We all play Deal or No Deal at home in front of our TVs, thinking if we were ever on the show, we’d totally win that $1,000,000. But truth be told, the game show hosted by Howie Mandel is basically a contest of luck, with a little skill mixed in (via IMDb). For those who aren’t familiar, a contestant has a chance to win the top prize, but in the process of choosing among 26 cases containing a mystery amount, he or she may also walk away with anywhere between 1 cent, and the million bucks.
But as much as we shout at our flatscreens, begging a player to choose a certain case — because we think we know the best strategy, obviously — the truth is that winning Deal or No Deal is not as easy as it appears. Consider that since the U.S. debut of the show in 2005, only two contestants have walked away with $1,000,000. The first was not until three years into the show’s run in 2008, and the second champion beat the Banker — the mysterious voice in a control room who tries to keep the contestant from walking away with the show’s money — later the same year (via Screenrant).
The first big winner of Deal or No Deal
The show’s first big winner — because, yes, you can potentially leave the show with a lesser amount than $1,000,000 and be a big winner — was a pregnant stay-at-home mom from Utah named Jessica Robinson (via People). As she confided, she had a strong feeling a certain case would lead her to victory, with Robinson saying, “All along I knew I wanted to pick briefcase number four because there’s soon going to be four people in our family. It just made sense.”
She added about her strategy, which included rejecting the Banker’s final offer of $561,000, “Honestly, if my case had $200,000 in it I would have regretted it. I talked to my supporters and surprisingly, as I think back, they were crazy for telling me to go forward! But they knew my plan and it was coming true.”
Ultimately, as Robinson told People about the impact her win has had on her family’s lives, “I’m a stay-at-home mom and I know I contribute to my family, but there are times I feel I don’t contribute because I’m not getting a paycheck, and at the end of the day, I’m the spender.” The then 27-year-old added, “This will take the burden off [of my husband] being the breadwinner and taking care of us.”
The second big winner of Deal or No Deal
Tomorrow Rodriguez became Deal or No Deal‘s second million dollar winner later in the same year as Robinson. She told CNBC she felt blessed at the time, but a decade later, didn’t want to discuss her winnings. “Even when people want to … I still don’t talk about it,” she said, going on to explain, “The worst part of winning a million dollars is sometimes you find out the people closest to you treat you a little different. They say you’ve changed.” Rodriguez clarified, “it’s not that you’ve changed — they’ve changed when they can’t get what they want.”
About people only wanting to be in her life due to her money, Rodriguez said, “I want people just to get to know me.” Meanwhile, the Texas resident didn’t even go on the show thinking she could win $1,000,000 — her hope was to win enough to pay off student loans. “I just thought, ‘If I could go home with the amount I need to pay those bills off, and a little bit more, then I’m good.'”
The good news is that she was able to do that, and then some. But clearly winning a lot of money came with a price.
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