Card Sharks was an NBC network game show created by Chester Feldman for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions which was based on the card game, "Acey Deucy".
The show originally aired on NBC from April 24, 1978 to October 23, 1981 & was presented by Jim Perry.
A revival of the show aired on CBS from January 6, 1986 to March 31, 1989 with Bob Eubanks presenting. A syndicated version of the show aired from 1986 to 1987 with Bill Rafferty hosting and a third version of the show aired in syndication from September 17, 2001 to January 11, 2002 with Pat Bullard hosting.
Two contestants, one of which was typically the returning champion, were assigned an oversized deck of 52 playing cards and were dealt the first five cards for their row.
The champion (or champion-designate if there were two new contestants) played the red cards on top while the challenger played the blue cards on the bottom. Each contestant's row of cards had a bracket atop it with their name on it, which was used to mark their "base cards."
In the NBC version, the brackets moved electronically, while the CBS and syndicated versions had a dealer or even the host move the brackets manually.
Contestants alternated responding to questions starting with the champion to gain control of the cards. Survey questions were posed to groups of 100 people, all of whom were typically in a common demographic group (e.g., of the same profession, all male, all over the age of 50, etc.).
Contestants were asked to predict how many of those 100 people responded in a specific manner. Their opponent was then asked whether he or she thought the actual number was higher or lower than the previous contestant's response.
The actual number was then revealed, and if the opponent was correct, they played their cards first; otherwise, the contestant to whom the question was posed played first. In the 1980–1981 season, a $500 bonus was awarded to any contestant who provided the exact number of people responding to a specific question.
The CBS and syndicated versions from 1986 to 1989 featured two new varieties of questions in addition to the traditional survey questions: Beginning in July 1986, the audience poll was a question asked of a group of studio audience members (usually 10 members) selected for a shared characteristic such as gender or occupation.
If a contestant guessed the exact number of audience members who made a certain response to one of these questions, he or she won a $100 bonus and the poll group was given $100 to share. The same poll group was used for a week's worth of episodes.
Introduced in October 1986, the educated guess questions were general knowledge trivia questions which had numerical answers.
Exact guesses won a $500 bonus for the contestant. Guesses and responses were originally registered on the displays; this later changed to the guesses and responses superimposed on the displays, as they could be more than 99, which was the highest number the displays could register.
Playing the Cards
The contestant in control was shown the first card in the row of five, the so-called "base card," and could either keep it or replace it with the next card off the top of the deck, which he or she was then required to play.
The contestant then guessed whether the next card in the row was higher or lower, and continued to do so as long as he or she guessed correctly. If two duplicate cards appeared (e.g., two consecutive Aces) or the contestant made an incorrect guess, that contestant lost control and whatever cards they had played were discarded and replaced. The opposing contestant then had a chance to play from his or her base card, but without the opportunity to exchange first.
Either contestant could also elect to "freeze" their position if they were unsure of the next card; this would both prevent the opponent from playing and reset the contestant's base card to the frozen card and whatever cards that were turned in that instance were not discarded. In the final few months of the NBC Card Sharks, if a contestant was able to complete their row without freezing, he or she won a $500 bonus. None of the revivals kept this bonus.
If neither contestant had guessed all the cards in his or her row correctly, or if one had frozen his or her position, play continued with another toss-up question.
The first two rounds consisted of a maximum of four questions each (changed from four questions to three briefly in the Rafferty run), and the third tie-breaker round contained a maximum of three questions (briefly changed to two on the Rafferty version). If the contestants still had not cleared their row of cards prior to the last question of the round, that question was played as "sudden death."
The winner of the sudden death question could either play their cards and change their base card if they desired or pass to their opponent, who had to play without changing. If either contestant guessed incorrectly, their opponent automatically won the game.
The 1970s and 1980s Card Sharks matches were best two-out-of-three, with the third match being played with three cards per contestant and three high-low questions until 1988, when it was replaced with a tiebreaker round which consisted of a single sudden death question.
The controlling contestant was shown both base cards before being given the option to play the cards and change their base card if desired or pass to the opponent, who had to play without changing. As before, if either contestant guessed incorrectly, their opponent automatically won the match.
On the 1970s and 1980s network editions of "Card Sharks" and for the first four weeks of the 1986 syndicated series, each game win was worth $100 for the contestants, with the first player to win two games winning the match and playing the Money Cards bonus round.
Beginning on September 29, 1986, and continuing for the remainder of the syndicated series, a series of cards with prizes and cash amounts on them were shuffled into each player's deck.
