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Series: Card Sharks

"Ace is high, deuce is low, call it right, and win the dough, on...Card Sharks!"
General opening spiel for the NBC version, as read by Gene Wood

Change it! Higher! Lower! Freeze!

Popular Game Show from the 1970s and 1980s (just don't talk about the latest version), Card Sharks, yet another game from the minds of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, was played with two contestants and two decks of cards.

Alternating each round, one player answers a survey question asked of 100 people (think Family Feud) by guessing how many people actually gave a particular answer. The other contestant guesses whether the actual number is higher or lower than the first contestant's response. Whoever is right gets first crack at their deck of cards.

When controlling his cards, the player must successfully predict whether the next card is higher or lower (aces are high). Whoever gets four cards called correctly first wins the round: the first player to win two rounds wins the game. If the prediction is wrong (or it's the same card value), all progress is lost and the opponent has a chance to play his deck. Players can also freeze their predicting, keeping their progress and preventing their opponents from playing themselves. One last option is to change their starting card to something better, but only if the player hasn't called higher or lower yet and only if he was right on the survey question.

If neither player has won after three questions, the fourth question, called Sudden Death, changes the rules: Whoever wins the question can choose who plays, for whoever fails on predicting automatically loses, and freezing is disallowed.

The Money Cards Bonus Round takes the same premise as the card portion of the main game, but adds an element of gambling. Starting with $200, the player must wager a portion of his money as he predicts higher or lower. This keeps going until either the final bet, the Big Bet, is played (the player must wager at least half of his total), or the contestant loses all of his money. At this point, the cycle returns to the beginning.

Beginning in September 1986, the winning contestant had an opportunity to win a car after playing the Money Cards. For winning the match, a contestant had a joker which he could place among seven cards, one being the winner. Three additional Jokers were hidden in the deck, meaning a contestant can have up to four chances to win the car. Late in the run, it was changed to a 10-person survey, and the contestant had to guess the exact number to win the car. Being off by one gave the contestant a $500 bonus.

The first version ran from 1978-81 on NBC, followed by a CBS revival from 1986-89 (with a syndicated nighttime version running for a year from 1986-87). There was also a 2001 revival which lasted only 13 weeks and given the rule changes, it's easy to see why.

Brits got several years' worth of a Transatlantic Equivalent titled Play Your Cards Right, which had Bruce Forsyth at the helm. Among other changes, this edition saw couples playing against each other.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Big Win Sirens: The Eubanks and Rafferty versions used the ones from The Price Is Right whenever a car was won...sped up to about twice as fast.
  • Bonus Round: The Money Cards in all versions, plus the car game in the Eubanks/Rafferty versions.
  • Bonus Space: Prize cards, used only on the Rafferty version. Beginning in the later days of the NBC run, a $500 bonus was added for an exact guess on any question and/or running the board. The CBS version kept the $500 bonus for an exact guess on a normal or educated guess question, though eliminated the bonus for running the board. An exact guess on an audience poll group question was worth $100 to the player and the group of 10 shared $100.
  • Consolation Prize
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: The NBC version had a limit of seven matches with no cap on winnings, for a theoretical maximum of $203,000. The CBS version originally had a limit of five matches and $50,000, but the latter increased to $75,000 in Fall 1986.
  • Golden Snitch: The 2001 revival used a single row of cards for both players; as such, it was possible to dump victory in the lap of an opponent who had been sitting on his hands all game, all off one bad card call.
  • Home Game: Several.
    • Softie and GameTek produced Card Sharks computer games in the late 1980s. The MS-DOS version used the same contestant sprites as Classic Concentration.
    • Endless Games produced a board game in 2002 which, despite using the logo of the 2001 revival, had the CBS-era rules.
    • Kevin DeVizia wrote and distributed a shareware Card Sharks game for Mac OS 8 and 9, with general knowledge questions similar to Eubanks' Educated Guess questions.
  • Losing Horns: Mock fanfare, recycled from The Price Is Right. Truncated in the 1970s, but played in full in the 1980s.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Gene Wood, mostly. Bob Hilton and Johnny Olson filled in at times, and Gary Kroger handled announcing duties on the 2001 version.
    • Game Show Host: Jim Perry hosted the original NBC version, followed by Bob Eubanks on CBS and Bill Rafferty on a concurrent syndicated run. Tom Green (no, not the comedian) hosted a very failed 1996 pilot, and Pat Bullard hosted the 2001 version.
    • Lovely Assistant: The card models.
    • Studio Audience: A group of ten people, all with something in common, were involved in certain questions during the Eubanks/Rafferty runs.
  • Promotional Consideration
  • Sudden Death: If nobody finished their row of cards before the last question, whoever got that last question right could either choose to play (and can change his/her card) or pass (the opponent must play and can't change cards); whoever plays must complete their row and one mis-guess means the opponent automatically wins.
    • The later part of the Eubanks era had it if both contestants won one game each, the "tiebreaker round" went from three questions to just one Sudden Death one; both contestants then got to see their base card, but only the one who won the question got to determine who would play. The same above rules applied.

