"Big bucks, no Whammys, stop!"
— Typical contestant speech while watching the Big Board on Press Your Luck.
"Stop — at a whammy."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. If the Zonk is the prankster that tapes a "Kick Me" sign to your back, and the Undesirable Prize 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 generally amounts 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...
— Peter Tomarken's occasional response.
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- Press Your Luck is the 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". The Whammy is so iconic that at least one revival actually uses Whammy! as the title.
- PYL's predecessor, Second Chance, 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 (which is the Image Source for Whammy) 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). The only tokens safe from Bankrupt were the Free Spin and the short-lived Double Play.
- The Season 25 exclusive Big Money Wedge notably could switch from a case award ($5,000, $7,500, or $25,000, which were all compatible with the Wild Card) to a Lose A Turn or a Bankrupt, making it a Whammy wedge on some spins. However, if a player was able to claim one of the cash awards, it switched to a $1,000 a letter space on all spins that game on.
- 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 or the player if it was landed on without points.
- The Olmec's Temple final round of Legends of the Hidden Temple had three "Temple Guards" in random rooms. A contestant entering a guarded room would be immediately "captured" and removed from the temple, leaving their partner to try and complete the run in their place. If the partner then got captured in turn, the game would end. To mitigate this, "Pendants of Life" could be won in previous rounds and guards could be "bribed" away with a full pedant (hence the name — they acted as extra lives), but only two pendants were available and any team that didn't completely ace the Temple Games would likely have only one (if they entered the temple with one and a half pendants, another half pendant was hidden in the temple's early areas that the second player could pick up to give them the second pendant). Legends of the Hidden Temple had a notoriously low win rate.
- The Locker Room of Think Fast has the dreaded Red Herring. The Red Herring is a character or item with no match at all. If the next match is that character or item, The player must pull the handle and continue making more match.
- 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 Dragonslayer, 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 "Face the Devil" endgame, 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.
- 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 Dragonslayer, which if found immediately won the game).
- Video Village: 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: 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. In fact, Peter Tomarken accidentally referred to it as a "whammy" one day. Apparently, he knew it would eventually happen.
- The Whammy in High Rollers is simply rolling a combination that couldn't be used to take numbers off the board (which is why control of the dice is so important).
- Nick Arcade had secret "enemy" squares on the game-board, where steering Mikey onto one would immediately give control to the other team. Also the "Time Bomb" spaces, where contestants who didn't see the big bomb shape saying "Don't go here, you've already been here." would have to pong-spell a word in ten seconds with each other to keep control of the board (though one instance surrounded the team with "Time Bomb" spaces and forced them to step onto one of them; most other times, if the team(s) surrounded Mikey with "Time Bombs", the out-of-time buzzer would sound to end the round in sudden death). It never went well.
- 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 on 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 referred to as "stoppers" as a callback to Scrabble since Woolery hosted) that, when pulled out, would automatically hand gameplay control to the opposing team.
- The "Stinger" on The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. Picking the lone available letter that wasn't in the puzzle ended your turn immediately.
- Million Dollar Money Drop: Pretty much the whole point. In this case, the Whammys are the wrong answers. You have to wager all the money you have on the choices, and you must leave one choice with no money on it, and if you leave the right answer empty...
- $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.
- Several pricing games on The Price Is Right give players the progressive option to stop where they are with what they've won in that game or continue on, knowing that a slip-up means you get bupkis.
- Going over the ARP in the Card Game and in the Showcase is painful as well. On the original Price, if all four bidders went over, then nobody won the item. Once in awhile, though, the bids would be erased and each player would be allowed to make one guess with each bid lower than the lowest original frozen bid.
- The pricing game "Pass the Buck" plays it straight - hidden among the sixnote spaces are twonote "Lose Everything" spaces which eliminate all of the contestant's previous earnings (but the game still continues, provided the contestant still has a pick remaining). It's not all that uncommon to see contestants uncover both Lose Everythings back to back.
- In the current CBS version of Let's Make a Deal, the Zonk symbol is often used to denote whammies in luck-based games.
