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Progressive Jackpot

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"Tomorrow, we'll add ANOTHER $1,000 to that check, bringing the total to $47,000."
Geoff Edwards, Treasure Hunt

Trope appearing in Game Shows and other contests in which every time the game's grand prize isn't won, something (usually cash, prizes or a mix of both) is added to it until it is hit, at which point it resets to its original value. Its use on game shows is largely limited to programs with returning champions, although there are exceptions. It also doesn't necessarily need to be the grand prize; it can be limited to being hit via a Bonus Space, an Instant-Win Condition of some kind, or for multi-time champions (often on shows with a five-game or five-day limit).

Game Show Examples:

  • All-Star Blitz: The jackpot for the Blitz Bonanza started at $10,000, and increased by $5,000 every time it wasn't won or until reaching $25,000; this was later modified to increase by $2,500 and cap at $20,000.
  • Battlestars: In the show's second run (The New Battlestars), the "Battlestars Bonanza" started at $5,000 plus two prizes, with two more prizes added each time it wasn't won.
  • Beat the Clock: The "Bonus Stunt" and "Super Bonus Stunt" on the Collyer version. The Super Bonus reached $64,000 before being claimed (on the last show before it would've been donated to charity due to a sponsor change, no less), and the daytime jackpot went unclaimed until reaching $20,100.
    • To note, the $20,100 was won during the ABC era, where the jackpot started at $100 and increased by that much until won. This meant that it took over 200 days for it to be claimed.
  • Blockbusters: The prize for winning the Gold Run on the Rafferty version was $5,000, like the Cullen version; partway through the run, they would start adding another $5,000 to the jackpot after every failed attempt, but this was reset when the previous champion was defeated.
  • Break the Bank (1976): On the ABC version, the Bank started at $5,000 and went up $500 (later $250) each game until won. (The syndicated version didn't use this, as syndication practices of the era made this trope unsustainable.)
  • On Break the Bank (1985), the Bank began at $20,000 and increased a bit each day until won. The highest it got was $53,323, won in 1986.
  • Caesar's Challenge: The "Lucky Slot", used in the main game; solving the puzzle immediately upon placing a letter into that slot added an "Instant Jackpot" to your score. This started at $500 each day, increasing by that amount for every word in which it wasn't won.
  • Chain Reaction: The USA Network/Canadian version (1986-91) awarded $3,000 for winning the bonus round plus $1,000 for every day it wasn't won; this was dropped to $2,000 in 1988 and the switch to solo players.
  • The Challengers: The "Ultimate Challenge" jackpot was initially $50,000 plus $5,000 for every time it went unclaimed, then got progressively cheapened throughout the series.
  • Classic Concentration: Partway into the run, the second game of every show had a "Cashpot" on the rebus board, worth $500 + $100 each day it wasn't won. To claim it, a contestant had to solve the rebus with the Cashpot credited to him/her.
  • Deal or No Deal didn't have a progressive jackpot in the normal sense. However, during the "Million Dollar Mission," an additional million dollar case was added (replacing the highest valued non-million case) every time someone didn't win the million dollars, increasing the odds that the next player's case would contain one million dollars. Once someone got the million, the cases would be reset.
  • Duel: In the UK version, the jackpot started at £100,000 and increased by £1,000 for every poker chip that was placed on a wrong answer until someone won four duels in a row. This rule did not apply to the bonus round. On the American version, a similar rule was used for its first season, although the jackpot started at $20,000 and increased by $5,000 for every chip that was placed on a wrong answer until the winner of the tournament was crowned. The final value of the jackpot was $1,720,000.
  • Eggheads: The jackpot starts at £1,000. If the challengers lose, the jackpot increases by £1,000. If they win, it reverts to £1,000 for the next episode.
  • Family Feud: Established during Tournaments of Champions, money won during successful Fast Money attempts is added to the pot.
  • Gambit: If either couple got 21, they won a jackpot that started at $500 and went up $500 per day ($500 per match on Las Vegas).
    • When Las Vegas (1980-81) began using the High Rollers end game, the bonus prize package was the "Gambit Galaxy"; these packages typically began at $2,000 to $3,000 and increased until won.
