Illinois Instant Riches

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Illinois Instant Riches
Created byJonathan Goodson
Presented byMark Goodman
with Linda Kollmeyer
Narrated byBill Barber
Tony Russell
Composer(s)Score Productions [1]
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes150+
Running time30 minutes
Original networkSyndicated (Illinois only)
WGN (nationally)
Original releaseJuly 9, 1994 –
August 15, 1998

Illinois Instant Riches (later known as Illinois' Luckiest) is a lottery game show airing in the state of Illinois, as well as nationally on Chicago-based Superstation WGN-TV. The show was hosted by Mark Goodman, with Linda Kollmeyer as his co-host and Bill Barber as announcer.

The show was produced by Mark Goodson Productions (later Jonathan Goodson Productions), and premiered on July 9, 1994. The show was renamed Illinois' Luckiest in 1998 and aired until 2000.

For contestants to appear on the show, they had to purchase an Illinois Instant Riches/Illinois' Luckiest scratch-off ticket from an Illinois Lottery retailer. Common for the lottery game shows of the 90s, if they uncovered three television set symbols on the ticket, the ticket was sent into a submission address, or redeemed physically at the nearest lottery office.

Players were randomly chosen from those tickets to be in the show's contestant pool, but only a certain number of them would be selected to play an on-stage game.

Several of the games on this show were transported to and from some other lottery game shows, most notably Flamingo Fortune (Florida), Bonus Bonanza (Massachusetts), and NY Wired (New York); the differences are mentioned in this article. Elements from these games also carried over to the quarterly-based Michigan Lottery game show Make Me Rich.

Rules (Illinois Instant Riches)[edit]

Fifteen contestants were in the contestant pool. Kollmeyer would spin a wheel that was hooked to lights above each contestant's seat. When the wheel stopped, the player whose seat was lit would play a game, in addition to winning a set of lottery tickets.

During a special remote broadcast from Arlington Race Course in 1997, the selection and bonus rounds were modified. Random numbers were drawn to choose contestants, pulled from the same kind of machine used for their lottery drawings. Also, the original bonus game, Knockout, was played in place of the current (at the time) game, Pot O'Gold, and modified its format to account for the returning champion.

Flamingo Fortune and Bonus Bonanza used the same wheel procedures, but with different ways to show whom the wheel picked, and with a different number of players. Flamingo Fortune used 30 players, in three groups of 10, and a TV screen that showed the person's name and face. Bonus Bonanza used 27 players, in three groups of 9, and used a spotlight that the wheel was hooked to.


Force Field[edit]

A magnet was suspended from the ceiling above a table of 10 magnets arranged in a circle. The magnets had corresponding money amounts: $1,000-$5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $12,000, $15,000, and $20,000. The pendulum was placed on a launcher locked on the outer ring of the table, and could be moved to any position along the ring.

Contestants released the pendulum, and it would swing, then become attracted to one of the magnets—the player won the amount of money associated with the magnet. That space was then replaced with a "Wipe Out".

The contestant then re-launched the pendulum—ideally, winning more money in the process. If the pendulum landed on "Wipe Out", the contestant lost all of the money accumulated in the first swing.

At this point, another "Wipe Out" was placed over the amount from swing #2 (or, if the contestant did "Wipe Out", it was simply left alone) and another was placed on the lowest dollar amount still left on the table, bringing the maximum total number of "Wipe Out" spaces to three. The largest dollar amount on the table was multiplied by 5.

The contestant could either choose to risk their money on one final swing or stop with what they had; hitting a "Wipe Out" would cause them to go bankrupt, but hitting a money space added the money total to their total. The maximum payoff was $127,000.

Home Run (a.k.a. Touchdown, Fast Break, and Home Stretch)[edit]

Contestants were shown a board with 3 "players": an orange player, a blue player, and a yellow player. They were then shown a board of 12 numbered boxes, and asked to call out numbers, one at a time. Finding three of a color ended the game and awarded the contestant a cash prize — $1,000 (for the orange player), $10,000 (for the blue player), or a cash prize of up to $100,000 (for the yellow player). Before the game, the contestant would choose from one of four cards, each of which hid a different cash amount (one each of $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, and $100,000), to determine the jackpot value for the yellow player. If the yellow player finished first, the contestant won the jackpot value.

