Play Your Cards Right

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Play Your Cards Right
Play Your Cards Right.png
GenreGame show
Created byChester Feldman
Presented byBruce Forsyth
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series16
No. of episodes248 (inc. 6 specials & 4 unaired)
Running time30 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s)LWT in association with Talbot Television and Goodson-Todman Productions (1980–7)
LWT and Talbot Television (1994–5)
LWT and Fremantle (UK) Productions (Grundy) (1996–9)
Thames (2002–3)
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3 (1980–7, 1994–9)
16:9 (2002–3)
Original release1 February 1980 (1980-02-01) –
20 June 2003 (2003-06-20)
Related showsCard Sharks

Play Your Cards Right (or Bruce Forsyth's Play Your Cards Right) is a British television game show based on, and played similarly to, the American show known as Card Sharks.


Play Your Cards Right broadcast on ITV from 1 February 1980 to 22 November 1987, produced by LWT. The host was Bruce Forsyth. LWT produced a more modern version from 18 March 1994 to 4 June 1999, initially expected to be presented by Brian Conley, who filmed a pilot show before Forsyth was lured back. In 2002, Bruce hosted another revival, with slightly modified rules. This version was produced by Thames Television and ended on 20 June 2003.

Forsyth also presented a parody of the format, Play Your Iraqi Cards Right (originally titled Play Your Kurds Right), when he was guest host on the satirical BBC TV series Have I Got News for You in June 2003. On 15 October 2005, it made a one-off return as part of Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon, celebrating 50 years of ITV. It made another one-off return in 2007 again part of Gameshow Marathon.

Play Your Cards Right has also been turned into a successful interactive DVD game which was released in 2007, with an updated sequel released in 2008, both produced by DVDPro.


Main game[edit]

Two couples (two single players during the first series) alternated who went first on each question. The questions were based on surveys of 100 people. The first couple would guess how many of the 100 gave a certain answer to the question, and the second would guess whether the actual number was higher or lower than the other couple's guess. (If the first couple guessed exactly the number of people, they would win a case of champagne, as opposed to a cash bonus depending on type of question on the US versions ($100 for 10-person surveys with another $100 split among the panel, $500 for 100-person surveys or general knowledge questions.) Whoever was correct gained control of the cards.

Unlike the US version, the questions usually had some comedy value (for example: The question would be, "We asked 100 tattoo-artists – if somebody came in asking for a tattoo of Bruce Forsyth, would you try to talk them out of it?"). The first couple would joke around with Bruce, and then decide on a sum of, say, 64. The second couple would say "higher" (and Bruce would pretend to be offended). If the answer was, say, 26, the second couple were wrong in guessing "higher", so the first couple started with the cards.

There were five cards for each team laid out, and they had to guess if the next card was higher or lower — ace being the highest card, and two being lowest. The first card could be changed if the couple wished. If the guess was correct, the couple would continue with the next card, and so on. Correctly guessing all cards to the end won the game, but if the couple guessed wrong at any time or if they got a pair of cards, they would retreat back to the card where they started and the other team would have a free attempt at their own cards. (In this case, the couple could not change their first card.)

After any correct guess, a couple could "freeze", which would protect their cards. A marker would be placed by a dealer beside the frozen card, which meant that on the next question, a wrong guess on their cards would put them back no further than where they froze. This was usually done when the card shown was of a middle rank, such as a seven, eight or nine. After a couple froze their cards, play would continue to the next question. Should the couple regain control of the board on a correct question, they will be allowed to change the frozen card (due to it now being the card the couple would start on.).

If the next card was the same rank as the card showing, it counted as a wrong guess; indeed, this is the only way to be wrong when an ace or deuce appeared. "You don't get anything for a pair, not in this game" was Forsyth's catch phrase on such occasions.

If no team had managed to predict the last card correctly within the first three questions sudden death was played. The couple who gained control of the cards (either through their own correct prediction or the other couple's incorrect prediction) had to make a decision, either to "Play" and correctly predict the remainder of their cards to win, or "Pass" and force their opponents to achieve the feat. An incorrect prediction now caused their opposition to win the round.

