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"Well, I guess we can't all be winners! This is Sonny Friendly saying 'See you again next time on The Crying Game Show!' Oh, Teddy. It's good to have you back!"
Sonny Friendly, Sesame Street

Many classic Game Shows offer a Consolation Prize to the losing contestants. However, a more modern take features an All or Nothing approach: either you win the big prize, or you go home empty-handed.

The idea is probably meant to foster increased competition, and wring from the contestants a better performance — or more drama — by raising the stakes. The thought of putting a lot of effort into such an endeavor and having nothing to show for it afterward will certainly have that effect.

A comedic take on the idea might result in a contestant actually owing money to the packager, network or syndicator, but there are actual examples of shows where contestants gamble their possessions and/or money.

This can also happen in a non-game show situation, whereby success must be total or it might as well be a failure. An example might be a coup that hinges on a Decapitation Strike that somehow fails to take out all its targets, resulting in the standing government being able to rally or pull a Back from the Brink.

Compare Second Place Is for Losers, when a game or sports event is not like that but people act like it is. A cousin of this is the Golden Snitch, where something has so much value, you must obtain it or lose. Compare Death or Glory Attack, a risky move that can give the user a massive advantage on success and a crushing penalty on failure. In an acting sense, this trope will sometimes result in a One-Take Wonder or The Oner.

Not to be confused with All for Nothing.


