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He was able to win by memorizing the patterns used on the Press Your Luck game board. Originally from southwestern OhioLarson used his cash winnings for taxes and real estate investments. As a result, Larson lost all of his winnings within two years of the show's taping and moved to Floridawhere he later died of throat cancer at the age of Larson was born May 10, in Lebanon, Ohio.
He was the youngest of four sons. James Larson, Michael's older brother, remembers him as being "well meaning, but a little different. He worked as a repairman for air conditioners while also driving an ice cream truck in the summers. During a period of unemployment in the early s, Larson began watching television game shows, growing so enamored with the genre that he built up a shrine of old TVs in his living room to watch multiple of them at the same time. While watching, he noticed that the randomizer that moved the light indicator around the square "Big Board" had only five patterns.
Larson began memorizing these patterns, increasingly confident he could predict when and where the randomizer would land. As he locked in the patterns, Larson began playing along with the "Big Board" rounds to test his hypothesis, pausing his VHS tape at various intervals. Moreover, Larson discovered that the fourth and eighth squares from 1 in the top left corner then clockwise around the board always contained cash and never a "Whammy", a bandit -like cartoon character that, when landed on, would result in the resetting of the player's score to zero, accompanied by an on-screen animation that showed the Whammy taking the player's earnings.
This proved crucial to Larson's theory, as he could retain control of the board in the second round as long as he wished if he kept following the patterns. Contestant supervisor Bobby Edwards was suspicious of Larson's motives when he interviewed Larson on May 19, and was unwilling to allow him on the show, but executive producer Bill Carruthers viewed Larson's claim to be a "small-town plebeian desperately in need of a chance to win some money", as a good sob story for the show, and overruled Edwards.
Carruthers would later regret this move. While waiting in the green roomLarson met Ed Long, a Baptist minister from California booked for the third episode of the session. They struck up a conversation. Long recalled that Larson asked how many times he had seen the show. When Long replied he had seen it only once, Larson responded by looking at him as though he "were from another planet.
Larson showed up to his taping wearing a cheap suit, that he purchased at a local thrift store. Host Peter Tomarken introduced the three players, starting with a recap of Long's winnings from the episode, and a joke about a question Long missed in the earlier episode.
Tomarken then introduced Larson and asked him what he did for a living. Larson mentioned driving an ice cream truck in the summer, and how he was hoping to win enough money to be able to retire from it, and Tomarken asked if he had the truck with him, joking that they had orders for ice cream. Tomarken then asked if Larson would still eat the ice cream if he retired from the truck, and Larson claimed he had OD'd on it. Tomarken jokingly but ironically hoped Larson would not OD on money.
Tomarken then introduced Litras, who talked about the eccentric Polish dentist she worked for. As customary, the game began with the first of two rounds in which contestants answered questions to earn spins for the "Big Board"; a correct buzz-in answer earned three spins, while a amazing game show cheaters multiple-choice answer earned one spin. Larson's memorization of the patterns could not help him here, and he struggled early.
On the second question, the host asked, "You've probably got President Franklin D. Roosevelt in your pocket or purse right now, because his likeness is on the head side Grantafter which Tomarken finished the question " Larson buzzed in correctly for two of the four questions, and earned a total of seven spins in the second question round, ahead of Litras's three and Long's two.
After the sailboat, Larson's pattern play became more accurate, as he hit amazing game show cheaters target squares each time he spun. Tomarken was increasingly astounded that Larson was still spinning despite not having seen a Whammy for so long. The episode was taped into two parts since Larson kept pressing.
After he announced he was passing his remaining four spins, Larson raised his arms in triumph and received a standing ovation from the audience. By rule, Larson's spins went to Litras as she had the next highest money total. However, since she was the leader after the first round, she had to wait to play until Long, who earned two spins in the second round of questions, completed his turn.
On the first of his two spins, a bewildered Long hit a Whammy and lost the money he earned in the first round, leading Tomarken to wonder aloud if Larson "knew that the Whammy was coming. Litras then took her turn, starting with the first of the four spins Larson had passed that she was required to take by rule. On that spin, she hit a Whammy and lost her first round total. However, since she had Whammied, the remaining passed spins were moved into the earned column and added to the three spins Litras earned in the second question round, giving her a total of six spins.