Once one of these cards was revealed, the prize would be placed in a holding area at the end of the game board and the player in control played the next card off the top of the deck. The player who won the match received all the prizes on his or her side of the board, if there were any, and advanced to play the Money Cards. However, game wins no longer paid money.
The winner of the main game played the Money Cards bonus game for a chance to win additional money. The Money Cards board consisted of a series of eight cards (seven in 2001) on three levels. On the 1970s Card Sharks, a contestant was able to change the base card on each of the three levels (originally only the base card at the beginning of the game).
The 1980s series gave the contestant a choice of three pre-dealt cards to use for changes. Contestants were originally allowed to change cards at will (even three times on one card), but the rules were changed to one card per line in early 1986. The 2001 series used the same rules from the 1970s series.
Each contestant playing the Money Cards was staked with money before the round began and would use that money to wager with as they attempted to correctly call their cards. A minimum bet of $50 ($100 for the 2001 series) was required for the cards on the first two rows. When the contestant managed to finish the first row, the last card was moved up to the next row and more money was added to his/her bank. On the original series, the stake was $200 to start and another $200 was given for advancing to the second row.
The 1980s series staked the contestant $200 to start and added $400 for advancing to the second row.
In the 2001 series, the $2,100 the winning player earned in the main game was used as the stake money for the Money Cards and divided by three; this meant that he/she was staked $700 to start and that amount was added to his/her stake for each row including the top row.
If the contestant cleared both rows, the last card was moved to the top line for the Big Bet ("Major Wager" in 2001) and he/she had to bet at least half of the remaining bank on a final call.
Correct calls added the value of the wager to the contestant's bank and incorrect calls deducted from it. If the contestant "busted" on the first row (lost the whole bank), the card he/she lost on was immediately moved to the second row with the additional money given to the contestant so he/she could continue. Busting again ended the game (except in 2001, when the contestant still had more money to be staked on the top line) and the contestant won nothing.
From the debut of the original series until October 20, 1980, the Money Cards were played the same way as the regular game, meaning that duplicate cards were treated as losses. From that day forward on the original series, all of the 1980s series, and some of the 2001 series, a duplicate was regarded as a "push" and the contestant did not lose his/her wager. Before the 2001 series was cancelled, the original series rules had been put back in place.
A secondary bonus game was introduced on both 1980s Card Sharks series which gave a winning contestant a chance to win a new car. Two different car games were played, one involving jokers from a deck of cards and the other an audience poll group.
Beginning September 29, 1986 in syndication and October 27, 1986 on CBS, a winning contestant received one Joker for winning the match. Three more were added to the Money Cards deck, and if a contestant uncovered them they received an additional chance to win the car.
After the Money Cards round was over, a row of seven numbered cards was wheeled out and the contestant placed whatever Jokers they'd earned over the cards in the hopes that behind one of them was the word "CAR". During the special weeks when children played, the top prize was a trip to Hawaii (with either "WIN" or "HAWAII" displayed on one of the cards) and the children were given two Jokers to start.
On the last episode of the 1986 syndicated version, all four Jokers were given to the final champion at the outset. This bonus round was played until July 1, 1988.
Beginning July 4, 1988, the winning contestant had to correctly predict one final audience poll question. To record their guess, the contestant used a special prop with a dial and the numbers 0 through 10 on it.
The contestant moved the dial to the number they thought was correct, and if it was they won the car. Missing by one in either direction won the contestant $500 as a consolation prize, while any other incorrect guess won nothing. On the final episode, however, if the contestant was even one off, they still won the car.
On the original series, contestants could return until they either lost a game or won seven consecutive matches.
On the CBS version, contestants played until they either won five consecutive matches or reached the network's winnings limit, which was originally $50,000 when the series debuted and extended to $75,000 in the fall of 1986.
An unspecified winnings limit existed on the 1986 syndicated series, as well as a rule that limited the number of cars a champion could win. For the first few weeks, the car game was played for a luxury automobile/sports car and if a player won it, he/she automatically retired. Beginning in October 1986 mid-priced sports cars were used and the limit became three cars.
By January 1987, some of the same base-model cars that were used on the CBS network "Card Sharks" began to be used on the syndicated series, and the limit was reduced to two. The change in car type also coincided with a change in supplier.
From the debut of the car game on the syndicated series, General Motors' Chevrolet, Pontiac, and (early on, including the first week of the car game) Cadillac divisions provided cars. After the change to base-model cars, American Motors became the supplier with its Renault Alliance and Jeep Wrangler lines featured most frequently.
The 2001 version was self-contained, with no returning champions.