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  • In Variable Geo, there's no such thing as "second place". Either you become champion, or you leave empty-handed and publicly humiliated. Hence, the penalty for losing any match at rank 3 and above, means having to strip in the ring and bare themselves to the crowd in disgrace.
  • In One Piece, there are various routes one can take to reach Skypiea, an island in the sky. In most of them, the crew suffers casualties along the way, but if the crew takes the Knock-Up Stream, a geyser-like stream that blasts ships into the sky, either all of them make it or none of them do.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Mole makes a big deal about runners-up leaving empty-handed. This is one reason Celebrity Mole wasn't played for charity. The other reason would be the hit a celebrity would take if he was deliberately preventing money from going to charity.
  • The complete lack of tiers on FOX's show Greed, added to the inability to walk away once the question is read and a lack of lifelines, demonstrates the main flaw in this trope, especially for high-stakes game shows: few people will go for a shot at $200,000 with a dangerously high chance of leaving with nothing when they have $100,000 in their pockets. The people with irrational overconfidence acting as captain were, sadly, few and far between.
    • Subverted in different ways:
      • Questions 5 and 6: if the first three answers are right, the captain can choose to quit and take a cash buyout to be split among the team.
      • Question 7: if the first three answers are right, each individual contestant can choose to quit and receive cash and a Jaguar convertible.
      • Before question 8: each contestant can choose to quit and keep their share of the team's winnings.
      • Super Greed only: any team that gets question 6 right is guaranteed to receive $200,000.
      • Both formats: if a contestant is chosen for a Terminator challenge and decides to participate, they get $10,000 to keep regardless of the outcome of either the challenge or the overall game.
  • US 1 vs. 100 follows this rule with the contestant's inability to walk away once you continue for the next question. At least the remaining mob gets to win the share if a contestant loses. The original format? Doesn't let contestants leave except for right at the end if the mob have been eliminated, but before if the contestant was correct is revealed.
  • In Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, unless and until a contestant reaches the $25,000 mark, a loss (without being Saved, of course) will send them home with nothing. They changed it in the syndicated version. Now, if you get one wrong, you lose what you've won so far, but you're not out of the game. Additionally to the syndicated version, you do get a Consolation Prize of a prepaid card if you miss the bonus question: $2,500 if you had at least that much at the bonus question, or $250 otherwise. And no matter what happens, of course, if you win any less than the grand prize, whether through getting a question wrong or taking the consolation prize, you have to look at the camera and say, "I am not smarter than a fifth grader."
  • Don't Forget the Lyrics! uses the "Millionaire" formula as a template. If you win less than $25,000 and then get it wrong, you go home with nothing.
    • The Encore Song in the syndicated version: If the player had missed one of the first four songs, the final song was double-or-nothing - a miss sent the player home with a customized MP3 player. If the player had cleared all four songs, they were guaranteed $1,000 and the final song was played for $50,000.
  • Identity: No safety nets whatsoever - although one of the helps, "Mistaken Identity", was essentially a free miss before the player could possibly lose it all.
  • In Cash Cab, if they get to their destination without getting three strikes, the winner or winners are given an option, take the money and run, or answer a video question for double what they have. If they lose, they get nothing except the free cab ride. Since the cabbie pulls over and kicks the contestants out the second they get the third strike, they may end up getting a free cab ride to roughly 20 blocks away from where they wanted to go. Though it is still an improvement over 40 or so blocks away from their destination.
  • Endurance: While both members of the final 2 teams often get a memento from J.D before they play a final game to decide the winner, there isn't any prizes for any team that isn't the Endurance Champions (who win an exotic vacation).
  • British show Golden Balls is particularly cruel in this regard. After spending half an hour with bluffs and random distribution of money, two contestants are left with the option of stealing or sharing. If they both opt to share, the prize fund is split. If one decides to steal, they get it all. If both of them try to steal, nobody wins anything.