By 1985, the winner of each of the two games in the first half would get a prize known as a "Brucie Bonus". The overall winner was the first couple to win two games. If a third game was required, three cards were played by each couple instead of five, with sudden death occurring on the third question instead of fourth. Also around the time a gift of a bottle of champagne was given to a couple in the rare instances where they correctly guessed the exact answer of a question.

The Prize/Cash Cards[edit]

The winning couple got 200 points to begin with. Bruce would then ask a question, if they got it right, they'd win an extra 50 points, if they got it wrong, they lost 50 points. There were two rows of three cards dealt out (going from left to right, and upward), and one final card at the top. At the start of each row, they could change their card. At the start of the second row, they got an extra 200 points. The rules are the same as in the previous game, but they had to bet on each turn of the card with a minimum bet of 50 points, or up to the number of points they have at that time. When they got to the final card, the couple's score determined the prize they played for. If they had 4,000 or more, they could play for the car (which was a separate game on the US version). They were asked a simple question (usually to name 5 of something – no-one ever got this wrong), and then predicted higher or lower for the final card. If they were right, they would win the car. If not, they won a prize based on their score.

In the 90's version, points became pounds, but the rules remained the same. Also, on the final card, if they have £4,000 or more, and they were wrong, they would just have the money. What was emphasized was that their money was safe.

If the couple got to the final card with under £4,000, they could choose to take the money, or gamble all of it on the last card – with Bruce emphasising thus: "The rules are strict here – it is all or nothing" (unlike all US versions which required players to bet one-half or more of their winnings on the final card, allowing players to bet the minimum one-half if they were not confident because of a middle card; the 2019 US version added the option of taking the money before the final card from this version, regardless of the amount won, with the one-half minimum bet still in effect if they went on). The maximum amount of money that could be won was £17,600, which was never achieved. (The highest win was £9,500)

The rules of the 2002 revival[edit]

The rules of the 2002 revival were partly based on the changes made in the 2001 revival of Card Sharks in the United States. All 13 cards from the suit of hearts from the 'Two' to the 'Ace' were put out face down. Four couples would then come on, and the two couples with the two highest cards would go through to the main game (the couple who picked the highest card was red team.). This was just an opening game. After this, Bruce's gag was to say "Well done you winners, and so sorry losers, we really are sorry to lose you so early in the show...tough." – followed by audience laughter. The rules of the main game were exactly the same as in the original version, except the "Brucie Bonus" was £1,000. If one couple won both the games, the losing couple would be sent home with a case of champagne before the break, otherwise, the losing couple would get to keep the £1,000 for winning their one-game (there was no money awarded for the tie-breaker).

In the Cash Cards, Bruce would first ask the winning couple a ridiculously hard, trivial or stupid question. They often pondered for a few seconds over this, then Bruce said "Aren't you glad you don't have to answer a question like that?", to which the audience would laugh – except that on at least two occasions, the contestants correctly answered the question, shocking Bruce, who accused the contestants – though in a humorous manner – of "ruining the show", prompting much more laughter from the audience.

The Cash Cards game was played similar to the United States versions from 1980-81 season and also the entire 1986-89 version's run. The couple was given £1,000 to start with and their minimum bet had to be £100, but they could bet the whole lot if they wanted to. If the couple survived the first three cards, another £500 would be added to the total on the fourth card. On the final card, the couple had to bet at least half the amount they had at that point. If a couple bet on the whole lot the wrong way during the first three cards, that card would be put on the row above and the additional £500 would be added on. If there was a pair revealed in the Cash Cards, "push" rule that had been implemented in the aforementioned US versions was in play, as they moved on to the next card without losing any money. If the last two cards on a row were a pair, the second card would be used as the base card for the row above.

The theoretical maximum in the Cash Cards is £136,000.

The host[edit]

Among Forsyth's other quips, he would, at the beginning of some shows, say, "What a lovely audience! You're so much better than last week." The joke was that the same audience was used for more than one show, therefore it was the same one. Bruce started each show with his trademark "It's nice to see you, to see you nice" (whereby the audience join in on the last "nice".). When a pair was revealed, he'd say "You don't get anything for a pair, not in this game.", and the audience would join in with the "not in this game" part. On the 2002 series in particular, he would often start the show with a made-up quote.