  • Greed: Originally, the $2,000,000 grand prize increased by $50,000 for every game in which it wasn't won. When the show became Greed: The Series, the jackpot stayed at a flat $2,000,000.
  • High Rollers: During the front game of the 1978-80 NBC version, each of the three columns began with one prize. Up to four more prizes per column, one per round, were added if a particular column of prizes went unclaimed in a round — that is, the contestant didn't clear a column and win the round. Once a column had five prizes, the prize package froze until claimed. This situation often led to the columns having different numbers of prizes — for instance, one column might have just one prize, while another may have two and the other four. More than once, all three columns had five prizes each that carried over to the next game (and more than once, a contestant claimed all three "full" columns in a single game).
  • The Hollywood Squares: The Secret Square, at least on the NBC daytime and 1998-2004 syndicated runs.
    • NBC daytime: the jackpot (of merchandise prizes) started at $1,000 (later $2,000 by 1970, and $3,500 to $4,500 by the late 1970s) and rose by somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 (during the early years) to somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 (in the late 1970s) for each day that it wasn't won. It wasn't uncommon for Secret Squares to reach $20,000, and at least one such jackpot reached $35,000 before being won. At one point, if a five-time champion retired, they would be awarded any unwon Secret Square prizes in addition to the normal prizes.
    • Bergeron: started an accruing "Secret Square Stash" during Season 2, usually with a trip or gift card, and added a prize each day until claimed. The highest Secret Square was valued at around $50,700. Due to budget cuts, it was removed in the final season.
  • Hot Potato: The jackpot started at $5,000 and increased by that amount until it was won or new champions were crowned.
    • There was also the 7-Straight Jackpot, which began at $500 and increased by that amount for each match it wasn't won.
  • Jackpot: The entire point. Contestants built the Jackpot based on the dollar amounts of the riddles (questions for the last 13 weeks of the 1974-75 original) selected; answering the Jackpot Riddle/Question correctly won it.
  • The Joker's Wild: Several over the course of the run.
    • The original "Joker's Jackpot" was used during the first year of the 1972-75 CBS run. A cash bonus was awarded to a three-time champion, with the jackpot starting at $2,500 and increasing through defeated champions' cash winnings (usually $500-$1,000 per "deposit").
    • Sometime during the latter years of the original syndicated run, a "Natural Triple Jackpot" was instituted, starting with a prize worth about $1,000 and increasing by anywhere from $300 to $1,000 until claimed.
    • The 1990 version brought back the Joker's Jackpot, claimed if someone spun three Jokers in the bonus round; this got as high as $36,000 at one point.
  • The Last Word: The "60-Second Challenge" endgame offered a jackpot that started with a single prize (typically worth between $3,000-$5,000) and had another one added to it for each unsuccessful attempt, at one point reaching $46,500 before it was won.
  • Lingo: The last two seasons of the Woolery era offered one for making a Lingo on the first draw in Bonus Lingo, which started at $10,000 and increased by $1,000 every day it wasn't won.
  • Now You See It: During the Narz run (1974-75), a Solo Round win was worth $5,000 plus $1,000 for every game it wasn't won; the Henry version (1989) offered $5,000 plus another $5,000 for every day it wasn't won, eventually reaching $50,000 before being won.
  • Password: From 1981-89, Alphabetics/Super Password was worth $5,000 plus that amount for every game it wasn't won. The former had a cap of $50,000 which was never reached (the highest was $35,000), while the latter seemingly had no cap but never got higher than $55,000 (achieved twice).
    • Super also had a Ca$hword which started at $1,000 and went up by that amount until it was won (the highest it reached was $12,000).
  • Play the Percentages: Different, depending on the week and sometimes the day the show was aired (it went through a lot of format changes).
  • Pointless: Adds £1,000 to the jackpot for every show it isn't won, and £250 for every answer worth zero.
  • Pyramid: $20,000 had a weird setup — your first trip to the Winner's Circle was worth $10,000, your second $15,000, and every attempt thereafter $20,000. Since you were retired if you lost in the maingame or won in the Winner's Circle, the only way to win the top prize was to lose the bonus round twice, whether accidentally or on purpose, before eventually winning it.