  • Distraction, including possibly the show's winner if all his or her prizes are destroyed in the final round (which happened at least twice).
  • Moment of Truth: The hopefuls were called upon to answer highly embarrassing and potentially damaging questions about themselves (affairs and past crimes were common subjects), with a prize structure similar to that on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The killer thing is, if the answerer got even one question wrong, he or she lost EVERYTHING. No safety net, no consolation prize, all that pain and emotional torment for jumping-jack nada. Even better, guess what was used to determine the "correct" answers? A Lie Detector. Which means that even if the answer was correct, it still resulted in absolute failure if the machine said otherwise. (Later it instituted a $25,000 floor, which wasn't much comfort.)
  • Unanimous, in which nine strangers met in a hermetically sealed bunker, and every week voted to see who would win the grand prize, starting at $1.5 million. The hitch was that the vote had to be unanimous for one person for the prize to be awarded. Oh, and the longer the contest dragged on, the smaller the prize got. And if anyone left the bunker, the money would get cut in half. Uh huh. Of course, the whole question of why anyone should want to give the money to anyone else, thus ending the show (and face time, the real reason a lot of these people go on reality TV to begin with) for NO gain is never addressed, nor how hurting the poor saps still in the game was supposed to be a deterrent to walking away.
  • Million Dollar Mind Game went with a format similar to Greed with no safety nets, although it did feature a bunch of lifelines and extra "lives". The problem? After each correct answer, the team of six gets to vote on whether they want to walk away or continue, but the vote must be unanimous - if at least one person opts to play on, the whole team must follow. One team, in fact, went for the million-dollar level thanks to one person wanting to stay, and proceeded to be the only team to miss the grand prize and lose their entire bank.
  • In Britain, The Million Pound Drop was probably worse than Golden Balls about this. The contestants started out with the maximum possible prize of one million dollars, then had to answer a series of seven multiple-choice questions, placing the money on the answers. This, naturally, led to some difficult choices on whether to put everything on one answer or hedge, and if they decided to hedge, how much to hedge. Nerve-wracking enough on its own, but where this trope was literally invoked was in the final question, which had only two choices. Since the contestants were required to leave one choice uncovered, there were two possibilities here, win all the money they still had at that point...or lose it all, thereby completely wasting all their efforts up to that point and rendering any success they had on previous questions moot. This led to one team who lost £525,000 on a tough answer which may has well have been a coin flip, since it was on nearly-30-year-old celebrity gossip.
    • The American version, Million Dollar Money Drop, was even crueler. Not only was the exact same format from the British version used, but the final question is even harder, mostly due to the hint they gave being absolutely worthless. Plus, there were a few questions that rely on false information. Not surprisingly, this show was cancelled after about half a season.
  • On Win Ben Stein's Money, only the finalist gets to keep any cash earned. Contestants who are eliminated have their money returned to Ben's $5,000 pool to potentially be won in later rounds.
  • Exaggerated in the original British version of Grand Slam; not only was the only prize on offer the £50k for winning the sixteen-way tournament... But the contestants had to pay a £1k entry fee to get on the show.
  • The British gameshow Pointless is like a reverse version of Family Fortunes/Feud: pairs of contestants are asked a question with multiple correct answers (like "name a Madonna movie"), and have to find the answers given by the least number out of a hundred people polled before the show. If nobody said an answer, it is Pointless. Each of the first three rounds ends with one of the pairs being eliminated. To win the jackpot, the team that gets through to the final has three chances to find a Pointless answer to the last question. If they can't, the jackpot rolls over to the next show. However, they do get the Pointless trophy.
