February 12, 1976
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In the game's current standard format, the contestant is shown eight chips, five of which have a unique digit representing one of the five numbers in the price of the car, and three red chips that each have an X, called a strike. The chips are placed into a bag and shuffled.
The contestant blindly draws a chip from the bag. If they pick a number, they must decide in which position (spot) that digit belongs (e.g.: "the third digit"). If they are correct, the chip is discarded into a slot in the game board and the digit is lit up in the price display. If they are incorrect, it was not a strike. The chip gets returned to the bag and the contestant draws again. If the contestant draws a strike, a strike marker is lit on the board and the chip is discarded into the slot if 3 strikes chips were in play or it'll get put back into the bag whenever there was only 1.
The contestant may continue to draw as many times as possible until he or she either correctly positions each digit in the price and wins the car or draws the three strikes and loses the game.
3 Strikes first premiered on February 12, 1976. Through the early 1990s, the game was played using both four- and five-digit cars. Except for the first few times it was done, when five-digit cars were offered, the game was known as "3 Strikes +". Even though four-digit cars were no longer used in the game after June 17, 1993, it retained the "3 Strikes +" name until February 10, 1994 (although the + sign was absent on January 27, 1994).
This game was played for the most valuable prize in the history of the daytime version of The Price is Right on April 25, 2013 as part of the 2013 "Big Money Week": a Ferrari 458 Spider worth $285,716. For the gameplay, all six windows hid the numbers of the price and a new dollar sign light was added to the outside of the first window. Unfortunately, not only did Therese Cook, the contestant who played 3 Strikes for the Ferrari, not win, but she didn't even get a single number right, either. The playing attracted a large amount of criticism and backlash from many TPiR fans, many of whom said that it was too hard to guess the price with 6 numbers and 3 strikes in the bag. Nearly all who have criticized this decision insisted that Golden Road would have been a better game for the Ferrari, despite the fact that there was the chance that the contestant may not have made it to the end.
The 6-digit 3 Strikes was played again on November 22, 2013 as part of "Dream Car Week"; the contestant got four out of six right before drawing three strikes; the car was a $146,923 Audi R8 Quattro. Unlike the last time, this playing was more well-received by fans due to the fact that the price of the Audi R8 was easier to figure out than that of the Ferrari 458.
Over time the props used in this game have had additional references to baseball added to them. The three baseballs on the game prop were added on November 9, 1982 and the current bag from which chips are drawn was made to look like a baseball on January 16, 1990. The baseball "NO" graphic (used when the contestant guesses a position incorrectly) was only used from 1998 through 2002, replacing a prior graphic consisting of "NO" inside a black circle that was used from 1986 until 1998; originally, only a buzzer was used. The Davidson version used a different graphic for this situation, which showed a red outline of the selected number window melting off the board and falling to the floor. From 2002 to 2008, the "NO" graphic was simply the word "NO" in large red letters. The current graphic is simply the word "NO" on a large red circle with a slash drawn through it (similar to the "No Smoking" sign). Also, from the game's debut until October 7, 2002, the camera would zoom in on the selected rectangle when a contestant made a guess as to the position of the drawn digit.
In addition to the changes mentioned above, the 3 Strikes sign went from green to gold by June 24, 1980. By April 11, 1994, the dollar sign tacked onto the side of the board was replaced by a window with a dollar sign, initially using the Pricedown dollar sign before changing it to the same font used as the numbers soon after.
When the game premiered in 1976, cars only had four digits in the price, and therefore a contestant was given four numbered chips and three strike chips. As the prices of cars increased past $10,000, no changes were made to the game to accommodate the extra fifth numeric chip until Season 26.
From the game's debut until 1997 (Season 26), three strike chips were placed into the bag at the start of the game. If a contestant drew a strike, a marker was lit on the board and that strike chip was discarded from the bag. However, in 1998, to increase the game's win rate (which had decreased because of the extra fifth digit from using cars priced above $10,000), the rules were changed to place only one strike chip in the bag. If the strike was drawn, it was returned to the bag; the contestant lost if he or she drew it three times.
From 1993 through 2008, the game was almost exclusively played for cars between $30,000 - $60,000. However, due to the game generally taking longer to play than other pricing games, a rule change was implemented at the beginning of Season 37 in 2008. The second time the game was played that season, three strike chips were used and the first number was provided for free. The number of strike chips placed into the bag then reverted back to one after this single playing; however, the contestant was still given the first digit in the car's price at the start of the game. With this change, the game began offering cars with prices along the lines of those played for in the "standard" car games, instead of using luxury cars. These drastic changes only lasted for one season; when the game was first played in Season 38 in 2009, the game reverted to its pre-1998 rules (five numbered chips, three strike chips, no free numbers), and once again offered cars between $30,000 - $60,000.
On The New Price is Right, the first digit in the price was given for free and there were only four number chips in the bag. Other than the aforementioned graphics change outlined above, the game otherwise remained the same.
Suspected cheatersEditOn February 28, 1992, a contestant named Toni Quinones had two chips remaining in the bag, a strike and the last number. She partially drew a chip out of the bag, then quickly put it back in before anyone else could see what it was. A few seconds later, Toni drew the number and won. Although the show's staff has never publicly accused the contestant of cheating, 3 Strikes + was not played again for the remainder of the season. Toni won a Porsche worth $45,789, and then won $11,000 on the wheel and the showcase for a total of almost $80,000.
Toni wasn't the only contestant who attempted to cheat, as another contestant also attempted to cheat in 1988. As she began to pull the third strike out of the bag, she put it back, thinking no one noticed. Bob Barker did notice and chided her for her actions. She pulled the third strike all the way out of the bag on a later draw and subsequently lost the game.
For these reasons, by January 16, 1990, a new baseball-shaped bag that was harder to peek into was made for the game to further prevent such cheating. Later in Season 20, the three strike chips were repainted white with a red X to more closely resemble the numeric chips, but were reverted back to the red chips with the black X at the start of Season 21.
On The Price is Right Decades video game, when the game was loading a trivia fact appears and read that 3 Strikes premiered either on February 11 or 12 of 1976. According to the stats at tpirsummaries.8m.com, it didn't premiere on February 11 but on February 12, 1976.
Heather's Perfect 3 Strikes+ (March 12, 1986)
Debra wins 3 Strikes (December 1, 1992)
3 Strikes win for a corvette from 1996
A little faith in the 3 Strikes game (February 11, 1997)
A Long Playing of 3 Strikes (December 2, 1998)
A Great Win of 3 Strikes (December 22, 1999)
3 Strikes for a corvette on a $1,000,000 Spectacular (February 7, 2003)
Perfect Bid & a 3 Strikes Win (October 13, 2004)
Marine Firefighter wins 3 Strikes (February 12, 2007)
A 3 Strikes Win from 2011 (February 18, 2011)
3 Strikes Win from Earth Day 2011 (April 22, 2011)
Another 3 Strikes Win from 2011 (June 3, 2011)
Only 3 Strikes winner from Season 41 (March 18, 2013)
The first six-digits price car playing 3 Strikes (April 25, 2013)
Only 3 Strikes win from Season 42 (November 5, 2013)
The second six-digits price car playing 3 Strikes (November 22, 2013)
A Painful 3 Strikes from Season 42 (June 2, 2014)