Way back in the earlier days of television in TheFifties (more specifically, 1956), a man named Herb Stempel competed on the GameShow ''Series/TwentyOne''. Although he claimed to have intentionally lost to Charles van Doren upon instruction by producer Dan Enright, he was ignored until ''Dotto'' was found to have been certifiably rigged two years later. After that, the entire game show industry was [[GenreKiller nearly brought down]].

Although the genre regained popularity in the 1960s-70s, many shows from that point onward had to endure a series of standards and practices to prove that they were on the up-and-up. Among these limitations was the Game Show Winnings Cap, which is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: a limit to the amount of money that a game show contestant can win and/or how long s/he can be a returning champion.

In response to the seven figures available on big-money shows such as ''Series/WhoWantsToBeAMillionaire'', many other game shows have offered seven-figure winnings. With the late-1950s rigging far in the genre's past, tighter security to prevent cheating and rigging, and multiple $1,000,000 game show winnings in the 2000s, winnings caps are pretty much a ForgottenTrope.

Returning champion caps, however, are still present, as most remaining game shows are one-and-done while ''Series/FamilyFeud'' continues to hold onto the same five-game limit it had since 2002. Further, contestants may not participate on more than one game show within a one-year period, or three in ten years.
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!!Examples:
* The Big Three networks imposed winnings caps on all network game shows, all in answer to the quiz show scandals:
** Creator/{{CBS}} imposed a cap on game show winnings. Initially, contestants on CBS-affiliated game shows were retired after winning $25,000, and could not keep any winnings over that limit (although sometime in the mid-to-late 1970s, a contestant could keep up to $10,000 more than the limit, for a $35,000 maximum payout). The cap increased to $50,000 in 1984, $75,000 by 1986, then $125,000 in the early 1990s. Come 2006, with ''Series/ThePriceIsRight'' having long since been the only CBS original game show, the winnings cap was done away with entirely.
** Creator/{{NBC}} put a limit on the number of games a returning champion could play, but did not cap winnings. An exception to this was ''ThreeOnAMatch'' (1971-74), which eradicated championship limits entirely in mid-1973. Several game shows took full advantage of this, particularly the 1980s version of ''Series/SaleOfTheCentury'' (which, accounting for top-end Cadillacs and opulent trips as prizes plus cash jackpots of $50,000 or more, could net a contestant well over $100,000) and ''Series/DreamHouse'' (which ran for 15 months during 1983-84, where a couple could [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin win a house]]; with the value of the house and other prizes added in, big winners came away with $125,000 or more during their stay).
*** The daytime ''Series/WheelOfFortune'', although they didn't have the massive prize budget as the syndicated series, sometimes had weeks with increased budgets, with Porsches and yachts parked onstage in the years before the syndicated show premiered.
** Creator/{{ABC}} limited winnings to $30,000, although contestants were retired after winning $20,000. This cap was removed in 1984.
** ''Family Feud'' retired families at $25,000.
* Considering that they were the ones who rigged game shows in the first place, Creator/JackBarry and Dan Enright Productions didn't limit returning champions on their flagship shows ''Series/TicTacDough'' and ''TheJokersWild'' you could literally stay on as long as you kept winning. However, there was a brief period where the shows imposed winnings caps (at the network owned-and-operated stations' insistence). There was no winnings limit at the time when Thom [=McKee=] (the most famous contestant on ''Tic Tac Dough'') appeared, and he went on to win $312,000 in cash and prizes.
** This refers to the syndicated versions. The versions that ran on CBS had the $25,000 limit (although nobody on the CBS version of ''TTD'' reached the limit).
* After contestant Michael Larson used his LoopholeAbuse of the game to hit up ''Series/PressYourLuck'' for $110,237, that show placed a $75,000 cap on winnings. In Fall 1984, contestants were retired after winning $50,000.
* ''Series/{{Jeopardy}}'' also used to limit contestants to $75,000 in winnings, with the balance donated to charity. The cap was gradually raised over time and abolished entirely in 2003. The removal of the winnings cap coincided with the removal of the five-day limit imposed on returning champions; since 2003, any ''Jeopardy!'' contestant can stay on as long as he or she keeps winning, and keep all money earned. The very next year, a certain young man named Ken Jennings took full advantage of this rule.
* Similarly, ''Wheel of Fortune'' placed a $100,000 cap (later $125,000 and still later, $200,000) on winnings during the early 1990s, which is also the point that the show switched from one-and-done to allowing champions to stay on for up to three days. The winnings cap stayed at $200,000 when the show reverted to one-and-done contestants, but even with the addition of a $100,000 prize in the BonusRound in 2002, the $200,000 cap proved unreachable. ''Wheel'' eliminated the cap in 2008 with the addition of a $1,000,000 prize in the bonus round, which has been won twice.
* ''[[Series/BreakTheBank1985 Break The Bank]]'' (1985-86) limited the winnings to $75,000. Once the Master Puzzle format was instituted, breaking the Bank retired a winning couple immediately.
* A number of shows (examples: ''The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid'', ''Now You See It'', and ''The Moneymaze'') retired a contestant who won its top prize, regardless of what it was (on ''Now You See It'', it could be as little as $5000).
* In the United Kingdom, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (which oversaw pretty much everything that wasn't TheBBC) imposed a 6,000 per-episode cap in 1982. When the IBA was scrapped at the end of 1990, one of the first acts of its successor, the Independent Television Commission, was to remove the cap, though it was still a few years before the really big money shows started to turn up.
** There was a revival of ''The $64,000 Question'' (and yes, it was titled in dollars) which offered a top prize of 6,400, but they got around this by alternating contestants so that the top prize would not be won twice in a row.
*** Early ITV in the 1950s didn't have any limits on game show prizes. This meant that accounting for inflation, the top prize of the earlier British version ''The 64,000 Question'' of 64,000 sixpence (1,600), later 64,000 shillings (3,200), were worth considerably more in 1990 (at about 16,000 and 32,000) than the top prize of the then-new revival.
** To ensure the combined value of cash and prizes didn't get over the limit, ''Series/FamilyFortunes'' originally awarded only a fixed prize for Big Money, regardless of whatever points had been scored beforehand. Like ''The $64,000 Question'', the Big Money prize was 1500 for the first episode of the series, and in any episode where the prize had been won the week before, and 3000 in any week where the prize had not been won.
*** In the post-cap revival, the Big Money prize was 3000 plus points, later joined by a bonus of a [[FlawlessVictory car for tendering all five top answers]].
** ''[[Series/SaleOftheCentury Sale of the Century]]''[='s=] derisory prizes became such a joke that successful contestants were invited to play the Australian ''Sale'' for bigger prizes.
** ''Series/ThePriceIsRight'' in its early days offered much cheaper prizes than the American original. Despite this, the IBA ''still'' forced it off the air for repeatedly breaching the prize limits.
* Japan has a nationwide cap set at 2 million yen (currently around US$19,600 / 11,700 as of February 2014) per person and 10 million yen total for a prize split among five or more players. As a result, even single-player shows like ''Millionaire'' have the contestant bring along four friends and/or family members with whom to split the prize.
** This is the reason why almost all game/quiz shows use celebrities: their winnings can just be added to their salary as a bonus.
* The Spanish ''Saber y Ganar'' only allows the contestants to play in 100 shows. Seeing how only one out of the three players can be eliminated each day, and they can stay by winning a special game, it's a fair cap since it would be possible for the best players to stay indefinitely.
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