  • The mid-90s game show Debt turned this on its head, or as host Wink Martindale said, "It's all or nothing, and you want nothing." Three players with real-life debt answered trivia questions in order to be the one that could play to have their debt paid off, and hence, leave with no debt. If you were eliminated in the first two rounds, you won nothing; that is, you still would have all your debt. In a straighter play on the trope (but really Double or Nothing), the final round the contestant could play only if they won the Speed Round was called "Bet Your Debt", in which he or she would answer one question based on some aspect of pop culture they claimed as a specialty. Getting the question right earned the contestant a cash amount equal to their debt. Getting it wrong meant the contestant left with their original debt. (Eliminated players, and those who missed the "Bet Your Debt" question, did receive a United States savings bond.)
  • The Price Is Right uses this trope in several games. While some games that were played allowed contestants to back out take home what they won so far, most of the game required contestants to go for broke and either win or lose everything.
  • Let's Make a Deal: The point of a number of games — usually including a "safety" net option at defined points of the playing. The most common application is a game called "Beat the Dealer", a three-player elimination game that ends with just one of the contestants playing the host for a prize package (usually of cash, a room of furniture and either a trip or car). The contestant who elects to play puts everything won to that point against the house for one final draw of the cards, with the host also selecting a card; if the contestant drew the card that was ranked higher than the host's, he/she won everything, but if the host won out, the contestant lost it all.
  • This is the case in The Chase. Get caught in the final chase, go home with nothing. Unless it's the celebrity edition, in which case they get a very small consolation prize. No idea what happens if you win with a negative amount of money, hasn't happened yet. In one GSN episode, all three contestants were wiped out in the "cash builder" round that precedes the final chase. The Beast offered the three $15,000 to split in the Final Chase, but only one could participate. They chose one player and still lost it all.note 
  • The Bonus Round in Let's Ask America is a one-person Final Jeopardy-style wager for the most part, but gives the winning contestant an incentive to bet it all—if a contestant bets their entire bank, they win five times their bank for a correct answer.
  • On The Cube, every challenge is an all-or-nothing gamble. There are no safety nets, and once you decide to play, you can't back out until either you defeat it or it defeats you. Run out of lives on any game and you leave empty-handed. (Except for celebrities playing for charity, for whom the £1,000 level is a milestone.)
  • The Arabian game show Waznak Dahab used this trope. A single incorrect answer on any question in the main game (regardless of how many questions were answered correctly) resulted in the contestant leaving with nothing. To alleviate this problem, the contestant could use a maximum of five "gold cards", which could be used to either switch the question (before locking in an answer) or to install a safety net (after locking in an answer); however, he or she was not allowed to walk away on any question.
  • Sale of the Century: During the "Winner's Board" era of the American version (late 1984-late 1987 on the daytime version, late 1985-1986 on the syndicated series), contestants who "cleared" the board of all 10 prizes — a car, cash prizes of $3,000 and $10,000 and various other prizes — was given an "all-or-nothing" option. That played thusly: You could return for one final show and try to win a $50,000 cash prize, but to do so, you put all 10 of those endgame prizes at risk. Lose, and those prizes are forfeited; win, and you reclaim the prizes and get the $50,000 cash. (By the way, prizes and cash won during the main game — including the Fame Game and Instant Bargain — were never at risk.) While some "11th-game" finals were very close and truly suspenseful, no one who took the risk ever lost. (Although at least two episodes posted on various video sharing websites featured a champion losing on his 10th day with only the car left to win from the Winner's Board.)
  • The modus operandi of Food Network game shows or competitions is that one person gets the grand prize and everyone else leaves with nothing except the cooking experience (though that can sometimes be a good enough prize on its own). Examples include Cutthroat Kitchen, Kitchen Casino, Chopped, Guy's Grocery Games, Cupcake Wars, and The Great Food Truck Race. Usually, consolation prizes only come when charity is involved. And even then, there are no guarantees.
