The game is played on a huge wheel dubbed "the Big Wheel", which is filled with various cent values in increments of fives from 5¢ all the way up to $1.00; and in this order (5¢, $1.00, 15¢, 80¢, 35¢, 60¢, 20¢, 40¢, 75¢, 55¢, 95¢, 50¢, 85¢, 30¢, 65¢, 10¢, 45¢, 70¢, 25¢, 90¢).
The contestants are lined up by their winnings (lowest to highest). The object of the game is to come as close to $1.00 as you can without going over. Anything over $1.00 loses the game. Each player will take up to two spins of the wheel; the wheel must go all the way around at least one time or the contestant in control would get booed and must do it again. After the first spin, the spinner can choose to either stay with what he/she landed on or spin again; on the second spin, whatever the contestant hits will be added to the first score, and (as previously mentioned) if he/she went over $1.00, that contestant is eliminated from the game; otherwise, that player stands under the scoreboard and waits it out.
When all three contestants have taken their spins, the contestant closest to $1.00 wins the game and goes into the Showcase round. In the event that the first two contestants go over, the last contestant automatically advances to the Showcase, but gets only one spin to see if they can get $1.00.
If the game ends in a tie, the tied contestants play a Spin-Off game where each player gets only one spin, and the highest number wins. If any of the tied contestants gets $1.00 in their Spin-Off spin, they still get a $1,000 cash bonus and a bonus spin (see below).
While the wheel can be both spun upwards and downwards, only downward spins count.
- Throughout the series, there was a bonus for getting $1.00 exactly (either by hitting the dollar space on the first spin or by making a dollar in two spins).
- When the wheel first premiered, the prize for getting $1.00 was a cash bonus of $1,000. Since 1978, hitting $1.00 not only won the $1,000 cash bonus, but also a bonus spin. Before starting a bonus spin, the wheel gets set to 5 cents. In the Bonus Spin should the wheel land on a green bonus space (either 5¢ or 15¢), the contestant won an additional $5,000 for a total of $6,000; but if he/she hit the red bonus space ($1.00) in the bonus spin, the winning contestant won an additional $10,000 for a total of $11,000.
- On October 6, 1998 (#0842K), two contestants won $11,000 in the same Showcase Showdown. The exact same thing happened again on February 11, 2009 (#4623K) when two contestants landed on the Green sections of the Wheel on an episode with Drew Carey.
- In Drew's second season as host, the cash bonuses were raised to $10,000 for a green bonus space (for a total of $11,000) and $25,000 for the red bonus space (for a total of $26,000).
- In the bonus spin, the contestant must get the wheel all the way around, or the spin is void and they do not get another spin. If a contestant hits $1.00 in their Spin-Off spin, they still get their $1,000 cash bonus and bonus spin. If the tie happens to be between multiple players who scored $1.00, each player's bonus spin also counts as their spin-off. This is disadvantageous for the contestants, since two of the three prize-awarding spaces (5¢ and 15¢) also happen to be two of the three worst tie-breaking spaces. Contestants who participate in bonus spin-offs and who don't get the wheel all the way around are allowed to spin again, but without the addition of any more bonus money. If the spin-off contestants tie, another spin-off is played but without any bonus money at stake, regardless of whether or not the tie is in terms of prize-awarding spaces.
- For Big Money Week in Season 45, the number on the 45 cent space on the wheel is colored green, and offers a $45,000 bonus should the bonus spin land there.
- For Dream Car Week in Seasons 44 onward, contestant wins a car bonus if they spin another $1 on the wheel.
- In the honor of Drew's 10th Anniversary, if a contestant spins $1 on the wheel, there will be a $10,000 bonus instead of the usual $1,000 all week long. For the season premiere week in Season 46, contestant wins a $100,000 bonus if they spin another $1 on the wheel. The $100,000 was never won, also bonus offer for December 29, 2017 (#8145K) first showcase showdowns as part of the Best of 2017.
- For Big Money Week in Season 46, if a contestant spins $1 on the wheel, there will be a $2,000 bonus instead of the usual $1,000 all week long. If the contestant wins a $20,000 bonus if they spins either green sections, and $50,000 bonus if they spins another $1 on the wheel.
- Former producer Roger Dobkowitz admitted that the wheel was implemented due to the popularity of the game show Wheel of Fortune (which aired at the same time on competitor NBC, which it would from 1975 to 1989).
- The font style used for the numbers on the big wheel is Pricedown.
- Initially the wheel didn't have to go all the way around for a spin to count. However, after a couple early playings with contestants doing weak spins to try to get the $1.00 (in particular the infamous Alberto), the rule was changed to requiring the wheel to go all the way around at least one time. Shortly after this rule was implemented, Bob would chide contestants who didn't get the wheel all the way around, leading to boos from the audience. Drew has discontinued this concept, only asking the contestant to spin again and reminding them to make sure it goes all the way around, though the audience still sometimes boos, and Drew does acknowledge that the audience doesn't like insufficient spins.