- As a running gag, a recurring scratch card game has Jonathan Mangum's face as representing a comically small cash prize. He's never amused.
- 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 in an alternate Instant-Win Condition (if they didn't find the "No Sale" button on the second pick after hitting it on the first pick, they received whatever money they found). An updated version called the "Cash Board" has been played occasionally on the current Wayne Brady version with the Zonk card replacing the "No Sale" button, and has been won in this manner twice (the first was guest hosted by Hall too!)
- One other game involved a money machine/ATM machine where the player could get money or checks of various amounts. The amount was limited, of course, and eventually the machine would spit out either a blue card, a blue card saying "Curtains" (the Monty Hall versions), a red card that said "Bust" and had a skull-and-crossbones on it (the Billy Bush NBC version), a check with no dollar amount but a red stamp on it that said "Bankrupt" (the Game Show Marathon version), or the machine would say "Overdrawn" (the CBS versions); if the player got this, they were bankrupted and had to return all the money they got from the machine, leaving them with nothing (this happened on the Billy Bush version with the "Bust" card). The player could stop after any withdrawal if they thought the Whammy card was the next thing to come out of the machine.
- 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, Michael Barrymore was generous and sometimes let couples receive prizes back from Hot Spots as a Consolation Prize if they didn't do well.
- 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 ends your game immediately.
- 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.
- QI has the klaxon, which gives the contestant -10 points if they answer something that's both wrong and predictable. This is a downplayed example though, since The Points Mean Nothing, and sometimes the players will even activate it on purpose to get it out of the way.
- The Diamond Head Game had a $1 bill for its "Money Volcano" Bonus Round. If Bob drew said greenback from the contestant's "treasure bag", the player lost everything.
- On the Top Card Bonus Round, finding the Joker or going over 21 ended the round and any prizes accumulated during the round were lost.
- Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego: In the Jailtime Challenge round, There are Shoeprints (which means "Nothing There!") and their turn ends. In addition, finding the warrant or the crook before finding the loot (they must be found in the order of Loot > Warrant > Crook) was effectively a turn-breaker.
- Seven Keys, a stalwart on ABC's daytime schedule from 1961-1964 (and longtime local favorite on KTLA-TV of Los Angeles); the game was a basic Q&A married to Snakes and Ladders, with the objective being to move to the end of a 70-space game board within 15 turns, all while encountering penalty spaces and other conditions. The "penalty" spaces usually required contestants to move back a set number of spaces and was one form of the Whammy. The other, far more serious, happened if the contestant failed to reach the end of the game board within 15 turns; that bankrupted the contestant note and, in addition to losing out on the grand prize ended the contestant's run on the show.
- The Wall: High-valued spaces on the board (think Plinko) deduct cash from the contestants' bank if red balls (2 and 3 are played automatically at the end of the two rounds, and are a penalty if the player in the Sound Proof Booth answers a question incorrectly). Especially if you play a Triple-Up and the balls land in the top values that eliminate your entire bank in one fell swoop, as had occurred in the second-aired episode.
- Anticipation has The Drop-Out Square on level 4 (Only on Hard and Very Hard mode). When you land on it, You will fall back to level 3.
- 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.
- The MP classic 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, and drawing it on the board results in something bad happening to either you alone or everybody.
- In other Sonic the Hedgehog games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, and Sonic Heroes, one Zone (or Bonus Stage in Sonic & Knuckles) features a slot machine where it is possible to get three Eggmen in a row, which can cost you anywhere from 50 to 100 rings (it will take all the rings from you if you have less than that).
- 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.
- Yoshi's Island: Kamek takes this role in two of the Bonus Challenges.
- 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.
- In Gunstar Heroes, the penultimate space on the Dice Palace board is "The Way Back," which sends you all the way back to the beginning. It's even marked with a skull. A consolation is that, like other spaces, it goes away after you land on it.
- In The Three Stooges, There are mousetraps. Land on one of them, It will trigger and hurt Moe's finger. Land on it 4 times, The game is over. There is also a visit with I. Fleecum. It will cost you $1,000.