    • On Cutthroat Kitchen, each chef is issued $25,000 to use on purchasing sabotages through auctions, so an outcome in which the winner leaves with absolutely nothing is a very real possibility. Though rare, some chefs will spend every last dollar available to avoid receiving something particularly nasty, and less rare, there are chefs who state clearly that they don't care about the money at all, only the win.note 
  • The Pawn Stars spinoff game show Pawnography operates on this principle. In the final round, the leading contestant and the team of Rick, Corey, and Chumlee are asked the same ten questions within a sixty second time limit, with both the contestant and the Pawn Stars not knowing if they have gotten any question right or wrong. Before host Christopher Titus reveals the final scores, Rick gives the contestant the opportunity to negotiate an offer to walk away from the game. If the contestant refuses Rick's final offer and either ties or outscore the Pawn Stars, the contestant wins the cash and prizes they have accumulated; however, if the Pawn Stars win, then the contestant loses everything.
  • Wheel of Fortune:
    • For the Mystery Round, if the contestant(s) chooses to flip a mystery wedge, they have a 50/50 shot of either earning a $10,000 cash prizenote  or losing everything to a Bankrupt. In the Mystery Round's early days, then-announcer Charlie O'Donnell explicitly said the Mystery Round was "All or Nothing".
    • For the Express Round, if the contestant(s) choose to play the Express, their turn effectively becomes a solo "Risk vs. Reward" Speed Round with consonants earning $1,000 per occurrence and vowels still deducting $250 as normal. Express play continues until the contestant(s) either successfully solves the puzzle or makes a mistake of any type (calling a letter not in the puzzle, calling a used letter, taking too long to call a letter, or solving the puzzle incorrectly), with the latter having the same effect as landing on Bankrupt.
  • If all three members of a team are eliminated on BOOM!, they leave with nothing; however, if they reach the Mega Money Bomb and attempt it unsuccessfully, they still leave with half their winnings.
  • Seven Keys, a daytime ABC quizzer from 1961-1964 (with an additional local run on KTLA-TV), where the objective was to reach the end of a 70-space Snakes and Ladders-type game board within 15 turns. Winning each game earned the contestant a key, which could win the contestant either a prize worth from about $100 to around $1,000, or a grand prize tailor made for the contestant. After each victory, host Jack Narz asked the contestant if he wanted to retire with all keys collected to that point; or continue on to collect up to seven keys, which automatically won the grand prize ... the caveat being all keys collected, and additionally an opportunity to win the grand prize, were at risk. If the contestant decided to retire before his seventh win, he/she and Narz used the collected keys to determine which prizes — including the grand prize, if the key corresponding to that space was collected; additionally, if none of the contestant's keys unlocked the grand prize window, Narz showed which key fit. However, if the contestant failed to reach the end of the game board at any time, he/she lost all keys collected and forfeited the opportunity to win the grand prize.
  • Eggheads is a British quiz show in which teams of five (the Challengers) attempt to defeat the Eggheads, a team of television quiz champions. The first few rounds pit one Challenger against one Egghead on a specific topic, with whoever gets the most questions right out of three (or who wins on Sudden Death) going through to the final (General Knowledge) round. If the Challengers win the final round, they get the prize money; if not, the money rolls over to the next show.
  • The final round of Celebrity Sweepstakes (NBC, 1974-76) affected this.
  • In Jeopardy!, the true Daily Double and going all-in for Final Jeopardy. Giving a correct response means that the contestant doubles their score whereas a wrong response erases their entire score. It is possible to recover from a botched true Daily Double if it was done in the Jeopardy round or early in Double Jeopardy.
  • The British quiz show Bridge of Lies requires contestants to cross a diamond-shaped floor (the titular Bridge) by stepping on correct answers (Truths) while avoiding incorrect answers (Lies). Anyone who steps on three Lies is eliminated, though they can be saved if their team-mates press the Panic Button before that contestant steps on a third Lie, or bought back for the final round; both options are only available once per game.note  Those who've made it to the final round must try to cross the Bridge one last time in an attempt to win whatever prize money the team have accumulated, but this time anyone who steps on a Lie is instantly eliminated, and if no-one makes it across the Bridge, the team go home with nothing.

