Gambit (CBS, 1972-1976)/Las Vegas Gambit (NBC, 1980-1981)
This is the original American version of the game show that ran for about a decade in this country. And well, whadda you know, Wink Martindale is out host again. Wink has had a very long career in TV and radio hosting, and he even had a hit single himself in the UK in 1959 with “Deck Of Cards” (although I’m not really sure that he’s a crooner), which makes him an appropriate choice to host this game show based around Pontoon, which featured oversized playing cards like Card Sharks/Play Your Cards Right.
The British version of Gambit was grandly described as “an Olympics of the mind”, this version was slightly more modest about the format. After the original run ended in the 70s, the show returned (following a channel switch) in the early-80s as Las Vegas Gambit, and now took place on a stage at a hotel in Las Vegas. The cards would be dealt by a female co-host, who unlike the UK version never took the chance to upstage our very suave host.
Two married couples took part. They are asked a question and have to buzz in. Get it right, and they can play or pass the card on offer. The couple that gets the closest to scoring 21 wins the round and $100, and if they get exactly 21, they win a bonus cash prize that increases by $500 for every round that it’s not won. Hopefully the luck will be on their side. Make sure not to go bust, will you. Winning two games meant a chance to play the bonus round.
Originally there was the Gambit Board. There were 18 squares, each contained a prize, such as money, a holiday, and so on. They are given a card and they can then choose the number. But once again, if they go bust, they’ll lose all the prizes, so they have to stop at the best moment. Behind some squares are some extra games such as Stop Or Go, where even more prizes can be won.
This was later changed to the Gambit Galaxy. Instead of cards, this bonus game involved dice, and the idea was a little similar to High Rollers (a game show that I don’t think there’s been a British version of). Roll the dice, get the right combinations, and win the money and prizes on offer. For every time it wasn’t won, the prizes roll over to the next game, with even more added. One couple managed to win over $50,000 worth of prizes, and they were rather pleased about that.
After this, the couple can play another game as defending champions, and things could get rather exciting. When the bell goes though, wherever they are, that means it’s the end of the show, so games could straddle. Wink then goes off to try and shake everyone in the studio audience’s hands. After Las Vegas Gambit ended in 1981, there have been no further revivals of the format in America.