A Whammy is a Game Show's sadistic streak personified in a condition that takes from the unlucky player who gets it, usually everything. A player who gets a Whammy can pretty much throw in the towel right then and there, unless of course his opponents (if there are any opponents) also hit them as well.
If the Zonk is the prankster that tapes a "Kick Me" sign to your back, and the Flokati Rug is the annoying roommate who thinks putting Saran Wrap on the toilet is the surest way to express his friendship, then the Whammy is the guy who mugs you with an AK-47. There's no reasoning with the Whammy. He only takes, and just how much he takes is purely up to the show's producers.
Mostly a Dead Horse Trope. The opposite of the Whammy is the Bonus Space. Getting a Whammy during a Golden Snitch situation leads to an instant win for your opponent. Not related to a Wham Episode or Whammy Bid, though either may induce the same kind of feelings...
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Press Your Luck: Trope Namer. Not only does the Whammy cause the player who gets it to lose all their money and prizes, but a player who gets four Whammies is eliminated from the game. Adding to the sadism is the fact that players could pass their remaining spins (after taking at least one) to a designated player, and that player had to use all the spins passed to them (but all unused passed spins were moved to the "earned" column once a Whammy was hit, provided it was not #4). Almost always done by the player who's ahead by a wide margin, and doesn't want to hit a Whammy, but occasionally (and entertainingly) done by a player who's far behind and whose only hope of victory is for the leader to "Whammy Out".
Second Chance, the predecessor, had Devils instead and no animations, but the same purpose.
The GSN revival raised the ante with the introduction of the Double Whammy in Round 3, which is just like the Whammy only it also throws in random physical humiliation, like dropping flour, feathers, or even dirty laundry on the player.
"Sammy the Whammy" of Beat the Odds may be the Ur Example, as the show debuted in July 1961. The idea was to make words of a certain length, determined at random, and beginning and ending with the letters dictated on the spinning reels. You could keep trying to make words as long as you wanted and freeze your score at any time, but Sammy was on each reel and took all your unfrozen points if one came up; getting a Double Whammy awarded a $50 gift certificate instead. The 1975 revival attempt hosted by Chuck Henry replaced Sammy with a lightning bolt.
Wheel of Fortune: Landing on Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, calling a letter that is not in the puzzle, or incorrectly solving a puzzle results in control being passed to the next contestant.
Landing on Bankrupt also wipes out a contestant's winnings for that particular round. However, winnings from previous rounds are retained, and multiple Bankrupts won't cause a contestant to be eliminated.
If, upon landing on a Bankrupt, a contestant has the Wild Card token, the Million-Dollar Wedge, and/or any "1/2 Car" tags, all that are in the player's possession are forfeit. (The Wild Card and the Million Dollar wedge are gone for good. However, two "1/2 Car" tokens are in play during the first three rounds, regardless if any contestant lost one or both via Bankrupt.)
As of Season 27, the Free Spin token has been replaced with a Free Play wedge, allowing a player to take another turn even if they call a wrong letter or incorrectly solve. However, landing on Bankrupt or Lose A Turn will always result in control being passed to the next contestant.
In the shopping era, contestants could put their winnings "on account". That money would be added to the contestant's winnings in the next round...but if a contestant hit Bankrupt, the on-account winnings would be wiped out as well, similar to the Wild Card and Million-Dollar Wedge.
On Wheel 2000, Lose A Turn was renamed "Loser" and added the humiliation of that show's virtual Vanna White "Cyber Lucy" mocking the kid for landing on it by her making the "Loser L" sign on her forehead toward the contestant. Meanwhile, Bankrupt became "The Creature", a CGI dragon-monster-thing that lived under the Wheel and came up whenever his wedge was hit to "eat" the player's points.
A favorite Bonus Round format of Jack Barry (partner in the Jack Barry-Dan Enright Productions empire), where the designated picture would end the game in a loss if revealed before the contestant achieved a specific goal (usually, accumulating $1,000 through other good picks). Each of these games also offered the contestant a chance to end the game at his discretion and keep any winnings to that point or continue on at risk of losing:
Tic-Tac-Dough: The Dragon of the 1978-86 and 1990 runs, where revealing the Dragon meant instant loss on the Bonus Round. (A few weeks into the 1990 version, it began rapping (and so did the Knight, which if found immediately won the game).