  • "All or Nothing" was a hit single by The Small Faces that conveyed the idea of the trope in the form of a Stalker Song - one last throw of the dice and an all-out effort gets me a previously disinterested girl.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Disintegrate spell in Dungeons & Dragons. If the target fails the saving throw, they take a large amount of force damage, which not many enemies have resistance or immunity to. In addition, if this damage is enough to reduce the target's HP to zero, their body disintegrates into a pile of ash, rendering them Deader than Dead and preventing regeneration. However, if the target succeeds on the saving throw, then Disintegrate does nothing at all.
  • The Talent Burst Mechanic in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution. Either an esper gets enough caps to gain a new talent level or they get nothing.

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Unlike Super Mario 64, where losing a race or minigame just leaves Mario without a Power Star (forcing the player to exit and reenter the course to attempt the mission again), Super Mario Sunshine and the Galaxy games makes Mario or Luigi lose a life if they fail to complete the challenge. Super Mario 3D World's Mystery Houses averts this just by kicking Mario and Co. out without penalty if they fail to complete a challenge room in time, keeping any Green Stars collected in the process.
    • Mario Party 3: The Game Guy minigames forces players to hand over all their coins and wager them in Luck Based game that could triple their coins or lose them all instantly.
    • Mario Party Superstars: One of the special modes in Mt. Minigames has three characters attempt to defeat a fourth, solo character in a series of 1-vs.-3 minigames. They must defeat the solo player in all minigames present, which means that losing in just one of them will render the solo player the winner instead.
    • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, this is the name of a Badge. Get a +1 to Attack (which is high for the games, making a normal +3 attack turn into a +4) when an Action Command is performed perfectly, or do no damage at all.
    • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, all the Risk Badge effects are this. Win everything (aka a brilliant and extremely useful reward in battle), or end up absolutely screwed over big time. Like heal everything... or the everyone in the party drops to 1 HP.
  • In Star Wars Episode I: Racer, you can choose one of three ways to distribute prize money, depending on how confident you are at winning. One of the options is "Winner Takes All," which gives a massive amount of cash to the racer who places 1st but nothing for anyone else. Once you finish a series of races and get prize money, however, you can't get any more prize money, making this a real wager.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series such as GTA Vice City, the player will still fail any racing mission at least from the main story arc if they finish in 2nd place.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the name of the final mission in the House questline is titled "All or Nothing" as part of the gambling theme of the game. It's also an All or Nothing situation as it's the final step in House' gambit for complete control of Vegas, where he's putting everything on the line to ensure that his plan succeeds.
  • In Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005), the Blacklist races are exactly this: The loser has to give their car to the winner. This is one of the factors that set the story going in the game. It also works for the amount of races. Normally, a Blacklist challenge involves at least two, and up to five races. If the challenger loses even one, he loses. And the Blacklist member gets to define the races.
  • In Popn Music, the "COOL or BAD!" ojama disables the GREAT and GOOD judgement ranks, turning any hit below a COOL rating into a BAD even if it would have otherwise resulted in a GREAT or a GOOD. Clearing the chart with this ojama results in additional Extra Stage progress.
  • Groove Coaster has the JUST item, which renames the GREAT judgement to JUST and turns anything that would've been a COOL or GOOD into a MISS instead. Unlike the pop'n example above, there is no bonus for using this item; it serves strictly to challenge the player.
  • Splatoon:
    • The ranked modes in all the games are this if one of the teams gets a knockout victory. If you're on said team, you get cash & XP. If you aren't, you get diddly-squat.
    • Splatoon 2 does this again with Splatfest Pro Battles, by giving you clout points equal to your enemy team's power level for a victory, and zero clout points for a defeat.
  • In DanceDanceRevolution, some Encore Extra Stage songs require a Perfect Full Combo. If you so much as get one Great, the game will bring the FAILED shutters down upon you immediately.
  • Guitar Hero and Rock Band don't have "ranks" for timing judgments on the instrument parts, unlike many other rhythm games. You either hit the note and get full credit for it (before multipliers) or you miss it. Averted with vocals, where you are given ranks for each segment, but they're based more on the game judging you being on-pitch.
  • Hatsune Miku Project mirai has the "Do Or Die" item. When used, the game will give you double the Miku Points if you make it to the end of the song without scoring any combo-breaking judgements (SAFE, SAD, WORST, or Miss), and on top of that, any such judgements and it's an instant Game Over.
  • CHUNITHM has ExTap notes, which can only be rated Justice Critical (perfect) or Miss, skipping Attack (great) and Justice (good) entirely. Downplayed, in that this is because the Justice Critical window overrides the Attack and Justice windows; so long as you hit an ExTap at all, you'll get a JC.
  • Some members of the Fantasy Pantheon in Nexus Clash cooperate on various things, with the Good-aligned ones even forming a Council of Angels. However, only one deity gets to shape the world per cycle of the universe, which lends instability to even the best-intentioned of alliances.
  • In HQ, players need to get every question correct to win a piece of the day's prize. Getting even a single question wrong without having an Extra Life handy means that you're out for the rest of the game.
  • Mayhem level 24 in Lemmings is named after this trope. Either you time all three Bashers perfectly and you win, or you mis-time one and all of your lemmings fall into the lava.
  • Escape the Tower of Greed, and you get to keep everything you've collected. Fall, and you're left with nothing.
  • In Shepherd's Crossing the first, you only claim rewards from a hunt if you score more points than your opponent. If you don't beat them in points, it doesn't matter how many points you did claim—you leave with no rewards.
  • In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, once winter hits a player's town, they can attempt to, for 75 days until the snow disappears, construct a Snowboy out of snowballs that appear in the town. Only one Snowboy can be made per day and only perfectly-made Snowboys will give exclusive rewards to the player- any other size gives nothing, even "So close!"
  • The Undead factions in the Total War: Warhammer franchise fight like this. Other factions' units will break and run away if they are losing badly, fleeing off the battlefield entirely if the battle itself seems hopeless. This loses the battle but does allow for survivors. The Vampire Counts, Vampire Coast and Tomb Kings factions are Fearless Undead so won't run but are only kept animate by magic that degrades if they take too much damage, causing undead units to suffer Critical Existence Failure and collapse back into the corpses they were. As such once an undead army enters a battle they're either going to win or every single one of them is dying (again).

