Card Sharks

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Ace is high, deuce is low, call it right, and win the dough, on...Card Sharks!"
—General opening spiel for the NBC version, as read by Gene Wood

Change it! Higher! Lower! Freeze!

Popular Game Show from the 1970s and 1980s (just don't talk about the latest version), Card Sharks, yet another game from the minds of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, was played with two contestants and two decks of cards.

Alternating each round, one player answers a survey question asked of 100 people (think Family Feud) by guessing how many people actually gave a particular answer. The other contestant guesses whether the actual number is higher or lower than the first contestant's response. Whoever is right gets first crack at their deck of cards.

When controlling his cards, the player must successfully predict whether the next card is higher or lower (aces are high). Whoever gets four cards called correctly first wins the round: the first player to win two rounds wins the game. If the prediction is wrong (or it's the same card value), all progress is lost and the opponent has a chance to play his deck. Players can also freeze their predicting, keeping their progress and preventing their opponents from playing themselves. One last option is to change their starting card to something better, but only if the player hasn't called higher or lower yet and only if he was right on the survey question.

If neither player has won after three questions, the fourth question, called Sudden Death, changes the rules: Whoever wins the question can choose who plays, for whoever fails on predicting automatically loses, and freezing is disallowed.

The Money Cards Bonus Round takes the same premise as the card portion of the main game, but adds an element of gambling. Starting with $200, the player must wager a portion of his money as he predicts higher or lower. This keeps going until either the final bet, the Big Bet, is played (the player must wager at least half of his total), or the contestant loses all of his money. At this point, the cycle returns to the beginning.

Beginning in September 1986, the winning contestant had an opportunity to win a car after playing the Money Cards. For winning the match, a contestant had a joker which he could place among seven cards, one being the winner. Three additional Jokers were hidden in the deck, meaning a contestant can have up to four chances to win the car. Late in the run, it was changed to a 10-person survey, and the contestant had to guess the exact number to win the car. Being off by one gave the contestant a $500 bonus.

The first version ran from 1978-81 on NBC, followed by a CBS revival from 1986-89 (with a syndicated nighttime version running for a year from 1986-87). There was also a 2001 revival which lasted only 13 weeks — and given the rule changes, it's easy to see why.

Brits got several years' worth of a Trans-Atlantic Equivalent titled Play Your Cards Right, which had Bruce Forsyth at the helm. Among other changes, this edition saw couples playing against each other.

The following Game Show tropes appear in Card Sharks:
  • Big Win Sirens: The Eubanks and Rafferty versions used the ones from The Price Is Right whenever a car was won...sped up to about twice as fast.
  • Bonus Round: The Money Cards in all versions, plus the car game in the Eubanks/Rafferty versions.
  • Bonus Space: Prize cards, used only on the Rafferty version. Beginning in the later days of the NBC run, a $500 bonus was added for an exact guess on any question and/or running the board. The CBS version kept the $500 bonus for an exact guess on a normal or educated guess question, though eliminated the bonus for running the board. An exact guess on an audience poll group question was worth $100 to the player and the group of 10 shared $100.
  • Consolation Prize
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: The NBC version had a limit of seven matches with no cap on winnings, for a theoretical maximum of $203,000. The CBS version originally had a limit of five matches and $50,000, but the latter increased to $75,000 in autumn 1986.
  • Home Games:
    • Softie and GameTek produced Card Sharks computer games in the late 1980s. The MS-DOS version used the same contestant sprites as Classic Concentration.
    • Endless Games produced one in 2002. Despite using the logo of the 2001 revival, the rules are those of the CBS version.
    • Kevin DeVizia wrote and distributed a shareware Card Sharks game for Mac OS 8 and 9, with general knowledge questions similar to Eubanks' Educated Guess questions.
  • Losing Horns: Type A, recycled from The Price Is Right. Truncated in the 1970s, but played in full in the 1980s.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Gene Wood, mostly. Bob Hilton and Johnny Olson filled in at times, and Gary Kroger handled announcing duties on the 2001 version.
    • Game Show Host: Jim Perry hosted the original NBC version, followed by Bob Eubanks on CBS and Bill Rafferty on a concurrent syndicated run. Tom Green (no, not the comedian) hosted a very failed 1996 pilot, and Pat Bullard hosted the 2001 version.
    • Lovely Assistant: The card models.
    • Studio Audience: A group of ten people, all with something in common, were involved in certain questions during the Eubanks/Rafferty runs.
  • Promotional Consideration

Tropes used in Card Sharks include:
  • Card Games: It's basically Acey-Deucey; each player has his or her own deck to use. Except in the 2001 revival.
  • Companion Cube: The sliding holder that held the question cards on the Perry version was often called "G2-T2", as a double Shout-Out to Goodson-Todman and R2-D2. It was actually called R2-D2 in the first few episodes before Perry decided to change its name.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Terry, a male contestant on Eubanks' version, fell into this watching the hostesses deal the cards just before a tie-breaker.

Eubanks: What you saw was three cards and four legs.

  • Epic Fail: This poor contestant uncovered four Jacks, all of which went against the odds: the first was followed by a King, the second by an Ace, and the third by the fourth. She took the fourth Jack to the Big Bet and, now considering the Jacks bad luck, swapped it for a 9. It was followed by another King, so she still would've lost money on it even if she hadn't swapped it out.
  • Golden Snitch: The 2001 revival used a single row of cards for both players; as such, it was possible to dump victory in the lap of an opponent who had been sitting on his hands all game, all off one bad card call.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The whole game, although counting cards is allowed (and encouraged).
    • Getting the same card value on predicting means a loss. In the Money Cards, this was particularly painful when you got two deuces or two aces in a row. One contestant on the Perry version got all four treys in succession. This eventually led to a "push" rule where getting the same card twice in a row in Money Cards resulted in no loss or gain.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Money Cards in the 1980s, as shown above.
  • Opening Narration: Quoted at the top of this page. Shortly into the NBC run, this was changed to random two-line poems submitted by viewers.
  • Prop Recycling: The 2001 version's set was recycled for use on Whammy, as was announcer Gary Kroeger.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: From the 1976 quiz show |Double Dare (no relation to the kids' game show).
  • Spiritual Successor: The short-lived games Play the Percentages (1980) and Power Of 10 (2007-08) were basically this minus the cards.
  • Take That: On one episode, Bob asked a contestant how many Catholics have gained sainthood and added, "Everyone should know this." The contestant said, "Everyone but me", and Bob added, "...and everyone at Goodson-Todman."
    • On another episode, he said that The Diamond Head Game was the "biggest piece of boop-boop" he'd ever done.
  • Title Drop: "Let's meet today's card sharks!"
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: Play Your Cards Right, which itself had a Foreign Remake in Australia. Versions have also been made in Germany, Belgium, and Brazil, among other countries.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Educated Guess questions in the Eubanks/Rafferty era.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The 2001 revival copied the "Welcome to Las Vegas" logo for its own logo.