Nonetheless, Larson picked up where he had left off, following his patterns, and hit his marks with his first two spins. Larson passed them to Litras, who failed to earn any additional spins with them, and despite winning extra money on them, could not come anywhere near Larson's grand total, thus ending the game. At the end of the episode, Tomarken asked Larson why he decided not to pass his remaining spins before he did, considering the lead he rapidly gained over Amazing game show cheaters and Long.
Side-stepping revealing how he had won the game, Larson responded with, "Two things: one, it felt right, and second, I still had seven spins and if I passed them, somebody could've done what I did.
Each episode of Press Your Luck was thirty minutes in length, and prior to Larson's appearance, the series had never needed to straddle games or stop during play as a match would always be completed within the allotted time frame. While the entire episode was recorded in one shot, the production staff decided that it would need to be split up for airing.
Once back from the commercial, Tomarken informed the viewers that because of the extraordinary circumstances, the match could not be completed on the June 8 episode and would instead be finished on the next scheduled airing on Monday, June He then ed off with the words "To be continued When Press Your Luck returned after the weekend break, the episode started with the same freeze frame image. Tomarken again chroma keyed over the image then brought the viewers up to speed on what Friday's episode entailed, first by introducing Larson's opponents and then introducing Larson and explaining what he had done so far, before the game d.
While Larson was running up the score, the show's producers contacted Michael Brockman, then head of CBS's daytime programming department. Here was this guy from nowhere, and he was hitting the bonus box every time. It was bedlam, I can tell you, and we couldn't stop this guy. He kept going around the board and hitting that box. The program's producers and Brockman met to review the videotape. They noticed that Larson would immediately celebrate after many of his spins instead of waiting the fraction of a second it would take for a contestant to see and respond to the space they had stopped on, effectively showing he knew he was going to get something good.
It was also noticed that Larson had an unusual reaction to amazing game show cheaters early prize of a Kauai trip, which was out of his pattern — he initially looked puzzled and upset, but then recovered and celebrated after a pause. At first, CBS refused to pay Larson, considering him a cheater. However, Brockman and the producers could not find a clause in the game's rules with which to disqualify him largely because the board had been constructed with these patterns from the beginning of the seriesand the network complied.
The five original light patterns on the "Big Board" were replaced with five new ones for about a month, and those were replaced with a different set of five new patterns for another month. A further reprogramming of the board with 32 patterns was completed in Augusteffectively ensuring that no one could duplicate Larson's trick; all subsequent versions employ this method. The documentary was produced by and aired on GSN in association with Lionsgate and RTL Groupthe latter of which amazing game show cheaters owns the Press Your Luck franchiseand broke all viewership records for the network.
As part of the commemoration, Larson's opponents from were invited back to be contestants on Whammy! Despite the fact that the board was now fully random host Todd Newton called it "Larson-proof" and there was no way the same trick could have been performed, Long and Litras who had remarried and taken the surname Litras-Dakan still lost.
When James hit the "Big Bank" space on his first spin of the first round, Long proceeded to joke with Newton that he had "seen this before".
Both of Larson's episodes were edited together into one video and ed onto the Buzzr YouTube channel on July 17, He also ran a promotions and marketing company, Group Dynamics Downline, out of his Lebanon home. The producers declined. Inthe release of the film Quiz Show renewed discussion about game show scandals, and Larson was interviewed on Good Morning America. By this time, he had been diagnosed with throat cancerand his voice was noticeably weakened.
Michael Larson ultimately never saw the return of his winnings and failed at several get-rich-quick schemes. After the Security and Exchange Commission filed charges against the operation, Larson fled Ohio and moved to Apopka, Floridawhere he died of cancer in before he could be found and prosecuted. A biographical feature film was planned in in which Bill Murray would portray Larson,  but was never produced.
Press Your Luck contestant. For other people named Michael Larson, see Michael Larson disambiguation. LebanonOhioU. ApopkaFloridaU. Squares four and eight never featured a Whammy; they always contained cash and in Round 2, an extra spin. The board configuration from Round 2 used during the episodes on which Larson appeared.
Damn Interesting. Retrieved July 14, Dayton Daily News.Amazing game show cheaters
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