The game motif had a baseball theme, which was changed to a football theme for football season, basketball for basketball season, and a horse race theme for a special at a local race track. Host Goodman often made jokes about the players going on strike when the game changed themes. On a 1994 episode that marked the first time the game was played as Touchdown, he said, "We used to have baseball players. They went on strike; we got rid of them! Boom! They're gone!"

For the first few episodes on which it was played, the orange player was worth only $1. It quickly became $1,000.

Flamingo Fortune renamed this game Grand Prix after the Daytona Grand Prix in NASCAR. There was a red, yellow, and blue car used. The red car earned the contestant $5,000 if it won the race. The yellow car earned the contestant $25,000 if it won the race. If the blue car, labeled "Grand Prize", won the race, the contestant would choose from one of four cards (A, B, C, or D). Two cards hid $50,000; the other two hid $100,000.

NY Wired renamed it Saratoga after Saratoga Springs, home to a famous horse track, using red, yellow, and blue horses, much like the Home Stretch variant on IIR. The red horse won $10,000, yellow, $20,000 and blue (labeled "Big Purse"), either $40,000 or the growing jackpot. Like IIR, the contestant chose from a series of cards to determine the value for the blue horse, but unlike IIR, it took four on a match to determine the winning value.


This game had the contestant stand behind a pair of containers that he/she couldn't see the contents of. Each container had three colored balls: red, yellow, and green. The contestant would draw one ball from the container on their right to establish a "base" color. The player was then spotted $5,000 and asked to draw a ball from the other container. Pulling out a different color would earn the contestant another $5,000, while failing added nothing. After three pulls, the contestant was offered the choice to stop or try for one last pull. A second ball of the base color would then be added to the mix. A mismatch would triple the money, while a match cost the contestant half of their earnings. The maximum payoff was $60,000.

This game was known as Danger Ball on Bonus Bonanza in Massachusetts. The rules and payout were the same as in Illinois, only contestants did not have to pull a ball from the container to establish a "base" color; instead, they told host Brian Tracey and co-host Dawn Hayes which color was to be the Danger Ball.


Contestants were shown 7 balls, arranged in a line—five yellow and two red. They were positioned at the top of a funnel-like table, designed so that when the balls reached the bottom, they would form a daisy-like pattern with one ball surrounded by the other six. The object was to have a yellow ball in the middle.

The contestant was given a cash prize (originally $3,000, later $4,000) and asked to release the balls by pulling a lever that sent the balls down the funnel and into the center circle at the bottom. If a yellow ball was in the middle, their winnings were doubled. For the second pull, a yellow ball was swapped for a red one, but the contestant's winnings tripled if the center ball came up yellow. For each of these first two pulls, contestants did not lose any money if the center ball came up red.

A contestant could stop after two pulls, or opt for a third pull, where there were 4 red balls and 3 yellow balls. If the contestant chose to continue, their cash total quadrupled if a yellow ball was in the middle, but lost half of their winnings if a red ball was in the middle. The maximum payoff was $72,000 (later $96,000).

This game was first used for Bonus Bonanza in Massachusetts. It used the same rules and payouts as in Illinois. The $72,000 jackpot was won at least twice on both IIR and Bonanza.


This game utilized a round table, divided into 12 sections. Four cylinders were placed on the table, and a cube was placed in the middle. When turned on, the cube would vibrate and move around the table in a random manner—potentially knocking down the cylinders.

The contestant was spotted $3,000 and in the first round, the cube was activated for 10 seconds. Any cylinder still standing after that earned the contestant an additional $1,500/cylinder. The cube was then activated for another 15 seconds, and any cylinders still remaining after that were worth an addition $2,500.

