Las Vegas Gambit

NBC (ended 1981)


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Las Vegas Gambit

Show Summary

Back in the mid-1970s, there was this modestly successful game show that aired on CBS called Gambit. Nearly four years after it disappeared from that network's daytime schedule, producer Merrill Heatter took the show to Las Vegas, tweaked the Blackjack-centered game a bit, got ahold of original host Wink Martindale and christened the new entry Las Vegas Gambit. As before, two couples – one a returning champion – competed in this general knowledge quiz that added Blackjack. The couples shared a common deck, and were shown an up card by the model (Lee Menning or Beverly Malden) before host Martindale began asking general knowledge questions – usually true-false or multiple choice. The first couple to buzz in provided an answer. If correct, they won control of the card (otherwise, their opponents won control). Cards won on subsequent questions were not revealed until the couple in control made a decision to play or pass the card. Most regulation Blackjack rules were in play, with the object being getting as close to, but not over, 21 before your opponents did. As in the Las Vegas game, aces were worth 1 or 11, while face cards were worth 10. At any time, the couple could freeze (if they feared the next card would mean going over and thus losing), forcing the opposing couple to keep answering questions and taking cards until they either beat them or went over 21. A round was won in one of four ways: • Freezing and forcing their opponents over 21 (the "stay at 17 and above" rule didn't exist here, one major rule difference to regulation Blackjack) • Freezing and the opponents missing a question. • Surpassing the opponent's score after they freeze but still not reaching 21. • By reaching 21 exactly. Scoring 21, by the way, won a Gambit Jackpot, which began at $500 and grew by $500 each game until claimed. Each round was worth $250, with the couple who won two rounds being named champion and advancing to the end game. Two different formats were used. Originally, the old Gambit Bonus Board from the 1972 version was used, except the board had just 18 spaces (to which the prizes were assigned), and each number corresponded with a member of the studio audience. That audience member (who sat in a special section) held a playing card, which he/she held up at the appropriate time after their number was called. The audience member kept their prize regardless of the outcome; however, the couple had to avoid going over 21 to keep their cache of prizes, and only by scoring 17 or more did they have the option to freeze and keep what they won. Hitting 21, as before, won the prizes plus the Gambit Jackpot (no cars this time), and of course going over 21 lost it all. Later in the round, the end game from High Rollers (another Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley original) was used. There, the couple was shown a board of nine numbers, and the couple rolled a pair of dice to knock off the numbers (either one at a time or in combinations). Rolling doubles won an insurance marker, which they used if they rolled a number that was currently unattainable. Each number knocked off the board was worth $100, and knocking off all nine won a prize package (eloquently described by announcers Kenny Williams and Charlie Tuna), which grew in value until claimed. The finale (which, as it turned out, was a rerun) aired in November 1981; during the closing segment, Martindale appeared in a box and explained that it was the last show. Apparently, production had been on hiatus and the show's fate was undecided until the last minute. It was the kind of plug-pulling TV hadn't seen since CBS axed The Ed Sullivan Show. Plans to revive the show in 1990 (hosted by Bob Eubanks and featuring solo players) did not come to fruition.moreless