    Real Life 
  • This is the whole idea behind the gambit of "double or nothing" in gambling. Some types of gambling games let you put everything on the line, allowing you to either double your winnings or walk away with nothing.
  • The X-Games has an event called "step up" (essentially a motorcycle high jump). It's the only event with only a gold medal, nothing for 2nd or 3rd. In fairness, has only a few competitors, so 3rd isn't much of an accomplishment.
  • Richard Nixon believed that "In the Olympics, second gets you the silver medal, in politics it gets you oblivion". This explains a lot. On the other hand, in the original U.S. Constitution, the Vice Presidency was the consolation prize for the runner-up — that idea was scrapped after the first couple of elections following George Washington retiring from the presidency kept putting political rivals as President and Vice President who had zero interest in cooperating on anything (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1796, Jefferson and Aaron Burr in 1800), and especially after the 1800 election needed 37 attempts at selecting a President by the House of Representatives to pick one.
  • Scantron tests or any multiple choice questions in general. You'll either get it right (by knowledge or making a educated/lucky guess) or get it wrong. This is also true for just about any computer-graded standardized test that requires you to fill in bubbles for answers (e.g., the SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, GMAT...). While multiple-choice tests are easier to grade and generally require less effort per question than written-response questions, if you get a question wrong then any effort you put into answering it doesn't mean anything.
    • Some versions are even worse (e.g. the SAT). In those, getting a question right gets you 1 right answer. Leaving it blank gets you 0 right answers. Getting it wrong gives you -0.25 right answers, the point being to nullify random guessing, since on average you'll get 1 of 5 of those correct, leaving you with 1-4×0.25=0, or the same thing you'd have gotten if you just left them blank. The guessing penalty is often inversely proportional to how many choices there are; for example, getting a question with two answer choices (usually true/false questions) wrong will take away half a point.
  • The idiom "Hollywood or bust" refers to the practice of going for broke and either succeeding beyond one's wildest dreams, or winding up destitute. In Australia, there is a similar concept of "Sydney or the bush".
    • EON Productions' name stands for "Everything Or Nothing: producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were willing to risk it all to make James Bond a successful film franchise.
    • "O'Hare trades" on the Chicago Board of Exchange, after the main airport in the city, refer to very high risk position taken by a trader using borrowed money that will either return something huge or get nothing (and thus leave the trader at a huge net loss because he has to repay the loan). Either way, the guy's going to be heading to O'Hare (either to go on a long vacation from his huge payoff, or to get the hell out of town in disgrace).
  • Certain college classes can fall under the trope if the teacher weighs a grade heavily on something like a test, which means you either better get the material right and pass, or you risk failing the entire class.
    • Similarly, some classes don't give a standard grade (numerical or letter) and simply have a pass or fail grade.
  • On Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding sites, by default a project will only take its backers' money if it reaches its funding target; if the target is not met, it receives zero funds; this is so that backers won't end up wasting their money on a project if it fails to meet its target. Some services, such as Indiegogo, provide an option to give a project "flexible funding", which allows the project to receive funds even if the target is not met; however, the site may charge a higher percentage if the campaign fails to reach its target.
  • Job hunting can be like this, especially when multiple candidates are vying for a single opening.

