Ace is high, deuce is low
Call it right and win the dough
Ooooon Card Sharks!
This was one of the original poems used on one of the most popular game shows in recent memory. Calling higher or lower to go from one end to the other and betting it all at the Money Cards. Whether it’s a Joker or a simple survey question to guess how many did what just to win a brand new car, even in only seven years of existence (well almost), we all enjoyed one of the most biggest card game in television history. That game show was Card Sharks.
There were three versions of Card Sharks that aired beginning in 1978 on NBC with Jim Perry as host and Gene Wood as announcer. The game consists of two players having their own deck of 52 playing cards, the champion playing the red cards and the challenger the blue cards. Perry would ask a confidential survey of 100 people as their “man on the street” would tour around the United States asking them questions involving their personal life, politics or any current issue.
Once one player gives a number, their opponent must guess whether it’s higher or lower. If their opponent guessed correctly, they get first crack at their cards. If not they do so. Each player has their own row of five cards and once they won the question, they have the option of changing their base card. Afterwards they call higher or lower, and if necessary can freeze if they feel they will miss the next card. If they missed, they return to their base card and their opponent gets a free shot, but could not change their card because they did not win the question.
Each game consists of a maximum of four high-low questions and five cards each. Once one player calls each card correctly till the end, they win $100 and a game unless the fourth and final question is asked and they go to sudden death. Whoever won the question has the option to play or pass, if the player plays they have to guess each card correctly or their opponent wins. If they pass, their opponent has to play their base card and one miss gave the other player the win.
Whoever won two games wins a total of $200 and a shot at the Money Cards. In case of a tie, they play three cards with a maximum of three high-low questions with the same rules. At the Money Cards, the champion keeps the $200 and bets with another $200 with three levels of seven cards. The champion starts with the first level at $200 betting at least $50 calling higher or lower with three cards. Second level added another $200 with their remaining cash and if any cash remained, they moved up to the Big Bet where they had to bet at least half the money on the final card.
Betting it all meant risking all of their money and back then if the same card came up it was still a loss. If you bust on the first level, that card is moved to the second level and given the other $200 to practically start over. However if they busted on the second level, the game would end because there is no money at the Big Bet. Any player could double up all the way to the Big Bet and win a maximum of $28,800, which during the NBC run and the original pilot only happened once.
After the first two years, slight changes were made. If one player guessed the survey question exactly right, they get $500. If they run the tables on their cards without freezing or missing, it’s another $500. The only change at the Money Cards was that if the same card appeared there was a push meaning “no win, no loss”. These rules remained in play until it was cancelled in 1981. CBS would revive the show in 1986 with Bob Eubanks as host and most of the rules stayed intact with the exception of the $500 card bonus.
Changes at the Money Cards were $400 on the second level, raising the maximum to $32,000, but the closest ever reached was $29,000. The Money Cards also changed with an option of using three cards to change anywhere, but due to CBS’ extreme winnings limit at that time, the rule was changed to one card per line which made it somewhat more difficult. While almost at the same time as the CBS version launched, Mark Goodson made his first attempt at a syndicated version.
Bill Rafferty hosted the syndicated version which lasted only one season. Through most of the run, a lot was added like prize cards during the match which only the champion won and the $100 rule was abolished. At the Money Cards, Jokers were added to the deck in order to pick at least one of seven numbers to win a brand new car, but as the champion earned one Joker to receive a fair shot. This version also carried over into the CBS game until it was replaced with an audience member question of 10 people where they had to guess exactly right. One off gave them $500.
That 10 member question was also used during the match and an exact guess awarded $100, along with an educated guess question which both versions used. Even with the unlimited guess, they still only awareded $500 for an exact guess. The only thing the CBS version did not take from the syndicated version was the prize cards. CBS changed to the range board that was used in the car game in 1988 until its cancellation the following year. Both sides also hosted kids week, only the Car game gave away a trip to Hawaii.
Fremantlemedia had taken over all Mark Goodson games long after and tried to revive Card Sharks in 2001 with Pat Bullard as host. This was no where recognizable from either version as there were no high-low questions and players only used one row of seven cards. Even the Money Cards was changed and instead of being called the Big Bet, it was called the Major Wager. Needless to say it didn’t last very long with their format and thankfully hasn’t been seen on the air since then.
All versions have been aired on GSN and BUZZR with the exceptions of the 2001 version which we hope we’ll never see again. Gameshow Marathon ran an episode with celebrities playing for at home contestants in 2006. Yes I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: revive this show!