    • The 2012 revival on GSN (simply referred to as The Pyramid) based what you would play for in the Winner's Circle on your front game score. With every 7 points, $5,000 would be added to the $10,000 base- get a score of 21, you'd be playing for $25,000.
  • Saber y Ganar: Its last game, "La parte por el todo", gets a €300 increase every day it isn't solved, starting in €500 and going to a cap of €2,000. The weekend edition collects all the money lost by the contestants during the two days and adds it to the final prize, which is carried over to the following weekend if nobody wins the last game, "El minuto de oro".
  • Sale of the Century: The cash jackpot in the "shopping" endgame, and later the "Instant Cash" segment, both of which increased by $1,000 per day. On the Australian version, the Cash Jackpot increased by $2,000 per night.
    • The American Temptation had its Instant Cash begin at $500 and increase by that amount every day it wasn't won until capping at $5,000.
  • Schlag den Raab: The jackpot starts at €500,000 and the first person (be it the contestant or Stefan) to reach a total of 61 points or more will either win the jackpot and revert it to €500,000 for the next episode (if the contestant wins) or roll it over by another €500,000 (if Stefan wins). The biggest jackpot won by far was €3,500,000, and there have been some occasions in which a contestant won the starting value.
  • Scrabble: When the Bonus Sprint was added, it was originally worth $5,000 plus $1,000 for every day it wasn't won. When the show came back in 1993, it began at $1,000 and the only way to add to it was solving the puzzle immediately after hitting a bonus square (money here formerly went straight to the contestant).
  • Split Second (1972): On the Kennedy version (1972-75), winning a car also won a jackpot that started at $1,000 and increased by $500 (originally $200) every day it wasn't won.
  • Talkabout: Winning five games in a row also won a team the "Grand Game" jackpot.
  • Treasure Hunt: Instead of a flat $25,000, finding the check in the 1981-82 revival was worth a growing jackpot that started at $20,000 and increased by $1,000 for every day it wasn't won until hitting $50,000, at which point it "froze" until someone claimed it. For a short time, the jackpot stayed at $20,000 after a contestant found the check on the fourth episode.
  • Truth or Consequences: The "Mrs. Hush" contest, a March of Dimes fundraiser during the show's radio days, was possibly the trope originator. Basically, for every week a mysterious actress went unidentified (the clues for which were at first vague but later became more and more narrow), more prizes were added until someone guessed the correct answer. Go to this page for the further lowdown.
  • Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck had the Big Bank in its second season. It started at $3,000 cash, and every time a player hit a Whammy, all of their cash and prizes were added to it. In order to claim the jackpot, a player had to hit the Big Bank space, then answer a question correctly.
  • Wheel of Fortune: Two, interestingly.
    • The daytime version had a conventional Jackpot wedge from 1986 to 1988, which started at $1,000 and increased by $1,000 each day until won; this one just had to be hit. The highest this seems to have gotten is $22,000 in November 1987, although a $21,000 win also happened earlier that year.
    • From 1996 to 2013, the Jackpot wedge, which started at $5,000 and had the value of each spin added to it. To claim it, the contestant had to hit the Jackpot wedge, call a correct letter, and solve the puzzle right then.
    • To a lesser extent, starting in Season 32, the lowest envelope value on the Bonus wheel (previously $30,000) was changed to $32,000 because this was their 32nd season, and that value will apparently increase by $1,000 every season from now on.
    • In the 2008 series in Australia (titled Million-Dollar Wheel of Fortune), another $200,000 space would be added to the bonus wheel every show until someone claimed the prize.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: Having suffered a long drought of no million-dollar winners, the ABC version eventually started adding $10,000 to the grand prize every time it wasn't won, including the 71 days between the last million-dollar winner and the date the jackpot was first offered. It went up to $2,180,000 before it was finally won.
  • Wordplay: Winning the Double Definition Bonus Round was worth $5,000 plus $2,500 for every day it wasn't won.
  • You Bet Your Life: From 1947 to 1956, the bonus question's value began at $1,000 and increased by $500 each time it wasn't won; the highest the jackpot ever got was $6,000. (Interestingly, the last jackpot was $1,500, which was lost. On the next show, which began the 1956-57 season, the format was overhauled and the bonus became a flat $2,000.)