- Can happen entirely at random in Dokapon Kingdom. The chaotic nature of the game can result in any of a player's assets (such as their cash on hand, the towns they happen to have control over, their items/field magic, their equipment, etc.) getting stolen or thrown away on the whim of the RNG. In particular, the Darkling class enables the player in last place to utterly ruin the lives of the other players in this fashion; they even have the potential to rob other players of their highly valuable castles, which can't change hands by any other means.
- 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 situation" is invoked with getting the "Advance To Boardwalk" card from Chance. When someone has a hotel there, it;s 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.
- Early in the game, landing on "Go to Jail" or getting the Chance/Community Chest card that sends you to Jail can be this as it deprives you the chance to obtain properties. Inverted when your opponents have monopolies; the chance of landing on one makes staying in Jail much more desirable.
- 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 Candy Land, 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).
- Monopoly has Go to Jail! When you land it. You wait 3 turns to roll a double, Pay $50, or give out a get out of jail free card. If you fail on rolling a double in jail three times, You owe the bank $50. Often times it occurs:
- When you land on Go to Jail!
- When a Community Chest or Chance card reads: "GO TO JAIL! GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL! DO NOT PASS GO!, DO NOT COLLECT $200!
- When you roll doubles three times!
- Chutes and Ladders: The children's game based on the ancient Indian game Snakes and Ladders, the game used a 100-space board and a playground motif to teach children basic morality lessons. A player landing on a space with a ladder (on which a "good" behavior or deed was illustrated, thus the reverse of this trope) allowed the player to advance a number of bonus spaces, but the trope kicked in by landing on a space marked with the top of a chute (always illustrated was "bad" behavior or deed), which sent the player down a set number of spaces. While the misdeed illustrated wasn't necessarily tied to the length of the chute (i.e., the severity of the consequence), some of the chutes only sent players back a few spaces while others cost the player a large number of spaces (for instance, one chute starts at space 87 and landing on this spot sends the unfortunate player down, down, down to space 24 ... a 63-space loss!) and — especially in a tight game, could virtually seal a loss.
- Of course there is the original Whammy, the 0 and 00 pockets on Roulette Wheels (European wheels only have the 0 pocket, while the American versions have both pockets). If the ball lands there, everyone loses their bets. A downplay to this is that bets can be placed on 0 and 00, and if those numbers appear those bets would win. But players rarely take those spaces because they pay out the same as any other single space.
- In the Game of the Goose, landing on some of the spaces (such as the second bridge or the second pair of dice) sends the player backwards to the first bridge or pair of dice (although this is inverted if you land on the first, which allows you to advance to the second; in either case you are also allowed to roll again). Other spaces (the maze, the inn, or jail) cause the player to lose a finite number of turns. The worst spaces, however, are #31 (the well, where you cannot take another turn until someone lands there to relieve you) or #58 (death, a space five away from the end that sends you back to start).
- The "death" space was carried over to the TV adaptation.
- Mystery Date requires players to have all the cards in an outfit set to open the door, and call which outfit if they have more than one set. If the date who shows up doesn't match the set, the player has to discard all the cards in that set.
- Codenames has the assassin. The game requires players to guess one or more words on a 25-word board that match their team's colour, based on a one-word clue provided by the team's captain each turn. Matching a bystander ends the turn, which isn't a big deal. Matching the other team's colour gives them a free point, which is problematic. Matching the single assassin on the board, however, is an instant Game Over for the team. Because of this, it's very important for the captain not to give a clue that can in any way be linked to the assassin's word.
- The bomb in Jack*Bot's Casino Run serve this function. Landing on one drains all the money you'd obtained and ends the Run immediately.
- In Revenge Of The Gator, getting three eggplants on the slot machine disables the ball savers, resets your bonus, and resets your score multiplier to 1x.
- In the beginning of a game of WHO dunnit, it's possible to play Roulette, bet more more points than you actually have, and lose it all.
- A random reward from the "Speed Trap" in Bally's Harley Davidson is "Traffic Ticket", which causes you to lose 10,000 points.