After two rounds, any remaining cylinders were removed and one cylinder was placed on the table. The contestant could opt to take his/her winnings or have the cube activated for another 20 seconds. If the final cylinder was still standing after that, their winnings quadrupled. If it was knocked over, the contestant lost half of their winnings. The maximum payoff was $76,000.

Wrecking Ball[edit]

Twelve buildings were placed on a rotating platform. A "crane" with the wrecking ball was nearby.

The contestant would turn his/her back to the platform and pull a lever to release the wrecking ball. The ball would swing through the platform six times, knocking over the buildings. Each building remaining after Round 1 was worth $1,500, and each building remaining after Round 2 was worth an additional $3,000.

The contestant could stop at this point or opt for one more round of six swings. Three buildings were placed on the platform, or if there were more than 3 still standing after Round 2, they were simply left alone. If at least three buildings were left standing after this round, the contestant's winnings were doubled. Otherwise, the contestant lost half of his/her winnings. The maximum payoff was $108,000.

This game was first used as Beach Ball on Flamingo Fortune. The only difference being that it used sandcastles, plus, the double-or-nothing parts required only two standing instead of three. The prizes were reduced: $1,000 for each castle standing in Round 1, $2,000 in Round 2. Unlike IIR, Flamingo Fortune contestants who survived the third round of six swings were offered another chance to double their money; the catch was that the ball now had to swing eight times. The amount needed to stay standing was still two.

Double Dollars[edit]

This was the only game that was played on every episode of Illinois Instant Riches from the beginning of the run up to the format/name change in 1998 (although it returned in 2000).

The contestant would pull a lever that launched a ping pong ball to the top of the board, through swinging paddles, through a series of pegs, and into one of eight slots at the bottom of the board. Landing in an empty slot was worth $5,000. Each empty slot added another $5,000. If a ping pong ball landed in a slot that was already occupied, the contestant would be issued a strike.

After two strikes, the contestant could stop and take his/her winnings, or opt for another pull. If a ping pong ball landed in an empty slot, the contestant would have his/her money doubled, and would be offered another pull. If the contestant earned their third strike, they would lose half of their winnings. Play would continue until all eight slots were filled, a third strike was issued, or the contestant chose to stop. The theoretical maximum payoff was $640,000, but this would require three of a contestant's first four balls landing in the same slots, followed by each following ball landing in a new slot.

Bonus Bonanza and Flamingo Fortune both renamed this game Freefall (not to be confused with the game "Freefall" mentioned below when IIR became Luckiest). This was because there was no pegs in between the swinging paddles and the bottom set of pegs above the slots. Thus, the ping pong ball took a freefall towards the slots. The payout was the same.

Bonus Games[edit]

The show had three bonus games throughout the run, which involved the three contestants chosen to play the mini-games during the show.


The contestants were positioned around a table divided into 12 wedges. The three contestants would draw numbers from 1 to 12, and have a cylinder placed on that numbered wedge. A toy cube was placed in the center of the table, and turned on for 30 seconds. When it was activated, the cube would shake and bounce around the table in a random manner, potentially knocking over the cylinders in the process. If a cylinder was still standing after 30 seconds, the contestant won anywhere from $7,500 to $100,000.

In 1997, the show traveled to Arlington Race Course. Because for obvious reasons, the Pot O' Gold set couldn't come along, a special version of Knockout was played: the returning champion chose a spot on the arena, and the challenger got the spot directly 180 degrees from it. The bouncing cube was released, and whoever had the cylinder still standing once one knocked out was the winner. If it was the champion, he won another $20,000. If it was the challenger, he got the cash bonus hiding underneath the spot on the arena, up to $100,000.

This game was later carried over to Bonus Bonanza in Massachusetts as the permanent bonus game, with values from $7,500 to $200,000.


