You See It with Jack Narz premiered), CBS moved the show ahead a half-hour to 10:30/9:30, where it faced NBC's struggling quiz Jeopardy!, just over a full decade before Trebek would commence hosting it himself. NBC moved Jeopardy! to the afternoons on July 1 and placed one of the many Bill Cullen-Bob Stewart collaborations, Winning Streak, in the slot. That show's weakness made late 1974 the high point of Gambit's original daytime run, at least in the Nielsen ratings.
However, Wheel of Fortune would debut on January 6, 1975. Not only did Wheel impact Gambit's audience, but NBC's expansion of Another World in the afternoons forced CBS to return The Price is Right to the morning after a two-year run at 3:00/2:00 Central. In order to make room for Price, the network decided to return Gambit to its original slot on August 18, where it remained for the rest of its run. At that slot, Gambit had to go against its sister Heatter-Quigley show High Rollers also hosted by Alex Trebek. The network canceled the four-year-old game two weeks before Christmas 1976, replacing it with Goodson-Todman's Double Dare with Trebek.
After the cancellation on CBS in December 1976, Gambit with the repeats of the CBS daytime version was seen on Los Angeles TV Station KHJ-TV Channel 9 (now KCAL-TV) starting in fall 1977 and ran all the way through spring 1978.
Mort Garson composed the theme for this version.
NBC, 1980–1981 (Las Vegas Gambit)
Gambit returned on October 27, 1980 as one of two replacements for the short-lived The David Letterman Show (the other was Goodson-Todman's Blockbusters). Stan Worth composed the theme for this version.
Despite limited competition in the form of sitcom reruns on CBS and local programming on ABC affiliates, the revival failed to draw the ratings of its predecessor and was cancelled after just over a year.
The show's finale on November 27, 1981 ended with a picture-in-picture display of Martindale stating that the episode was the finale (at the time of taping, the fact was not known) and that a daytime talk show hosted by Regis Philbin would replace Las Vegas Gambit.
A British version of the show was produced by Anglia Television for ITV, notable for its opening title sequence featuring various casino equipment including playing cards, casino chips, a roulette wheel and a fruit machine. It started in 1975 as a programme shown in the Anglia region only, but became a networked show in 1978 and ran until 1985. The original host was Fred Dinenage, later succeeded by comedian Tom O'Connor, and Michelle Lambourne was the card dealer. The programme returned to ITV in 1997 and was hosted by a UK comedian, Gary T Thompson, and ran for 12 weeks.
In the ITV version, each game was worth £20. The Gambit Jackpot started at £200 andincreased by £50 until won or until it hit £500. Also, no cars were originally offered in the endgame (from 1981 onwards, they did offer a car as one of the star prizes). The cards used on this version had the same design as the U.S. version.
- "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved 25 July 2011.
- "CATCH 21: A Potential Hit For GSN!". Set News. June 15, 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- "Gambit—March 12, 1973 episode". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Gambit—March 20, 1973 episode". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Gambit—March 28, 1973 episode". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Gambit—April 5, 1973 episode". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Gambit—April 13, 1973 episode". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Gambit—1990 pilot". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2013.