Russian Roulette (game show)

Russian Roulette (game show)

Infobox Television
show_name = Russian Roulette (US)

caption = Screencapture of the logo of "Russian Roulette"
format = Game Show
picture_format =
runtime = approx. 22 minutes (per episode)
creator = Gunnar Wetterberg
starring = Mark L. Walberg (host) (2002 - 2003) Burton Richardson (announcer) (2002 - 2003)
channel = Game Show Network
first_aired = June 3, 2002
currently airing = Saturdays on GSN
num_series =
num_episodes = 130
country = USA
producer =
related =
website =
imdb_id = 0315055

"Russian Roulette" is an American game show created by executive producer Gunnar Wetterberg (NBC's "Treasure Hunters", BRAVO's "Step It Up & Dance", and CW's "13: Fear is Real") and hosted by Mark L. Walberg (not to be confused with Mark Wahlberg) that ran in two seasons from June 2002 to 2003, with Burton Richardson as the show's announcer. It aired on GSN, and is now currently in reruns. The series is produced by Sony Pictures Television domestically and internationally. The pilot was produced at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City in 2001. The "Russian Roulette" set consists of a circle with six trapdoors, four of which are occupied by the episode's contestants. The US set was shipped to Taiwan for their version in 2005. fact|date=April 2008


First round

The four players are each given $150 at the beginning of the show. One contestant, randomly selected to start the game, is read a multiple choice question (three choices in the first round, four thereafter, all increasing in difficulty as the round progresses) by the host, and must challenge another contestant to answer correctly. The challenged contestant has ten seconds to answer. If the challenged player gives a correct answer, they receive money and control of the next question. In the first season, the contestants received $150 in the first round, $200 in the second, and $300 in the third for each correct answer. In the second season, the third round was played for $250 per correct answer. After every question, another "drop zone" is added, increasing the odds that the player will be eliminated after an incorrect answer; from the fifth question onward, there are always 5 drop zones. In the event of a wrong answer, that player gives up all accumulated money to the challenger and is forced to play Russian Roulette by pulling the handle in front of them.

Playing Russian Roulette

The trapdoor of the player who answered incorrectly is unlocked. After the host gives the player a chance to say some last words, they pull a handle in front of their trapdoor. This triggers the active drop zone lights (in red) to begin spinning around the field, much like a roulette wheel or (more appropriate to the metaphor) the cylinder of a revolver. The number of red lights indicates the number of active drop zones. In season one, it was a random spin. In season two, the player controlled the length of the spin by how long he or she pulled the handle.

If the drop zone light stops on the trapdoor on which the affected player is standing, that trapdoor opens and drops the player three feet (six feet in season one) into a room below the stage, with thick padding. This ends the round; if the player survives, the round continues. Contestants are instructed to crouch down and roll when landing so their heads do not remain above the hole. Only one injury has been reported, a sprained ankle; nevertheless contestants are required to sign lengthy waivers and release forms. Once a player drops out of the game, the round is over and the next round begins after a commercial break.

When time runs out in the first two rounds (indicated by a chime, usually after the fifth question), the winnings of all remaining contestants are compared. The person with the highest score is escorted to the center of the stage, and is safe from the drop. He or she pulls a handle in the center, for a random-elimination spin where a single red light revolves around the cylinder until it stops on one of the remaining contestants — a successful drop always happens here. This ends the round, with the winnings of the eliminated player being equally distributed among the remaining players (including the top winner) for the next round.

In the case of a tie for first place in a round-ending Russian Roulette, Mark himself pulls the lever, and "all" players are in danger of dropping.

econd and third rounds

The second round is played similar to the first, albeit with one fewer player. In the third round, since only two players remain, contestants have the choice to answer the question themselves or pass it to their opponent. A wrong answer forces the player to play Russian Roulette; a right answer gives him or her money and control of the next question.Whoever has the lower amount at the end of the round is the one to drop. The last person remaining at the end of this round assimilates the other player's score (if any) into his or her winnings and advances to the endgame.


First season

The contestant is moved to the top-left zone and has 60 seconds to answer five "brain-teaser" questions referred to by the host as "5 Killer Questions." These usually consist of jumbles, math problems and general-knowledge questions. The timer (also represented by the light border around the stage) begins ticking "while" Mark asks the first question. After every ten seconds, one drop zone opens on the playfield. If time runs out or the contestant gives an incorrect answer, he or she drops, but receives $500 for every correct answer. Contestants must begin their answers with "My answer is..." so that thinking aloud is not mistaken for an answer. If the player gets all five questions correct, Mark will announce "Stop the clock!" and he or she receives $10,000. He or she then has the option of forfeiting the $10,000 prize for one final Russian Roulette, with the number of drop zones unopened being safe. Should the contestant risk his or her winnings and receive a safe zone (which will remain shut), the prize increases to $100,000. The money won through the first three rounds, however, is the winner's to keep and therefore not touched for the bonus round.

If the risk is refused, Mark will instruct the player to pull the lever to see what would have happened had the contestant taken the risk. However, the contestant gets to step off the trapdoor. (Two contestants would have won the grand prize in the first season even though the spin was random. In season two, it was rigged to make the trapdoor open.)

econd season

The endgame is similar to the first version, except the contestant must answer ten multiple-choice questions (each with three choices) in 60 seconds in order to win $10,000. The timer only starts ticking after the first question has been read. If the player fails, an additional $300 is given for every correct answer given. The phrase "My answer is" before the answer is no longer required. As before, should all 10 answers be answered correctly, Mark will announce, "Stop the clock!" The contestant then has the option of risking their money for a final pull.

