The game is played on a huge wheel dubbed "the Big Wheel", and 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 wait 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, two contestants won $11,000 in the same Showcase Showdown. The exact same thing happened again on February 11, 2009 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 in terms of the prize-awarding spaces, another spin-off is played but without any bonus money at stake.
- 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.
- Sometimes, because of the size of the wheel, elderly and disabled contestants have difficulty getting the wheel the whole way around, and may request a 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 was humiliated. Drew Carey doesn't substitute spin as much as he simply helps by putting his arm on the wheel, to give it further momentum, when the contestant is unable to give a sufficient spin alone.
- 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, 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. Bob joked that all contestants in the future would want to spin backwards, after that.
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 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 $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 1978-2008, but in pesos, sometimes with M$1 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 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 1975-1978 in America, with the only difference being in prizes:
- Italy - 1,000,000 ITL
- Spain - 100,000 ESP, 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 diem (1,000,000 VND)
- France - No bonus until 1995. Beginning with that year, awarded a prize of 1,000 FR if you got 100, with the prize going up by whatever number a player spun on the wheel.
- Finland - FM1,000
- Canada - Initially, no bonus, later C$1,000 if you got 100 in one or two spins
Bob Barker's TenureEdit
First Ever Showcase Showdown
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