- Sometimes, because of the size of the wheel, elderly and disabled contestants have difficulty getting the wheel the whole way around, and may request assistance in spinning from the host, or even substitute spinner, frequently the host. When Bob acted as a substitute spinner, he usually used only one arm to spin the wheel, as he held his microphone with the other, but sometimes he didn't get the wheel the whole way around either, and Bob would call it "the most humiliating moment of his life." Drew Carey occasionally acts as substitute spinner, but more frequently provides assistance with spinning, when the contestant is unable to give a sufficient spin alone. His running gag is blaming himself if the wheel lands on a bad number during an assisted spin.
- In a 1992 episode, the Big Wheel seemed unusually tight during a Showcase Showdown round. The first contestant, an elderly woman named Anna was unable to get the wheel the whole way around after two attempts. Bob substituted as spinner for her, but it took two attempts for him to give a sufficient spin (partly as he used only one arm to spin), and he scored a .90 for Anna. He even remarked that the wheel seemed tight. The second contestant, a younger woman named Karen gave two spins that barely made it the whole way around, landing on .35 and .55 giving Karen a tie score with Anna. The third contestant, a younger man named Alan was able to give two strong spins but went over, thus a spinoff between Anna and Karen was required. Both Bob and Karen's spins barely got the whole way around, and both spins landed on 0.05 requiring a second spinoff. By this time Bob said his arm was too tired to spin the wheel again, and he asked Dian to act as substitute spinner for Anna. In the final spinoff, Anna advanced to the Showcases.
- In a 1993 episode, during the first Showcase Showdown, a contestant named Jana gets a dollar in two spins (75¢ in her first spin and 25¢ in her second spin), but Bob declares that her total is 95¢. No one in the studio ever notices the mistake.
- In a 1994 episode, a young man named Lawrence struggled with the wheel. As the third contestant to spin, he had to beat 0.65 to advance to the Showcases. His first spin did not get the whole way around, prompting chiding from Bob and booing from the audience. His second spin was a sufficient spin, but landed on 0.60, requiring another spin. His third and fourth spins were both insufficient, prompting more booing and chiding. Bob offered to act as a substitute spinner for Lawrence, who declined. His next spin was a sufficient spin, and landed on 0.40, scoring a dollar and a surprise win of $1,000. Bob told Lawrence not to hold back on his Bonus Spin, as there would be no do-overs if the spin was insufficient. While the Bonus Spin was sufficient, it did not win any additional Bonus.
- In a 2004 episode, a contestant named Michael proposed to his girlfriend, Rosie while spinning the wheel, and he landed on the dollar, winning $1,000. An amazed and touched Bob claimed that if it happened in a movie, people wouldn't believe it could really happen, and then Rosie stood up and accepted his proposal. Michael subsequently won the Showcases, and wedding music was played as he placed his engagement ring on Rosie's finger, with Bob presiding.
- Early on, contestants spun the wheel with one hand, with their body facing the audience. When the rule of the wheel needing to go all the way around was implemented, contestants used both hands and faced the wheel to get more momentum in their spins.
- It is an unwritten rule that the wheel must be spun in a downward direction, although several contestants have tried to spin it in an upward direction. The most famous example was from November 30, 1992 (#8601D), when a contestant named Cherish, stepped up and spun the wheel the wrong way. Bob immediately stopped the wheel in mid-spin, chided her for it, and told her to spin it the right way. She did so, and ended up getting a dollar on her spin, winning $1,000 (but not winning anything on her bonus spin). Bob joked that all contestants in the future would want to spin backwards, after that.
- On October 17, 2016 (#7651K), history was made (even though it had happened once before) when all 3 contestants (Manfred, Cathryn, and Jessica) spun a dollar, all winning $1,000 from that. On the 3-way tiebreaker spin-off, Manfred, with an 80 cent spin, moved on to the final Showcase. However, this is nothing compared to the events of Season 46 premiere week, September 20, 2017 (#8013K, aired out-of-order on September 22). During that entire week, the bonus for the initial dollar was $10,000 in honor of Drew's 10 years as host. During the second Showcase Showdown, all three contestants won the bonus (now the third time in history that all three contestants have won the initial dollar), but it doesn't end there. The first two contestants proceeded to BOTH win the $25,000 for spinning the dollar on the bonus spin, and the third contestant barely missed out on the $10,000 for the 5 when he spun a 90 and the pointer stopped. And as if that wasn't enough, that episode had all 6 games won, making a perfect show.