Similar to the children's game KerPlunk, a large container was placed center stage containing 15 balls (roughly the size of basketballs). They were suspended in the top of the chamber by 10 numbered rods. One at a time, each player drew a number from a board, and the corresponding rod was removed from the container. Depending on their position inside the container, some of the balls could fall to the bottom—contestants were eliminated if they lost five balls or dropped the last ball out of the top of the container. The remaining contestant would select one of the numbers he/she had, which contained amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

Pot O' Gold[edit]

The "Pot O' Gold" game debuted in 1995 and utilized returning champions from previous weeks. The champion would stand at the end of a path behind a secret keypad with three small buttons and a big red button. The opponent (the biggest money winner from the current show) stood at the front of the path, with eight spaces between the two. The first five steps were numbered 1 to 5, and the last three had cash.

The opponent could take up to three steps at a time, but the champion was charged with predicting which step the opponent would pick, known as placing a booby-trap. After the opponent took his/her position, Goodman would ask the champion to spring the trap (press the red button). If the opponent dodged the trap, the game would continue. If not, the opponent had to return to their original position. Each step had a yellow light that would turn to a flashing orange whenever the booby-trap was sprung, in case the player hit the trap. If the player avoided the trap, the yellow light flashed, and the orange light would light up where the booby-trap was placed.

Opponents won and took over the championship if they landed on one of the last three spaces on the path–the first was worth $10,000, the second was worth $25,000, and the last was marked "Big Money". If the opponent ended on this space, he/she could pick from a tray of five coins worth anywhere from $40,000 to $200,000 in $40,000 increments.

If the champion successfully trapped the challenger twice, the game ended with the champion winning an additional $20,000. There was a six-show limit, only achieved once (although one champion won his 7th week during the show's 1997 trip to Arlington Race Course). For the following telecast the next week (in addition to the first time "Pot O' Gold" was ever played), the top two money winners competed. The top winner assumed the champion's while the runner-up assumed the challenger's role.

Flamingo Fortune renamed this game Treasure Island. The rules were the same, except that the "BIG MONEY" step was replaced by a picture of a treasure chest, and the top prize was increased to $500,000 while the bottom prize from the chest of coins was upped to $50,000. This is because there were ten coins to choose from if the challenger won. The $500,000 was won at least once. Blue lights were used to indicate the player's choice, and the booby-trapped step lit up in red instead of orange. If the champion successfully trapped the newcomer twice, the prize was $25,000 instead of $20,000.

Rules (Illinois' Luckiest)[edit]

Illinois' Luckiest
Created byJonathan Goodson
Presented byMark Goodman
Linda Kollmeyer
Jeanne Sparrow
Narrated byTony Russell
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes75+
Running time30 minutes
Original networkSyndicated (Illinois only)
WGN (nationally)
Original releaseAugust 22, 1998 –
October 21, 2000

On August 22, 1998 the show underwent a revamp in terms of set, name, and gameplay in addition to Tony Russell replacing Bill Barber as announcer. Eighteen contestants were selected to play three games. Before each round, six contestants chose an envelope with an answer to a polling question asked to people all across Illinois (Ex.: What is the best food invented in the past 1,000 years?). The three people holding the Top 3 answers would continue to play the game.

On January 29, 2000 the show had yet another rule change. This time, there were 25 people instead of 18 (although on the episode Kollmeyer mentioned there were still 18 contestants), and they divided amongst themselves into five teams of 5 each. Each team stood in one of the pinball slots from 1 to 5, and whoever's slot was picked would play the next game. Lots were drawn before each game to determine the captain for each game, and it was possible for the same team to play all three mini-games. Teams were not allowed to pick the same step.



Played during the first format, this game underwent a rule change to accommodate the new format. Contestants bid on how long the bouncing cube could bounce around a circular table without knocking down one of two cylinders on the table. If the cube didn't knock a cylinder down, the high bidder(s) won money: $2,000 in Round 1, $3,000 in Round 2, and $5,000 in Round 3.

If a cylinder was knocked down, everyone but the bidder won the money. A $10,000 bonus was awarded to the player with the most money after Round 3, and was split if a tie occurred. The maximum payoff was $20,000.


