Deal or No Deal (UK TV Show)

Deal or No Deal in the United Kingdom has been on air on Channel 4 since 31 October 2005; at first attracting roughly 1.6million viewers, this figure increased to a peak of around 4.5 million in 2008 and 2009. The primary object of participation in the show being to win the top prize of £250,000 by opening a box one has been randomly allocated prior to one’s show, which contains said amount, and by first opening all of the other 21 boxes to eliminate every other amount, makes the game appeal to potential contestants who do not wish to partake in hard skill games in order to win comparatively smaller sums.

The format is simple: the player brings their randomly-allocated box to a table at the end of a walkway in front of the game board, and sets it upon this table while sitting at a chair themselves. The host, Noel Edmonds, asks them to confirm that they chose this box at random prior to the game’s start, as did all twenty-one other contestants, who stand on two “wings” (“East wing” and “West wing”) and whose job it is to open the remaining boxes. This complete, the game can begin: the player is asked to open (or have opened for them by the other contestants) five of the boxes situated on “the wings”; each box will reveal a tag which has written on it an amount correlating to a value on the game board, and that amount is then removed from the game board and is no longer available to win. After the completion of this first round of five boxes, “The Banker”, a suspicious, sinister-sounding figure who is always hidden from view away from the studio, calls the Bakelite phone sat on the table. Noel answers, and there is short conversation between himself and the Banker before the phone is put down. The Banker tells Noel the offer he is going to make to the player, in order to purchase the player’s box from the player for that amount, in the hope that the player accepts this offer and “Deals”, leaving the game with that amount and no more or less, before going on to reveal a higher amount in their box, showing that they should have “No-Dealt” this offer and gone further, and thus resulting in the Banker “beating” the player at the game of Deal or No Deal.

Offers are based on the mathematical aspect of the game board; very rarely will an offer exceed the mean value of the remaining amounts, and offers usually fluctuate between 20% and 50% of that value, though the Banker has been known to offer above the mean in very special circumstances when the player has been perceived as a “threat” to the Banker (the Banker believes the player will go on, regardless of his offers, to win a high amount). The perceived generosity of the offer will almost always depend on the amounts revealed in the first round; mostly low amounts (between 1p and £750 on the “blue” side of the board) will result in a higher offer, whereas mostly higher amounts (between £1,000 and £250,000 on the “red” side) will leave an offer lower in comparison to the mean.

Despite the Banker’s motives behind offering the player money, however, offers need not be seen in such a harsh light; often, they are well-pitched on precarious board configurations and leave the player with extremely difficult decisions to make, on whether to leave the game with a guaranteed amount or play on with no such guarantees. The first offer has, by precedent, always been rejected by the player; in over 2,300 shows to date (27 May 2013), no single player has ever dealt at this stage.

Following this first round are five more rounds of three boxes. After each round, another offer is made by the Banker to the player to purchase the player’s box. Assuming the player does not Deal an offer, they play until there are two boxes remaining – their own, and one on the “wings” – and, if they decline a final offer to swap their box for the other box, they open their box and win the contents. However, if at any point a Deal is made, the game exits live play and that figure is won by the player immediately. The game is then played out to its conclusion hypothetically, as if it were still live, but no money is won during this “proveout” and all monetary offers from the Banker are hypothetical also. All boxes are opened exactly as in live play, as is the player’s box, and the player ends the game with the amount at which they dealt. Only one player has ever dealt at the end of the second round (in March 2012); there have been many third-offer deals starting in February 2006, and fourth, fifth or sixth-offer deals are common. In fact, it is less common for a player to win their box amount than to deal an offer from the Banker; these occasions usually come at the end of tumultuous, unfortunate games in which little was on offer for the player to win and their only chance at salvaging a good result appeared to be opening their box.