Game Show Subversions:

Some shows, instead of increasing the jackpot, gave a returning champion some sort of an advantage if s/he made it to the Bonus Round again. This most commonly took place if the prize in said bonus round was non-monetary (most often a car).
  • Caesars Challenge: During the first format, returning champs received another placed letter in the bonus word for each day they were on.
  • Classic Concentration: The base bonus round time was 35 seconds; every time the car wasn't won, five seconds were added to this until the car was won (the highest the timer got was 75 seconds).note 
  • Dream House: In the Eubanks bonus round (1983-84), for each day the champions were on the show (starting with the second day), a digit that wasn't in the three-digit combination of the electronic lock (that would open the "Golden Doors" to the grand prize) was removed. (For example, a three-day champion couple would have two digits removed at the outset).
  • Hollywood Squares: On the first two seasons of the Davidson version (1986-89), a returning champion's odds of winning the car increased by one, since the car(s) picked on previous shows were eliminated.
    • From 2002 to 2004 (the "9 Keys" era), one "bad" key was eliminated for each star captured (by agreeing/disagreeing correctly about a fact concerning that particular star) in the first half of the bonus game. In the first season with this format, one additional "bad" key was eliminated for each subsequent attempt (1 for the second attempt, 2 for the third attempt, 3 for the fourth attempt, 4 for the fifth — and final — attempt) at the same prize (Car, $25K, Trip Around the World, $50K).
  • The Magnificent Marble Machine: The target score started at 15,000 points, and was reduced by 1,000 points for every day it wasn't reached.
  • Split Second: In both the Kennedy and Hall versions, the odds of winning the car increased with every victory by the returning champ.
  • Sale of the Century: The original format had a champion being able to buy one of the prizes on the floor, in which case s/he retired with the prize, or risk not getting a floor prize for a chance to get more money to buy a better prize tomorrow. Champions could buy only the biggest prize they could afford, or try to accumulate enough money to buy all the prizes.

Other Examples:


  • Sword Art Online has such a game featured during the Gun Gale arc. Kirito needs money as a newcomer and so attempts a running-gauntlet 'shooter' game, which no one has been able to get past because the gunner gets quick-draw fast two-thirds of the way. However, because Kirito's reflexes are top-notch - and he predicts the "prediction lines" as well - he manages to win, to everyone's shock.