- Former host Bob Barker would always refer to the amount a contestant spun on the wheel as "cents" (ie "you got 45 cents"). However, Drew Carey doesn't use the word "cents", and simply tells the contestant, "you got 45".
- The Showcase Showdown was introduced when the show was expanded to be an hour long in 1975. Previously, the two contestants who had won the most in prizes automatically moved on to the showcase (a practice continued in episodes of the nighttime version, which was still a half-hour long.)
Behind the ScenesEdit
- When it was time to bring out the big wheel, a wall was brought down to center stage so the audience doesn't see what's happening back there.
- First, the carpet gets rolled out. After that, the big wheel is brought out and sits in front of the carpet. A small vacuum comes out to collect dust that might have gone on the carpet after it was rolled out.
- When the big wheel is brought out and the arrow's pointer points to anything but $1.00, it gets set to $1.00 before lifting the wall up to start the Showcase Showdown.
Custom Designed LooksEdit
Bob Barker's TenureEdit
Drew Carey's TenureEdit
Many countries, even those in a 30-minute format, use the same format for the Showcase Showdown, though with slight differences:
- In the first UK version with Leslie Crowther, early episodes had the big wheel for the Showcase Showdown, with contestants winning £500 if they got 100 in one or two spins. For the bonus spin, spinning a blue section (5/15) won £250 extra while getting 100 again won £1,000. The IBA was not impressed with this format due to it being to reliant on luck, so when the second series came around, the game became "Supermarket", where contestants had 15 seconds to pick up to four items that totaled under £20. Whichever player was closest, high or low, would advance to the showcase, with two played each half. Finally, after that, a new version debuted in 1987 where contestants were being asked questions about products, with the contestants typing in a number for a price, similar to Greed's qualifying questions. The two players closest to the price moved on.
- On the Sky One version with Bob Warman, spinning 100 in one or two spins only got you the extra spin. If you hit 100 on the bonus spin, you won a larger prize, oftentimes a car.
- Subsequent British versions, beginning with the Bruce Forsyth run, awarded £1,000 with no extra spin, though the first month of Joe Pasquale's version did allow bonus spins, with a car for a prize if you got 100 again.
- In Australia, only two people played the Showcase Showdown, but otherwise, it remained the same. In Ian Turpie's eras, the prize was a gift valued at about $1,000, while Larry Emdur's runs just had A$1,000 cash if you hit 100 in one or two spins, with no bonus spin attached.
- In the first Mexican version, the amounts were the same as the US version from 1978 to 2008, but in pesos, sometimes with 1 Mexican peso awarding a car in the bonus spin. During the 2010 version, the 5 awarded M$5,000, but 15 awarded M$15,000, with the peso awarding a car. Much like in America, on the bonus spin, the wheel is set to 5 before the contestant takes the spin.
- When Germany first began, the prize was DM1,000 (approx. €510) for getting 100 in one spin, but later, it became either a car or motorcycle for getting said number. The format's rules are similar to what the US Gameshow Marathon would later use in 2006, however, unlike that, only one spin was permitted to each contestant, so going over 100 wasn't possible. Of note is that if two people won their pricing game, and one lost, no Showcase Showdown was played-- the two that won their games automatically went to the showcase.
- In the Netherlands, during Carlo Boszhard's run, the prize was €1,000 for scoring 100 in one or two spins, with a bonus of €10,000 if you got 100 again in the bonus spin.
Some versions use the same format as what was used from 1975 to 1978 in America, with the only difference being in prizes:
- Italy - 1,000,000 ITL (approx. €520)
- Spain - 100,000 ESP (approx. €600), later €1,000. To win the bonus, you had to get 100 in one spin only. (Carlos Lozano era)
- Portugal - €100 (Fernando Mendes eras)
- Vietnam - 1,000,000 VND for 100 points, but each 5 points you get 5,000 VND (no bonus spins)
- France - No bonus until 1995. Beginning with that year, awarded a prize of 1,000 FR (approx. €152) if you got 100, with the prize going up by whatever number a player spun on the wheel.
- Finland - FM1,000 (approx. €170)
- Canada - Initially, no bonus, later C$1,000 if you got 100 in one or two spins
Bob Barker's TenureEdit
The Audience BeepsEdit
3 $1.00 Spinners in one Segment
Backwards Spin and a $1.00
2 $11,000 winners in the same Showcase Showdown
$11,000 winner from season 34
Another $11,000 winner from season 34
$11,000 won from season 35
$11,000 again from season 35
$11,000 yet again from season 35
Drew Carey's TenureEdit
First $26,000 winner From the Showcase Showdown
More Triple Spin-offs
Two $11,000 Winners
$37,000 Showcase Showdown (A $26,000 Winner and an $11,000 Winner)
Memorable history of Showcase Showdown (9/22/2017)(originally scheduled for 9/20, #8013K)