Played during the first format, this was revamped version of "Double Dollars". To start, Goodman would launch a ball up a machine similar to the Double Dollars game board from IIR and each of the names of the three contestants were in a bag (or the numbers 1, 2, and 3 were printed on balls and placed into a fish tank with water). One player was chosen by Kollmeyer at random. That person would launch a ball up the machine. If the ball landed in one of the seven unoccupied slots, that person won $2,000.

Kollmeyer would then go back in the bag and pull out one of the three names. This time, if the ball landed in one of the six unoccupied slots, the player won $4,000. Every successive time a ball landed in an open slot was worth $2,000 more than the previous. If a ball landed in an occupied slot, that contestant was eliminated and all the money he or she accumulated was cut in half (if the player won nothing, they won $500). Also, one could freeze at any time before they chose to launch the ping pong ball. The player with the most money after everyone was eliminated or had frozen won a $10,000 bonus, which again was split if a tie occurred. The maximum payoff was $66,000.

The strike sound effect and graphic from "Double Dollars" carried over to "Freefall."

Force Field[edit]

Played during the first format, everyone began with $3,000 and wagered their money hoping a pendulum would land on a WIN space. The game was played on a round board with a pendulum in the middle and 10 magnets arranged in a circle on the table. For Round 1, six areas were marked WIN and four were marked LOSE, and contestants could wager up to half their money. If a WIN space was hit, the contestants won the amount of money wagered (and lost the amount if a LOSE space was hit).

For Round 2, four areas were marked WIN (one was regular, one was WIN × 2 (double the wager), one was WIN × 3 (triple the wager), and one was WIN × 4 (quadruple the wager)) and there were six LOSE spaces. The contestants could wager as much as they wanted in this final round. Again, a $10,000 bonus was awarded to the player with the most money, and was split in case of a tie. The maximum payoff was $32,500.

Kollmeyer took charge of this game entirely by herself, similar to what Goodman would ultimately do with the return of "Double Dollars."


Introduced on the 25th Anniversary Special and officially added on January 29, 2000, this game had the players face a board of 18 numbered rods, split into three rows (numbered 1 to 4 on top, 5 to 10 in the middle, and 11 to 18 on the bottom), each holding up a colored ball. Rods 1 through 4 held up two reds and a green, the rest held yellow balls. The captain of the team would draws a number, and that rod was removed from the playfield.

If a yellow ball splashed down into the water, the team won $5,000. If no balls splashed down, the team won $500.

The only way the game ended (besides the captain saying "I'll stop") was if a red or green ball splashed down. If a red ball splashed down, either by itself or with other colored balls (including the green one), the team would lose half their winnings. If the green ball splashed down without either red ball, the team's total was bumped to $50,000 on the Special, or $75,000 on the series proper (The maximum payment was $50,000 or $75,000).

This game was first introduced after the cancellation of the Florida lottery game show Flamingo Fortune, which first carried it. The rules were the same, except the money payout was given to one individual person, and was $1,000 for no ball splashing down, $10,000 for a yellow ball splashing down, and $100,000 for the green ball splashing down with no red ball. A red ball splashing down, even with the green one, still cost players half their money.

Splashdown was renamed Niagara for NY Wired after Niagara Falls. The value was $1,000 (later $500) for no ball splashing down, $6,000 (later $2,500) for a yellow ball splashing down, and the progressive jackpot for the green ball. Red still took away half the player's money.

Vortex IL2[edit]

Introduced on January 29, 2000. Same rules as IIR, except the money was split by the team. The team captain was assigned to pull the lever that released the balls.

The Money Machine IL2[edit]

Introduced on the 25th Anniversary Special. The team captain, placed in a money machine with money blown all over the place by jets (similar to the 2002 version of Beat the Clock) had 45 seconds to grab as much lottery money as possible. The lottery money had one $1,000 bill within a ton of $50 and $100 bills. The captain could grab money flying through the air and stuff it into his/her apron, but could not pick up money off the floor. After 45 seconds, the jets were turned off, and the auditors separated the money grabbed from the money left on the floor into two boxes appropriately labeled "Money Grabbed" and "Money Left on the Floor." The team then had to guess where the $1,000 bill was. If correct, their winnings were bumped up to $50,000. If not, they only won the money grabbed. The money was split by the team members.