When Card Sharks was slated for a revival in 1986, Forsyth himself was considered as possible host by creator/producer Mark Goodson (Forsyth, at the time, was in the United States filming the short-lived Bruce Forsyth's Hot Streak). The job ultimately went to Bob Eubanks and Bill Rafferty.

The Dolly Dealers[edit]

First run:

  • 1980: Jo Thomas, Yvonne Younger, Zena Clifton
  • 1980–83: Natalie Shaw, Denise "Denni" Kemp
  • 1981: Lesley Anderson, Gillian Elvins
  • 1981–83: John Melainey
  • 1982–83: Camilla Blair, Gillian Duxbury
  • 1983–84: Alison Bell, Carol Dean, Brenda Haldane, Wendy Marler, Robin Martyne
  • 1985–87: Denni Kemp, Natalie van de Braam, Alison Bell, Carol Dean, John Melainey

Second run:

  • 1994–96: Vicki Brattle and Sophie Allisstone
  • 1997: Carly Carter and Debbie Flett
  • 1998: Sharon Amos and Sheryl Deane
  • 1999: Charlie Maloney and Maxine Restall

Third run:

Gameshow Marathon[edit]

Play Your Cards Right was one of the games on the series Gameshow Marathon in 2005 and 2007.

Potential revivals[edit]

In 2011, a new pilot was made for a planned reboot of Play Your Cards Right on ITV with Vernon Kay as the new host.[1] However, in November 2013, it was later scrapped because it "didn't involve enough skill".[2] In June 2019 it was announced that, as one of the country's five all-time favourite game shows, it would be "supersized and rebooted" in new series Alan Carr's Epic Gameshow for broadcast later in 2019 on ITV. Hosted by Alan Carr, the new episode will be a celebrity special.[3] Carr had been linked to a possible revival of the show in August 2018.[4]


  • "What a lovely audience! You're so much better than last week." – Bruce Forsyth
  • "(It's) nice to see you, to see you, nice!" – Bruce Forsyth/audience
  • "I'm the joker in the pack, which makes me such a lucky jack, and here they are, they're so appealing, ok dollies, do your dealing." – Bruce Forsyth
  • "You don't get anything for a pair - not in this game." – Bruce Forsyth/audience
  • "What do points make? Prizes!" – Bruce Forsyth/audience
  • "What do pounds make? Rich people!" – Bruce Forsyth/audience
  • "Don't touch the pack, we'll be right back!" – Bruce Forsyth (said before a commercial break)

International versions[edit]

  • An Australian version of the show hosted by Ugly Dave Gray briefly aired on the Seven Network in 1984.
  • A New Zealand version of the show hosted by Kenny Cantor aired on TVNZ.



Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 1 February 1980 9 July 1980 18 Bruce Forsyth
2 5 September 1980 19 December 1980 16
3 2 October 1981 22 January 1982 15
4 17 September 1982 3 April 1983 16
5 11 September 1983 1 January 1984 15
6 31 August 1984 14 December 1984 15
7 30 August 1985 15 December 1985 16
8 29 August 1986 12 December 1986 16
9 4 September 1987 22 November 1987 12
10 18 March 1994 8 July 1994 16
11 10 February 1995 26 May 1995 16
12 2 February 1996 17 May 1996 16
13 5 January 1997 11 May 1997 17
14 16 January 1998 1 May 1998 16
15 22 January 1999 4 June 1999 16
16 7 September 2002 20 June 2003 12

Christmas Specials[edit]

Date Presenter
27 December 1981 Bruce Forsyth
25 December 1982
25 December 1983
21 December 1984
20 December 1985
19 December 1986


  1. ^ Robertson, Colin (16 October 2011). "Vernon Kay to host Play Your Cards Right" – via The Sun.
  2. ^ Smith, Lydia (28 November 2013). "Vernon Kay's Play Your Cards Right reboot reportedly given the boot 'due to lack of skill' in gameshow" – via Mirror.
  3. ^ "ITV orders reboot of five classic gameshows from Talkback". Televisual. 13 June 2019.
  4. ^

External links[edit]