This show provides examples of:

  • All or Nothing: The money round allows players to invoke this trope at any time to double their winnings or go broke. Very high or low cards will usually have this trope in play.
  • Card Games: It's basically Acey-Deucey; each player has his or her own deck to use. Except in the 2001 revival.
  • Catch Phrase: From the British version, with the standard Bruce Forsyth call and response:
    • "It's nice to see you, to see you... nice!"
    • "What do points make? Prizes!
    • "You don't get anything for a pair - not in this game!"
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: The champion played the red cards while his/her challenger played the blue cards.
  • Companion Cube: The sliding holder that held the question cards on the Perry version was often called "G2-T2", as a double Shout-Out to Goodson-Todman and R2-D2. It was actually called R2-D2 in the first few episodes before Perry decided to change its name.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Terry, a male contestant on Eubanks' version, fell into this watching the hostesses deal the cards just before a tiebreaker.
    Eubanks: What you saw was three cards and four legs.
  • Downer Ending: Any time a contestant goes all-in on the second row or the Big Bet, and loses. Even worse during the "doubles lose" era.
  • Epic Fail: This poor contestant uncovered four Jacks, all of which went against the odds: the first was followed by a King, the second by an Ace, and the third by the fourth. She took the fourth Jack to the Big Bet and, now considering the Jack's bad luck, swapped it for a 9. It was followed by another King, so she still would've lost money on it even if she hadn't swapped it out.
    • From the British "Play Your Cards Right", just rotten luck all around for this couple.
  • Fan Remake: A YouTube user by the name of SonicWhammy does one that he takes to various anime conventions. And he has three decks of custom physical cards for the game itself (no, sadly, you can't buy your own.)
  • Grand Finale: The last Rafferty episode gave the final champion all four Jokers at the start of the Money Cards. After he placed the cards, Bill stated that he would reveal them right-to-left, noting he had never done this before and if production didn't like that "It's the last show; fire me." note  The car was won, hence why Bill went right-to-left.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The whole game, although counting cards is allowed (and encouraged).
    • Getting the same card value on predicting means a loss. In the Money Cards, this was particularly painful when you got two deuces or two Aces in a row. One contestant during the NBC run got all four treys in succession. This eventually led to a "push" rule where getting the same card twice in a row in Money Cards resulted in no loss or gain.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Money Cards in the 1980s, as shown above.
  • Opening Narration: Quoted at the top of this page. Shortly into the NBC run, this was changed to random two-line poems submitted by viewers.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: From the 1976 quiz show Double Dare (no relation to the kids' game show).
  • Spiritual Successor: The short-lived games Play The Percentages (1980) and Power of 10 (2007-08) were basically this minus the cards.
  • Stock Footage: The opening titles for the NBC run, showing a different tiebreaker board and Money Cards logo, was lifted directly from the two March 17, 1978 pilots.
  • Take That: On one episode, Bob asked a contestant how many Catholics have gained sainthood and added, "Everyone should know this." The contestant said "Everyone but me", and Bob added "...and everyone at Goodson-Todman."
    • On another episode, he said that The Diamond Head Game was the "biggest piece of boop-boop" he'd ever done.
  • Title Drop: "Let's meet today's card sharks!"
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Play Your Cards Right, which itself had a Foreign Remake in Australia. Versions have also been made in Germany, Belgium, and Brazil, among other countries.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Educated Guess questions in the Eubanks/Rafferty era.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The 2001 revival copied the "Welcome to Las Vegas" logo for its own logo.

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alternative title(s): Card Sharks
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