Conversely, during the fifth and sixth seasons of the syndicated 1978 run, there was a "Dragon Finder's Game," an audience participation game where the player's goal was to find the dragon. (Usually, this was an uncompleted board if the studio contestant had won, or — if the previous game ended in a loss and there wasn't enough time to start a new front game — a new board was assembled.) The contestant doing so won a cash bonus and-or a small prize; the other contestants got a hat with the Tic Tac Dough dragon on it.
The Joker's Wild: The Devil appeared in one of the slot machine windows during the "Beat the Devil" game, which served as an automatic loss if the icon appeared in one of the windows during a spin.
Bullseye: The Whammy token here was a lightning bolt, which if hit before the player used his allotment of spins lost all accumlulated cash so far.
Video Villiage: In this racing-type game show (a large game board spread out in the studio), there were a number of penalty-type spaces the players tried to avoid:
Jail: Landing on this space required the player to go to an onstage jail. "Bail" was, on their next turn, either correctly answering a simple question or predicting whether the next roll was even or odd.
Exchange Spaces: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It wasn't so much a Whammy if the leading player was only a few spaces ahead, but if that player was far ahead ... he could conceivably be sent back to near the beginning of the game board while the trailing player would gain a considerable advantage.
1-2-3 Go, 4-5-6 No: Another "Exactly What It Says On The Tin" space – getting a 4, 5 or 6 on the next roll ended the player's turn without advancing, giving the opponent a chance to catch up and/or overtake the contestant in the lead (or, as the case might be, fall further behind).
Wipeout: On another Peter Tomarken show, (no relation to the newer stunt game), picking one of the five incorrect answers in the first round took away not only the player's money, but also the prize if the player had found the Hot Spot earlier.
Parodied in the nonsensical game show Joey's auditioning for in the Friends episode "The One With The Baby Shower". At one point, Chandler gets all of Ross' points for no real reason. Then at the end Chandler "gets Bamboozled", which apparently means that Ross wins...somehow.
Stopper tiles in Scrabble. Still, as Chuck Woolery explained on the 1993 finale, if you picked two of these tiles and knew it, you could guess the word and thus ship the no-win off to your opponent.
Lingo featured red balls (also called "stoppers") that, when pulled out, would automatically hand gameplay control to the opposing team.
$100,000 Fortune Hunt: A WGN game show for winners of the Illinois Lottery. Among the dollar amounts on its game board were a "bankrupt" icon and a crying face. The latter eliminated a player from the game, but nobody left with less than $1,000.
In several games on Let's Make a Deal, the Zonk symbol sometimes worked as this. Examples:
In the 2009 CBS version, luck-based games usually used the face of announcer Jonathan Magnum as the designated "zonk" space, which lost everything.
A favorite game during the Monty Hall era was "Monty's Cash Register," where hitting unmarked cash buttons won cash that, if enough was built up, won a grand prize (usually a car). However, the Whammy kicked into effect by hitting one of two "No Sale" buttons — the game ended and the grand prize lost. However: 1. If there were enough buttons left in play, the next button hit won a small consolation cash prize (often, $50 or $100); 2. If the "No Sale" button were hit on the first pick, Hall often told the contestant that if the other "No Sale" button were hit on the second pick, he or she won the grand prize.
Strike it Rich/Lucky had the Hot Spot (or Bandit in the short-lived original U.S. version), which ended a turn and took away non-banked prizes. It's not a good spot. However, sometimes couples had a chance of earning prizes back from Hot Spots as a Consolation Prize if they didn't do well, depending on the host's mood.
Couch Potatoes had "Pay TV" as one of the channels in the "Channel Roulette" Bonus Round, during which you had to accumulate 1,000 points by guessing TV shows based on cast pictures. Hitting Pay TV wiped out your score and you had to start over.
Avanti Un Altro has two types of Whammies from the scrolls contestants pick from to earn cash; there are three Lo iettatore scrolls ("The Jinx", which wipes out your bank and forces you to answer another question, usually about death, or misfortune, or the like, in order to stay in the game), and one Avanti un altro scroll, which wipes out your bank and automatically eliminates you, period.
On the 2000s revival of the Japanese quiz show Time Shock, contestants who missed more than half the questions in a round not only had their winnings wiped out and eliminated, but they were also taken for a spin - literally; they were strapped into a gyroscope chair of the sort one might find at a space camp, and failure would trigger the chair's "Tornado Spin".
