Card Sharks

Card Sharks
Card Sharks
Card Sharks '86.jpg
Logo for the 1986–1989 versions of Card Sharks.
Format Game show
Created by Chester Feldman for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions
Presented by Jim Perry (1978–1981)
Bob Eubanks (1986–1989)
Bill Rafferty (1986–1987 Syn.)
Pat Bullard (2001)
Narrated by Gene Wood (1978–1981, 1986–1989)
Gary Kroeger (2001)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 864 (NBC)
826 (CBS) [1]
195 (1986–1987 Syn.)
65 (2001 Syn.)
Running time 22–26 minutes
Original channel NBC (1978–1981)
CBS (1986–1989)
Syndicated (1986–1987, 2001–2002)
Audio format Mono (NBC)
Stereo (CBS/Syn.)
Original run April 24, 1978 (1978-04-24) –October 23, 1981 (1981-10-23)
(NBC Daytime)
January 6, 1986 (1986-01-06) –March 31, 1989 (1989-03-31)
(CBS Daytime)
September 8, 1986 (1986-09-08) –June 7, 1987 (1987-06-07)
(Daily Syndication)
September 17, 2001 (2001-09-17) – December 14, 2001 (2001-12-14)
(Daily Syndication)

Card Sharks is an American television game show created by Chester Feldman for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Two contestants compete for control of a row of oversized playing cards by answering questions posed by the host and then guessing if the next card is higher or lower in value than the previous one. The concept has been made into a series four separate times since its debut in 1978, and also appeared as part of CBS's Gameshow Marathon. The primary announcer for the first three series was Gene Wood.



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, which was used to mark their "base cards."


Contestants alternated responding to questions 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 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. Later, 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 1986–1989 featured two new varieties of questions in addition to the traditional survey questions:

  • 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.
  • 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 they had 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 (i.e., two consecutive Aces) or the contestant made an incorrect guess, that contestant lost of 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.

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, and the third tie-breaker round contained a maximum of three questions. 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 won by default.

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.

Initially $100 was awarded for each game won, and the match's winner advanced to play the Money Cards bonus game. Beginning on September 29, 1986 on the syndicated version, several cards with tangible prizes such as cash amounts, trips and electronics were introduced. Each prize revealed during the course of play was placed in a holding area for that contestant, each prize card was replaced with the next card off that contestant's deck, and the match's winner received the prizes he or she revealed. The CBS version still airing at this time continued to award $100 for a win and did not feature prize cards. On both 1980s versions, there was no bonus for running the board.

2001 version

In 2001, both contestants played the same row of seven cards. Each incorrect call gave the other contestant control of the remaining cards. A contestant won the game and $500 by guessing the last card correctly or by an opponent calling the last card incorrectly. The first contestant to win two games competed against the winner of the second match. Both contestants kept their winnings if they won a game. If both contestants were tied with one game each, a three-card tiebreaker round was played to determine the winner.

Contestants were also given "Clip Chips," which allowed them to replace a card if they correctly guessed the outcome of a video.

The championship match consisted of one game with seven cards, played as before. The winner of the championship match won $1,100 and played the Money Cards and the losing contestant won a trip to Las Vegas in addition to their prior winnings.

Bonus rounds

Two types of bonus rounds were used during the evolution of the program: the Money Cards and a round with a car as the prize.

Money Cards

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 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.

$200 ($700 in 2001) was given to the contestant at the beginning of the first level, and they would use that money to wager on whether or not the next card was higher or lower. Making a correct guess added the value of the wager to the contestant's bank, while an incorrect guess cost the contestant the wager.

When the contestant cleared the first level or ran out of money ("busted"), the last played card was moved up to the second level and the contestant received additional money ($200 on the NBC series, $400 on the 1986–1989 editions, and $700 in 2001) to bet with. Minimum bets on the first two levels were $50 and had to be made in increments of $50 ($100 on the 2001 edition). If a contestant still had money left after clearing the second level, the last card was moved to the top line for the "Big Bet" ("Major Wager" on the 2001 version, and reaching this level also added another $700). There, the contestant had to wager at least half of their remaining bank on one last call. However, if a contestant busted on the second or third row, the game ended. The most a contestant could win on the NBC version was $28,800, which was accomplished only once by contestant Norma Brown. Contestants could win up to $32,000 on the 1980s series; the highest amount won was $29,000.[citation needed] Contestants on the 2001 edition could win up to $51,800.

Originally, if a contestant turned over a duplicate card (i.e., two consecutive Aces), it was counted as a loss. Beginning on October 20, 1980, a contestant was no longer penalized in the Money Cards for duplicate cards. After that, the hosts encouraged contestants to bet all their money on Aces and twos as they were guaranteed not to lose any money. This rule was abolished partway through the 2001 version.

Car games

A secondary bonus game was introduced on both 1980s Card Sharks series which gave a winning contestant a chance to win a new car. During these series' runs there were two different car games, one involving Jokers and the other the audience poll group.

Beginning on 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 usually 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 on 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.