When the game debuted on Illinois' Luckiest the rules were different. After the captain was done in the machine, the team had to make a decision. They could keep the money grabbed or gamble it for $75,000 if they believed the captain grabbed the $1,000 bill. If they gambled and the bill was grabbed, they won the top prize. However, if they gambled and the bill wasn't grabbed, the winnings were reduced to $10,000.

Double Dollars IL2[edit]

Introduced on January 29, 2000. Same rules as IIR, except the money was split by the team. The team captain, instead of pulling a lever, had to press a button on a signaling device modeled after the devices used on shows such as Jeopardy!.

The button was also used for the "Double Dollars" spin-off game, "Freefall," described above.

Bonus Games[edit]

$100,000 Pinball IL1[edit]

All 18 players competed in this game. Each contestant would step behind a slot that corresponded with a hole that a computerized pinball could land in. In Round 1, there are three slots. The contestants who chose the correct slot each won $1,000 and advanced to next round. The rest were eliminated. Round 2 had four slots; surviving this round awarded another $1,000 and a chance at the $100,000 in Round 3. Round 3 had five slots. Everyone who survived all three rounds divided $100,000.

The pinball machine moved to the start of the game midway through the run, used to determine the contestants to play a mini-game.

Pot O' Gold IL2[edit]

In the Luckiest run, Pot O' Gold was slightly reformatted, since the show no longer had returning champions. The top winner of the show was the defender, and the other players all moved up the road as a team sharing the cash prizes ($10,000, $25,000, or "Big Money"), depending on how money people avoided the booby-traps. Also, there were only four steps before the $10,000 prize, and the lowest "Big Money" coin was lowered to $30,000. The defender would trap two spaces before the other players moved a maximum of three spaces. Each space had a "railroad gate." If the gate went down, players who took the space were eliminated.

If the defender won, he/she picked from envelopes labeled A, B, or C, winning one of the cash prizes. If the envelope read "BIG MONEY" he/she got to pick from the gold coins. If the challengers won (depending on the number left), they split the cash prizes, and if they won the "BIG MONEY," they conferred with each other before choosing a gold coin.

On the 25th Anniversary Special, this version of the game was played with a guaranteed giveaway of $200,000, so that if the defender won, he/she kept it all to himself/herself, but if the challengers won (depending on how many were left), they got to split it.


The show was not only seen in Illinois, but also nationally Saturday nights on Superstation WGN, headquartered in Chicago. As a result, it was WGN's highest-rated Saturday program at the time, airing at 7:30/6:30c in most stations.

In spite of cancellation, Kollmeyer still remains with the station doing lottery drawings. She also served as hostess on the previous Illinois lottery show, $100,000 Fortune Hunt.

A 25th anniversary special aired in 1999, celebrating 25 years and over $12.5 billion in winnings, and offering up to $350,000 (the whole $350,000 was won on that episode), with a guarantee giveaway of $200,000. With Mark Goodman unavailable (due to the fact he wasn't a native of Illinois, but New York), Kollmeyer took the helm, helped by Jeanne Sparrow and Chicago radio personality Bill Lapp. The games played were Rolling Thunder (which was never played again after this), the Money Machine (which was later incorporated into the regular version of Luckiest), and Splashdown.

The main theme song, that was used during the Illinois Instant Riches era, was originally composed in 1989, for an unsold Mark Goodson pilot, that was taped at CBS for ABC with Peter Tomarken, called TKO.[2] It was also used for another unsold Goodson pilot in 1990, that was also taped at CBS for ABC with Vicki Lawrence, called Body Talk.[3] It was also used in Bonus Bonanza.


  1. ^ David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 101
  2. ^
  3. ^