The importance of personality

The game may only be about the opening of boxes and the decision of whether to Deal or No Deal; the show encompasses several other aspects which keep its appeal to the general public. One of these is the fact that the viewer, over time, gets to “know” the contestants taking part, through their discussion with Noel, the advice they offer the player in any given situation, and also the “quirks” of their personalities which are exploited by the show and their participation in it. For instance, a player named Jack may have a talent for impressions of famous comedians; this will be touched upon by Noel, Jack will be asked to give “his best impression” and viewers will be endeared to Jack as “the one who can/can’t do impressions of famous comedians”. So the same will apply to other contestants and their respective personalities; such is this a massive part of the show that contestants who do not “do anything” are often disliked by regular viewers and core fans of Deal or No Deal. This side appeals to viewers because it allows them to make judgments and pass comment on the players as they acquaint with their personalities over time; they are able to make comments such as “I like Jane, so I want her to do well in her game”, or “Jon looks like a cautious player, he might deal early in his”. This taken into account, it can be assumed that the personalities of the contestants are a major “pull” factor in gaining – or maintaining – viewing figures, as without the exploration of the individual characters, most of the viewing population, with little or no interest in the statistical side of the game, would abandon the show due to inevitable boredom at simply watching boxes being opened. Personality, therefore, and said exploration of it, is of absolutely paramount importance.

Without its presence, the show would appeal only to the statistically-minded viewer; he who watches the show for the numbers, the mathematics, the odds and the strategy; he who is of small number indeed, in comparison to those who wish to see only the entertainment factor at 4 o’clock every afternoon.

We move on, fittingly, now, to the strategies employed by many players in order to attempt to “win” their game; the player often sees that if they select boxes in a certain order or fashion, for example, it will bring them good fortune – a notable case would be player Geordie from February 2006, who opened all boxes on the left side of the studio before moving on to the right, as a result of a “test” he had performed before his show (which is not legible here, unfortunately). This did not work well for Geordie, as he won £20 by dealing with two boxes left (10p and £100), and incidentally created the record for the lowest deal ever made, and has been used rarely – if ever – since. However, a more common strategy has been to select even numbered boxes before moving on to the odd numbers, or vice versa. Often players will select numbers significant to them – such as birth dates of relatives or lucky numbers – or likewise, leave these numbers until near the end of their game.

Of course, these approaches to the show have mixed and varied results: the random nature of the game makes this so, and prohibits any system from ever actually being guaranteed to work – the selection of boxes, and the revealing of the contents of those boxes, is the part of the game not based at all on skill but entirely on luck. Skill comes in the analysis of any given situation at which the player is offered money by the Banker; weighing up likelihoods of possible future scenarios whether they Deal or No Deal, and the relative generosity of the offer they are presented with. It has been known for statistically-minded players to analyse an offer in comparison to the mean value, conclude that it is poor and ask the Banker for an increase, which in most cases is duly afforded them (partly due to their perceived courage and bravery at asking him at all); by the same token, the Banker is also known to show more respect to a player who is able to gauge the situations he is in accurately, as he perceives these players as much more of a threat to him than those who cannot – offers to these players tend to be more generous in light of this.

An example of the respect shown to statistically-minded players is contestant Aaron, who played in March 2006 and was the second-ever player to achieve an “all-blue opening round” – to avoid revealing a red amount in any of the five boxes of his first round. Where the first player to do so (Anita, the third-ever player, in November 2005) had been offered a statistically-poor £4,900, Aaron was offered £15,000. This set a record as the highest-ever opening offer at this time, and that record remained for several months; Aaron, with his understanding of risk, reward and “when to exit”, eventually won £25,000 by dealing at a very generous fourth offer, and won his game.

To date, of over 2,300 contestants to play the game, only five have ever won the top prize of £250,000; forty-six have won the bottom prize of one penny. The first to win either came on 3 January 2006, in show 55; player Nick Bain rejected a highest offer of £9,000 before declining £30 and swapping his box with 1p and £100 remaining. Laura was the first £250,000 winner on 7 January 2007, declining £45,000 with £3,000 and £250,000 remaining; her win had been publicised heavily in the press prior to the airing of her game, and many fans of the show therefore knew of it beforehand.

Theoretically, as there is a one-in-twenty-two chance of winning either amount before the game begins, there should be an equal number of 1p and £250,000 winners; however, the £250,000 is extremely difficult to win, partially due to good or generous offers tempting those who brought it to the table into early Deals, and partially because when it is not in the player’s box, it is more often than not revealed at some point during the game and thus removed from availability.

However, it is that slim chance of winning £250,000 which entices potential contestants to the auditions for the show in their hordes; producers often have set criteria for successful applicants, meaning very few applicants ever appear on the show. For the viewer, the idea of acquainting themselves with personalities on the television screen before seeing them potentially win £250,000 – or crash to a penny – or land somewhere in between – is forever appealing, and it is that which maintains Deal or No Deal’s status as one of the most popular game shows in the United Kingdom.


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