  • High Speed has a progressive jackpot that builds across games.
  • Spelling ELVIRA in Elvira and the Party Monsters lights a three-million point shot; the letters carry over across players and games. It also has a more standard progressive jackpot that is gotten by shooting both ramps during multiball.
  • A variation in Dr. Dude: The Gazillion Jackpot is only lit when the Dude-O-Meter reaches "Super Dude". The meter itself is progressive from player to player and game to game.
  • The Party Zone has the Big Bang jackpot.
  • Gottlieb's Super Mario Bros. has a variation, where the number of Bowser's castles destroyed is carried over from one game to the next. This means a player could start a game with all but one of the castles already destroyed, then get the last one and take the glory for getting them all.
  • Taxi has a jackpot that's lit and possibly collected after picking up 5 customers, but it has to be done in one ball (unless you have carry passengers lit).
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a downplayed version of this. There is a progressive jackpot that carries over between players in a multi-player game, but it resets to its base value at the start of each new game. It can be multiplied during multiball.
  • Played with in Capcom's Breakshot; the jackpots in Ball-O-Rama and Breakshot Frenzy are constantly rising unless no switches close for seven seconds, in which case they will freeze until a switch closure is detected.
  • The Vacation Jackpot from White Water.
  • F-14 Tomcat has one of these.
  • Spelling T-U-R-T-L-E-S in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Data East), which starts the Turtle Millions round.
  • Hurricane has the Palace Jackpot, which carries over until someone claims it. Also the clown lights (which start Clown Time frenzy) carry over from player to player.
  • In AC/DC, the Encore Jackpot carries over between games.
  • Monopoly has the Free Parking Jackpot, which starts at 100,000 points, grows by 5,000 (or sometimes more in certain game modes) each time the target is hit in normal gameplay, is carried over from game to game, and is only obtainable when you start Free Parking Multiball (which is fairly rare- only either via Chance card, or by landing on Free Parking after a Roll & Collect).
  • Popeye Saves the Earth: Defeating Bluto in Olive Multiball awards Olive's Dowry, which is carried over from game-to-game.
  • Last Action Hero has "Second Cousin Frank's," which is awarded by making a Combo of two consecutive ramp shots followed by the center scoop.
  • The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot has a jackpot that increases with successful ramp, loop and spinner shots, up to a maximum of 9 million points.

Professional Wrestling

  • Used in Kayfabe, to heighten interest in a feud or a possible feud (that would always come to pass):
    • Sgt. Slaughter and his "Cobra Clutch Challenge," which began in 1981 with a cash payout (initially an unstated amount, but later said to have increased to $5,000 and then later to $10,000).note  This was a set-up for a feud with Pat Patterson, then a color commentator on the WWF's syndicated programs. When the jackpot was at $10,000, Patterson attempted the challenge and was about to break out of the cobra clutch (to claim the money) when Slaughter released the hold, initiated a brutal attack and sparked one of the top feuds of the early 1980s.
    • Big John Studd's "Bodyslam Challenge" in the WWF, which began in December 1982 at $500. Initially, fans were encouraged to try their luck, but as the weeks passed and nobody succeeded, the ante began to be increased ... first to $3,000 and later $5,000 as several of the face wrestlers attempted to collect. By February 1983 and there still was no winner, the payoff was $10,000 ... and then the real payoff: Andrι the Giant and the start of one of the WWF's longest-running feuds to that time. Incidentally, Andre didn't collect during his "Bodyslam Challenge" attempt (Studd's manager, Fred Blassie, foolishly attempted to attack Andre, allowing Studd to escape being slammed), but Andre would collect on multiple occasions over the next several years.

Video Games

  • In Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, clearing the Bonus Stages at the end of each level adds points to a jackpot that can be cashed in once you defeat Dr. Robotnik on the final level for a huge end-of-game score.

Real Life

  • Pretty much any arcade game that awards tickets has a jackpot available for completing some extreme in-game task.
  • The majority of lotteries are built around these, as are a large number of casino games.
  • Bingo competitions. Especially so for a "blackout" game, often the final game of a session that offers the largest cash prize of any of the games, where players must cover all 24 spaces (not counting the free space) on their card to win. Here, the jackpot will begin at a base level and awarded if Bingo is called within an announced number of draws. The trope kicks in in two ways if Bingo is not called within the set number of draws: 1. The cash jackpot will increase for the next announced session (a consolation prize, often still the largest of the evening, is still given when Bingo is called); and 2. The number of draws needed to award the prize increases by one, to give a better chance at winning next time.