An old Japanese quiz show titled Up Down Quiz was particularly strict about wrong answers: Buzz in and answer incorrectly just once and your entire score is wiped out. Do it a second time in the same game and you would be immediately eliminated.
Mario Party: Bowser usually fulfills this role in various titles in the series. A wide variety of things can happen at his spaces, but all of them end in loss of coins or stars for one or more players, and no player ever gains from the spaces. Unless they are completely broke; then he can feel pity. Or he'll give you stuff just so you have something for him to take from you. Depends on which game you're playing.
Bowser Revolution takes everyone's coins, and divides them by the number of players, giving them an equal amount. If you're broke or have few coins compared to everyone else, this works out for you. Otherwise, it can cause problems (if you had enough coins for a Star earlier but not after this, for example).
Sonic Shuffle: The Eggman card. Drawing it in a battle results in an instant loss.
In New Super Mario Bros Wii, getting two Bowser or Bowser Jr. faces in the Red Mushroom House mini-game ended it immediately, meaning you couldn't pick up any more power-ups.
The "Flip Cards" game has you flipping cards to reveal items, Toadies (which do nothing), or Kamek (who causes you to lose everything). You can exit the game before flipping every card and keep whichever items you've accumulated, but if you manage to flip every card besides Kamek, he will fly out and the card will flip to reveal a 10-Up.
"Drawing Lots" is similar, but you can only open one out of six doors, up to three of which may be hiding Kamek.
The online game Slingo features a devil which takes away half your points. Sometimes, though, he's counteracted by an angel.
The Facebook edition of Slingo allows players to choose one of three wagers. In the 5x5 rounds, it's usually 20%-40%-60%; in the 8x8 rounds, it's 25%-50%-75%. It also adds a "Coin Buster" token that neutralizes the coin toss.
The 70s board game Which Witch employed the whammy in the form of a marble dropped through the central chimney, whose cap was designed to create an element of probability. One of four "curses" could befall players depending on how the marble fell through the chimney: 1) a broomstick would fall; 2) part of the floor would shake; 3) a secret trapdoor would open and hit the player square in the jaw; 4) the marble would come rolling down the staircase, knocking down whoever's on it. Players could also find their pieces turned into mice, which meant that they could not move until they found the counter-card.
The "Whammy during the Golden Snitch situarion" is invoked with Monopoly: Getting the "Advance To Boardwalk" card from Chance when someone has a hotel there is usually an instant knockout (or will knock you so far down you might as well concede). Inverted with the Property Assessment cards: It only hurts during your Golden Snitch time (you have lots of properties with houses or hotels).
Multiplayer games leave open the possibility for this unlikely but incredibly ironic scenario: you are on the brink of elimination when a player who has narrowly survived an encounter with a third player's hotel by mortgaging many properties lands on your space and can't cover the rent, knocking them out... and causing you to inherit all their mortgaged properties, making interest in the amount of 10% of the loan due payable immediately, knocking you out too. However, you are allowed to simply let the other player slide by not asking for the rent and rolling the dice.
Candy Land, a Milton Bradley children's game where color recognition was married to a racing motif, and the objective was to navigate the 134-space, multicolored path to the finish line. Depending on the vintage of the particular game being played, the Whammy spaces were as thus:
Pre-2004: Landing on any space marked with a black dot was a "cavity," and — per the game's rules — the player had to stay put until drawing a card corresponding to the dotted space they were currently on. (Given the game's chance design, that could be quite awhile, allowing contestants to advance far ahead and, depending on where the unlucky player was "stuck," virtually sealed a loss.) Some editions of the game required the player to draw a card marked with two of the same color to become "unstuck."
2004-later editions: The "dots" were replaced with spaces marked with a licorice stick. The Whammy here is far less severe: The player simply loses his next turn.
There were also cards in the deck marked with the names of locations in the Candyland, including "Candy Cane Forest" and "Gum Drop Mountain," or people, such as Princess Frostine or Gloppy the Molasses Monster. Depending on where the player was on the board, drawing one of these cards could be a Golden Snitch (move a trailing contestant far ahead) or a Whammy (a player with a large lead going all the way back behind the second-to-last contestant).