Gameshow Marathon version

On Gameshow Marathon, a contestant started with $1,000 in betting money for the first two rows and had to wager at least half the money on the Big Bet. Minimum bets were still $50 and contestants could change one card per line by using one of the three pre-dealt cards in the numbered slots. The rule of not penalizing contestants when duplicate cards appeared was also used. The maximum payoff was $144,000.

Returning champions

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 amount of cars a champion could win. A contestant was originally retired after winning a car, but this was later changed to three cars and later two. These changes corresponded with changes in the types of cars given away- the first several weeks of the car game saw luxury cars given away, but was changed to mid-price sports cars and later to base model cars.

The 2001 version was self-contained, with no returning champions.


Card Sharks held many themed tournament weeks, including competitions for children, celebrities, and game show hosts. The hosts who participated in that event were Allen Ludden, Gene Rayburn, Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, Tom Kennedy, Alex Trebek, Jack Clark and Jim Lange.



Card Sharks recorded two pilots on March 17, 1978; the only difference in gameplay was that the tiebreaker rounds used four cards instead of three.[citation needed]


In 1996, All-American Television, who had just purchased the Mark Goodson Productions library, shot a pilot for an attempted revival that did not sell. Denver-area sportscaster Tom Green, who previously hosted Sports on Tap for ESPN in 1994 and 1995 and is currently a news anchor for KWGN, hosted and actress Dee Dee Weathers was the dealer.[1] Two contestants competed in a version of Card Sharks that was unlike any of the other series.

In order to gain control of the cards, the contestants had to guess survey questions that were asked to a group of ten Playboy Playmates. They then faced ten cards dealt into a pyramid shape and had to correctly call higher or lower. The contestant who turned over the final card in the pyramid won $250 and the game, and an extra $250 if they correctly called every card.

The Money Cards round was not used on this pilot- instead, four cards were dealt which included an Ace and the winning contestant was then shown three video clips where celebrities were asked questions. The winning contestant had to correctly predict the outcome of the clip, and if successful was given one of the cards. After all three video clips were played the contestant's cards were turned over. If they kept the Ace, they won $5,000. Otherwise, the value of the cards was added up and the contestant won the sum multiplied by $100.


Another pilot was shot on November 17, 2000. Pat Bullard was the host and the dealer was Daphnee Lynn Duplaix. While many elements of the eventual aired series came from this pilot, this pilot also contained elements that were not used in the subsequent series. All rounds used the "Hidden Camera" question format, where contestants predicted the outcome of a situation to win control.

Round one was played similar to blackjack. Each time a contestant took control they earned a card and could stand upon reaching 12 or above. The opponent then kept receiving cards until they either beat the standing contestant or busted. $200 was given to the winner of the round

Round two saw contestants play a game similar to the original series' sudden death rounds. Upon obtaining control of the cards a contestant was shown the first card in the row and could either elect to play or pass. If either contestant failed to complete the row, money was awarded to their opponent. Three sets of cards were played, with three, four, and five in each row. The first row was worth $300, the second $400, and the third $500.

Other than a lack of surveys, the third round was played the same as the front game on the original Card Sharks series, with each contestant playing a row of five cards. Completing the row won a contestant $1,000, and the first contestant to reach $1,500 won the game and advanced to the Money Cards.

The Money Cards game from the pilot was eventually carried over to the 2001 syndicated series, with the contestant's main game winnings divided evenly among three tiers.

Broadcast history

The original Card Sharks aired on NBC from April 24, 1978 to October 23, 1981. From its debut until June 20, 1980, Card Sharks aired at 10:00 AM (ET)/9:00 AM(CT/MT/PT). The series was one of the few respectable daytime performers on NBC under Fred Silverman's tenure as network president, which at the time was struggling to gain ratings in both daytime and primetime. After a scheduling shuffle necessitated by the debut of The David Letterman Show on June 23, 1980, Card Sharks moved to Noon/11:00 AM, a timeslot where it faced the top-rated game show in daytime, Family Feud on ABC; the first half of The Young and the Restless in certain markets on CBS; and pre-emptions on local affiliates due to many stations electing to air local newscasts, talk shows, or other syndicated programming in the Noon hour. Card Sharks remained in the Noon/11:00 slot until its cancellation.

The CBS revival of Card Sharks debuted at 10:30/9:30 AM on January 6, 1986, in place of Press Your Luck, and stayed in that timeslot for its entire run; Press Your Luck relocated to Body Language's old 4:00/3:00 PM slot.[citation needed] Until January 1987, Card Sharks faced off against its original host Jim Perry's game show Sale of the Century on NBC in the time slot. Blockbusters (with the then-host of the syndicated Card Sharks, Bill Rafferty) and then Alex Trebek's Classic Concentration followed as competition for Card Sharks. The revival ended its run on March 31, 1989, and was replaced by a short-lived revival of Now You See It.