Fictional Examples:

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Transformers (2019): From the very start of the series it's made clear that Senator Megatron has been planning his seizure of power for quite some time, from making use of the popularity of his mentor Termagax to making Rousing Speech after speech haranguing the incumbent Autobot-led government, all to boost the popularity and appeal of his Ascenticon political party. He also secretly commands the Rise, a violent "offshoot" of the Ascenticons that stir up trouble to further undermine the government. When things go disastrously wrong and he's forced to launch the coup earlier than he wanted, he silences Jhiaxus when his fellow senator complains about being ordered around like a lackey by pointing out that if they're now committed and that if the coup doesn't succeed, their fate would be eternal imprisonment.
    • While his coup succeeds, the death of Autobot leader Sentinel Prime undermines his new government and calls for unity under his leadership. He concludes that he needs to slay his old friend Orion Pax, who has taken charge of the Autobots after Sentinel's death, in order to put an end to unified resistance. When he learns that Orion, now Optimus Prime, has evacuated the city with everyone who would follow him, an enraged Megatron roars that until Optimus is dead, they haven't really won.
    Megatron: We have won much, but we have not won all which means we have won nothing!

    Live Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who two-parter "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways" featured the logical extreme of this trope: the losers of the contest didn't just go away with nothing, their genetic material was filleted and pulped to make them into Daleks. In the same episode, the Doctor could have, with the delta wave, either killed all of the creatures nearby, Daleks and humans, on the Game Station and on Earth, or he could have let them all live.
  • In the Sesame Street game show sketch "The Crying Game Show" with Sonny Friendly, the grand prize was Sonny Friendly's owned teddy bear. But host Sonny Friendly decides to cry the hardest and thus, he wins the game. And leaves all three contestants sobbing after the announcer blurted that there are no consolation prizes.

  • The end of the Wheel of Fish scene from UHF has the prize box which reveals to be so empty. And Kuni and the audience told the female contestant that she is stupid.
  • The end of the Laurel and Hardy final film: Robinson Cruesoeland (AKA Atoll K or Utopia). The bad man disqualified their island ownership and took all of Stan and Ollie's personal belongings (Because of their paying failure). And leaves poor Stan and Ollie stranded in the deserted island. Oliver says sadly "Well, Here's Another Nice Mess You've Gotten Me Into!" and Stan whines "But I couldn't help it! You always pick on me!" Stan sobs loudly as the screen zooms out and the cuckoo song plays.
  • The end of the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Although Charlie has won Mr. Wonka's contest by default (since the other children all "dropped out"), Mr. Wonka disqualifies him on a technicality, delivering the news rather bluntly and cruelly. However, he subverts it a moment later by revealing that it is one last Secret Test of Character, which Charlie passes. The other children in this film leave with nothing other than the Amusing Injuries they'd brought upon themselves (and a lifetime supply of chocolate). (This is different than the book. Then again, the book or the The 2005 Johnny Depp/Tim Burton movie didn't have that contract.)
    • This may be one of the reasons why Roald Dahl (The author of the original 1964 book) hated the movie because of that.
  • In the movie The Running Man, contestants, who are criminals, on the Show Within a Show will either win their freedom, a large sum of money, and a long vacation somewhere tropical, or else die. This Brings new meaning to "all or nothing." And the people running the game cheat; thus, no one ever wins.
  • In Let It Ride, every bet Jay Trotter makes at the racetrack ends up being this, in that he bets his all of his money, and he always ends up betting on the long shot. But he ends up winning every time he bets.
  • The terms of the will in Brewster's Millions (1985) give Monty Brewster the chance to either walk away with $1 million or accept an all-or-nothing challenge: spend $30 million in 30 days to inherit $300 million. If he fails, he gets nothing at all and has to forfeit any unspent money.
  • At the conclusion of Smokey and the Bandit, Bandit and his crew win the bet to deliver a truckload of Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta to Big and Little Enos. When it comes to collecting the money, the Enoses elect to go double or nothing: Boston and back with some clam chowder in 20 hours. Bandit takes them up on it.

  • Montgomery Brewster, the title character of Brewster's Millions, finds himself in an all-or-nothing challenge after his grandfather and uncle die. He inherits $1 million from his grandfather, but his uncle's will requires him to spend all of it within one year in order to inherit $7 million from the uncle. If Brewster accepts the challenge and fails, he inherits nothing and has to give up the unspent money.
  • The Hunger Games offers a particularly brutal example- one victor gets fabulous wealth and national fame. Each and every one of the other 23 contestants dies.
  • The one hundred teenage boys of the Stephen King short story The Long Walk must walk without stopping until only one is left standing. The winner gets the Prize - anything he wants for the rest of his life. The other 99 are killed.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "I Lost On Jeopardy!"; although the song is poking fun at the idea of Consolation Prizes, it does so by invoking this trope, just as Jeopardy! itself did.
  • Also parodied in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl: "Well, nobody leaves this show empty-handed... so we're going to cut off his hands."

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons featured the comedic fictional take, when Marge went on Jeopardy! and finished in the red. She ran away from Trebek's thugs demanding that she pay up, though.
    Thug: She ain't gettin' the home version.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: "When [Skipper] said all or nothing, he really meant all."
  • Metalocalypse featured one of the most extreme takes on this of all time: either your celebrity partner gets the question right, or you get killed with the cash you would've won.