$100,000 Winners

Three people have won the grand prize on "Russian Roulette". All of them have been allowed to step off the trapdoor following the win.
*Al Winchell: 3 drop zones, $102,150 total winnings (season 1)
*Todd Truly: 4 drop zones, $102,200 total winnings (season 1)
*Maria Lay: 5 drop zones, $102,000 total winnings (season 2)

Theoretically, the most money a contestant can win is over $104,500 in Season 1 or $104,200 in Season 2. (This means every question was answered correctly and the endgame was won.)


GSN brought back repeats of "Russian Roulette" on March 31, 2008. The show airs Saturdays at 4:00 p.m PST.

Other Versions

A British version of "Russian Roulette" was made by Granada Television and broadcast as a series of irregular "specials" during 2002-3, airing on ITV. The British host was Rhona Cameron (the only female winner of Channel 4's "So You Think You're Funny" comedy contests). The top prize is ₤10,000.

A Hong Kong version was produced by TVB and was hosted by actor Dayo Wong. It features five players, but otherwise, the front game plays out in much the same way as the U.S. version. Players start with 1,000 Hong Kong dollars, and rounds 1 and 2 have triple-choice questions worth HK$1,000; round 3 has four-choice questions worth HK$2,000, and round 4, four-choice questions worth HK$3,000. (In the event that money is split after running out of time in a round, any odd dollars are lost.) In the bonus round, the winner faces up to 5 questions of increasing difficulty, worth HK$5,000, HK$10,000, HK$30,000, HK$150,000, and HK$500,000, with 20 seconds to answer each one. A wrong answer means that the bonus for the question is lost, and the player may drop (the odds of dropping increases for each question, out of 5/6). The HK$500,000 top prize is equal to about USD $64,000.

In Taiwan, their show aired on Star Chinese Channel, hosted by Xu Nailin. The grand prize there was 1,000,000 New Taiwan dollars (about US$32,000).

A Singapore version was screened for two seasons in the Chinese language in 2003 and 2004, on MediaCorp TV Channel 8. It was also hosted by Taiwanese host Xu Nailin. The gameshow was called Winner Takes All in the second season, but both seasons used the Chinese name 灵机一洞. All 5 contestants start with S$100. The 1st challenger picked will challenge an opponent to answer a question in a time frame of 10 secs. Each question's value varies with the number of rounds played, from S$100 in round 1 to S$400 in round 4. A pulsemeter is also used to track the heart rates of every contestant, and the pulse rate of every contestant can be seen. In Round 4, the challenger can choose to answer the question himself or pass the question to the opponent. The last man standing proceeds to the bonus round of the game. To win S$10000, he or she has to answer 10 questions in 80 secs correctly. For every wrong answer he gives, a trapdoor will open. If he answers wrongly for the 6th time, the trapdoor he has chosen to stand on will open and he'll fall through, losing whatever he has earned in the bonus round, which is S$100 per question. The trapdoor below the contestant will also open if time runs out. If the contestant answers at least five questions correctly, he or she can also risk the money earned in the bonus round and play Russian Roulette for the S$10000. The contestant can re-choose the spot to stand on for the last Russian Roulette. If the contestant answered one question wrongly, he or she has a 1/6 chance of falling through, two questions 2/6 and so on.

A Brazilian version was made by Rede Record and was hosted by sport chronist Milton Neves for two seasons in 2002 and 2003.

A Russian version was made for Channel One in a somewhat similar manner to the American show. The final round consisted of three questions. If the player failed the first one, 3 trapdoors opened, giving a 50% chance to the player. If he/she survived, he/she got the prize and went on for the next question if the player agreed. At another failure, 4 trapdoors would be opened, and at the final question, 5 trapdoors could open, giving only one chance out of six. Later, the host and the contestant were given equal chances to drop down at the 1,000,000 roubles (about US$35,000) question level. It was hosted by Valdis Pelsh (Maxim Galkin at special Christmas show). The Russian version also aired in Ukraine.

Other countries with versions of the show (as seen on GSN's "Drop Heard 'Round the World" marathon in October, 2002) include India (called "Bachke Rehnaa"), Turkey (called "Rus Ruleti"), Spain (called "Decisíon Fínal"), Indonesia (also called "Russian Roulette"), Poland (called "Rosyjska Ruletka"), local versions have also been produced in Italy, Serbia, Argentina, Middle East, Greece, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

On all versions of "Russian Roulette" outside of the US, Turkey, and UK, there are also displays of the contestants' heart rates on the screen (examples include Russia's, Poland's and Hong Kong's versions), and most versions even have the contestants themselves asking questions to their opponents. There is also a camera underneath each of the trapdoors to catch footage of the contestant dropping from another angle. Some may also have a maximum time limit of 15 seconds instead of 10 to answer questions. Most versions of the show (except for the US, UK, and India) run for an hour rather than a half-hour.

Turkey version is almost same as the US Version.


*Todd Newton, who at the time was hosting "Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck", guest-hosted this special episode on April Fools' Day on GSN in 2003, while Mark Walberg guest hosted "Friend or Foe?".
**During this episode, the Whammy mascot could be seen in the audience.

*At the end of each episode, Mark says to the home audience, "Until next time, watch your step."

* There have been several times during the series where the host jumped down one of the open holes at the end of the episode, including the Playboy Playmate episode and the aforementioned April Fools' Day episode with Todd Newton guest-hosting.

* Notable contestants are Perez Hilton (as Mario Lavandeira), " Lost"'s Jorge Garcia, Unscrewed's Laura Swisher, Revision3's Alex Albrecht and Larry Toffler from Finders Keepers.

External links

* [ GSN website]
* [ Info and episode guide]
* [ UK Gameshows Page: Russian Roulette]

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