The 1986 Bill Rafferty-hosted syndicated series debuted on September 8, 1986. For the first half of the season this syndicated Card Sharks series had fairly decent clearances, but this changed due to the show's ratings struggles in an overcrowded syndicated game show market. At the midseason point the syndication Card Sharks disappeared from quite a few of its markets, and many of the stations that continued to air the series moved it to a very undesirable timeslot such as the late-night or early morning hours. The series continued to air until June 7, 1987, in the markets that kept it, with reruns airing until September 4, 1987.

The most recent regular Card Sharks series, the Pat Bullard-hosted 2001 series, debuted on September 17, 2001 and aired new episodes until December 14, 2001. Four weeks of reruns aired following that, and the series was cancelled altogether on January 11, 2002. In most of its markets the 2001 Card Sharks was either paired with or aired on the same station as one or both of the Pearson Television-produced shows that were airing at the time, To Tell the Truth or Family Feud.

On June 15, 2006 the series was the fifth of seven game shows used in the CBS series Gameshow Marathon hosted by Ricki Lake. The set was modeled after the Perry version and also used its theme, opening sequence and logo; the use of "audience poll" questions and the car game were taken from the Eubanks/Rafferty versions.

Gene Wood was the primary announcer on both the original and 1980s Card Sharks versions. Bob Hilton filled in for him on occasion on all three versions, Johnny Olson (also announcing the pilots), Jack Narz, Jay Stewart, and Charlie O'Donnell also filled in for him on the NBC version, and O'Donnell, Johnny Gilbert, and Rod Roddy also filled in for him on the CBS version. Gary Kroeger was the announcer for the 2001 version, and the Gameshow Marathon episode was announced by Rich Fields.


The theme for the NBC version was previously used on the Goodson-Todman series Double Dare with host Alex Trebek that aired in 1976 on CBS. Edd Kalehoff wrote that theme and the theme for the 1980s version of Card Sharks, both through Score Productions. Composer Alan Ett was responsible for the 2001 series theme.[citation needed]

Recording locations

The NBC version was taped at NBC Studios in Burbank, California in the same studio which housed Perry's next game, Sale of the Century. Both 1980s versions were taped at Studio 33 (known as the Bob Barker Studio since 1998) at CBS Television City in Hollywood, California. The 2001 version was taped at Tribune Studios, now known as the Sunset Bronson Studios, which are part of KTLA. The Gameshow Marathon version of Card Sharks was also taped at CBS Television City in Studio 46.

Home game versions

  • The first Card Sharks home game was a computer-based video game released by Sharedata, Inc. and Softie, Inc. in 1988 for the Apple II and Commodore 64 units and all IBM compatible computers.[2] Although the host was based on Jim Perry, the game's logo and gameplay were based on the CBS version of the 1980s Card Sharks series, using the single sudden-death question tiebreaker in the main game and the Joker car game following the Money Cards. If a contestant got an exact guess on a question in the main game, he or she won a $100 bonus, instead of the $500 bonus on the show. Also, unlike the show, the game did not use the educated guess or audience poll questions.
  • Endless Games released a board game adaptation in 2002. Again, a mixing of elements from different versions occurred, as the game logo/fonts from the 2001 version was used on the majority of the game elements but employed the Perry-era front-end gameplay (awarding $500 for a main game win) and the Eubanks/Rafferty-era "Money Cards" format.
  • A version for mobile phones was released on June 1, 2005 by Telescope Inc.,[3] which also used the logo, music, and rules from a variety of television variants. More survey questions were also available for download.

Foreign versions

The most significant difference to foreign versions of the television game was the use of contestant couples instead of individuals. They were produced by Reg Grundy.

  • United Kingdom: The British version was known as Play Your Cards Right and was hosted by Bruce Forsyth. The series ran from 1980–1987, 1994–1999, and 2002–2003 on ITV. Reruns of Bob Eubanks' Card Sharks series aired on satellite channel Sky One in the 1990s.
  • Germany: Hosted by Elmar Hörig, Bube Dame Hörig ("Jack, Queen, King") aired on Sat.1 from 1996–1999.
  • Sweden: Lagt kort ligger aired on SVT.
  • Belgium: A Dutch-language version called Hoger, Lager ("Higher, Lower") aired on the national television BRT (now called VRT) with Walter Capiau (of the Belgian Wheel of Fortune) as host.
  • Australia: Play Your Cards Right was hosted by comedian Ugly Dave Gray for Seven Network for a brief time in 1984.
  • Turkey: Aşağı Yukarı aired aTV with Meltem Cumbul as host.
  • Indonesia: Super Rejeki 1 Milyar aired antv with Dave Hendrik in 2007.


  1. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". The Game Show Pilot Light—Card Sharks (1996). Retrieved 26 July 2011. {{dubious|date=July 2011|reason=Website is an unsourced fansite.}
  2. ^
  3. ^

External links

Preceded by
Sanford and Son
10:00 am EST, NBC
4/24/78 – 6/20/80
Succeeded by
The David Letterman Show
Preceded by
Chain Reaction
12:00 pm EST, NBC
6/23/80 – 10/23/81
Succeeded by
Password Plus
Preceded by
Press Your Luck
10:30 am EST, CBS
1/6/86 – 3/31/89
Succeeded by
Now You See It

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