Everyone dreams of winning a game show — you get to be on TV, you get free money and cool stuff, and you get to meet the famous hosts.
But just how cool is it to actually win? How do the prizes measure up once the adrenaline's worn off, and how much of the money do you actually get to keep? If you're curious to hear what actually happens after the credits roll, here are stories (from these three Reddit threads) from 29 game show winners!
1."My parents were on The Newlywed Game in the early '80s and won! I guess beforehand, there was a list of items they were given, and they were supposed to pick three of the prize items and put them in order of their first choice down to their third. They had just moved into their first house and really needed a washer and dryer, so they put that first (and assumed that's what they would end up with if they won), and for the third choice, they put a new pop-up tent trailer with camping supplies (something my mom definitely did NOT want LOL). Wellllll...they ended up with the pop-up tent trailer and camping supplies."
"On the video, you can see my mom visibly upset they didn't get the washer and dryer...hahaha poor mom. Anyway, they didn't receive their prize until their episode aired, and they had to go pick it up themselves down in Los Angeles or pay a hefty price to have the prize delivered (they chose to pick it up themselves). They then incurred costs to upgrade my mom's car to an SUV with a tow hitch for the trailer.
All in all, it ended up being a great prize because they kept it for 12 years, which included the first 8 years of my life. We took a lot of great family camping trips in that little trailer with some amazing memories made. My mom didn't totally hate it, but she eventually made my dad sell it and upgrade to a bigger trailer with it's own bathroom and shower."
2."I was on a kids game show in the late '80s with my brother. We won, but lost the grand prize (trip to Disneyland) in the bonus round, and were given a $500 gift certificate to a toy store instead. $250 each for a toy store was absolutely incredible for a couple of kids, especially in the '80s. I still remember that shopping trip. My brother bought a Nintendo and a couple of games. I bought a ton of Cabbage Patch stuff LOL."
3."I was on a game show called Let's Ask America in 2013, and I ended up winning $24,000. It was so wildly surreal, and I couldn't believe I had actually won that amount of money until after the show aired and they sent me a physical check in the mail. It was absolutely life-changing for me. I was 26 at the time of filming and had been working three jobs (marketing firm, restaurant, bar) just to get by in an otherwise shitty economy."
"I wasn't exactly drowning in debt or anything, more so just getting by paycheck to paycheck. I also didn't mind working at all. It was just that I had all these travel plans that I was constantly dreaming about.
I pretty much felt like I was in this constant cycle in which I could never really save much. So, when I received this relatively large sum of money, I decided to sell everything and plan out some travels. I ended up getting a one-year work and holiday for Australia and arrived here in 2014 with nothing but a backpack and a duffel bag.
My experience has been nothing short of amazing. I ended up finding work at a marketing agency within my first week here, and they went on to sponsor me. (Side note: I made way more at that firm in an initial entry level role than I did at the agency back in the US). Six years later, I have tripled my income since arriving here and now have a great role at an agency I love.
I'm now a permanent resident of Australia and have about six months until I can apply for citizenship. Since living in Australia, I've been to 12 different countries which for some reason always felt impossible when I was living back home. I've just loved my overall experience and am so grateful that those winnings were the catalyst for it."
4."I was on and won a Canadian kids game show called Uh-Oh (with quirky host and active redditor Wink Yahoo) in the sixth grade. In about half an hour’s time, I had brown paint water dumped on me twice before nailing a couple speed rounds and taking home the crown. The prize came as advertised, a sweet Sony three-CD stereo system which served as my alarm clock as well as a tool for me to play drums along with my favorite albums for many years."
5."My high school drama and speech teacher was the 'friend' someone called for a 'phone a friend' option on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? back when Regis was still the host. The guy who called him shared a portion of the money with my teacher (like 20-30k), and my teacher used the money to adopt a baby."
6."My brother won $15,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2009. ... We were both on the show in November (I was in the audience), but we didn't get the check until February. Then, we got a letter from 'The Executives of ABC' or some arbitrary name like that with a check for 15-large. Since my brother and I were only used to cashing our checks at check-cashing places, that's exactly where we brought it. They charged us $100, and we got $14,900 in 100s, 50s, and 20s. As soon as we got home, my brother dumped all the money on the bed and rolled around in it. Quite possibly one of the only times in my life where I'll be able to do that with that much money. We also blew, like, $2,000 at the mall, just like dumb kids."
7."Not me, but best friend. ... Friday night, very, VERY drunk (he had no memory for about a four to six hours), lots of drugs, generally a complete...mess. So, he wakes up in the morning, with the world's worst hangover, he proceeds to sit in front of his Sky Box and chillax. During the course of the day, he looks at his recorded shows only to see a new recording from the night before. So, watching the recording, it's a call-in game show. The aim of the game was to guess 1 of 10 answers, but the question was completely random, like 'There is a knock at the door, who is it?' — aka, pure luck really. In his drunk state, he called in (via work to avoid the perm number) and made a guess. He said, 'Gas man.' The result? He won £6,000."
"So, my friend with the worst hangover of his life is sitting in front of his TV watching himself win 6k; they put the money in his account that day, win win. He then spent it on a brand new plasma TV! (This was a while ago.)"
8."I won the grand prize on this game show called Beat the Geeks that was on Comedy Central. This was back in, like, 2003 or so. The grand prize was a trip to the Cannes Film Festival as part of Troma Films. Turns out my contact person at Troma who was supposed to pick me up and take me to the group had quit a week prior and did not leave a follow-up plan for me. So, my first night ever in a foreign country, I was all alone, and there were pretty much no rooms available."
"I was always kind of a pushover and never really stood up for myself, but I instantly became a 'don't take no for an answer' kid, and after walking around town for a while, I found a fancy ass hotel and talked my way into getting one of the rooms. I went out, I got food, I got wine, I smoked French cigarettes, and I laughed with the greatest sense of pride and confidence I've ever had in my life. I later met up with the team, took a day trip to Monaco, met friends I still talk to from all around the world, and almost got arrested while dressed up as the Toxic Avenger doing some guerilla parading on the main street with these wild dudes from Baltimore. The other prizes, like the DVDs and the TV, were great, but this one...this one made me feel alive."
9."Canadian — won $3,600 on Wheel of Fortune in 1995. After the completion of the taping of the show, we were hustled into a side room where we had the option to accept or decline any of the winnings and prizes we get. On the advice of my accountant, I was told to accept everything. Canadian tax law classifies game show winnings as lottery winnings and are tax-exempt. However, IRS still takes their cut. Lost about 1/3 to IRS — but can be reclaimed in the form of a US tax credit against any future US earnings I may have. CA state lottery commission takes a chunk as well."
"Anyway, we were told that we would be responsible for shipping and duty on all parting gifts. Were also advised that the final cheque would be sent after the last of the parting gifts had been claimed. 'No problem,' I thought. 'When will I ever do this again.'
PROBLEM! Each of the parting gifts was shipped to me independently of the others, and the shipping and freight forwarding fees bordered on usury.
First to arrive was a Dirt Devil Dust Buster — along with a UPS charge of $65. Probably could have wandered down to Wal-Mart and picked one up for $35.
Next to arrive was a three-piece toddler's clothing set. Admittedly, a nice little sweater, shirt, and pant set — but hardly worth the $38 in shipping and cross border brokerage fees.
The facial cleanser and loofah sponge were next — a snip at just $29. Cried a bit on the inside when I found the exact product (complete with a bonus facial toner) for $11 at a drugstore in town.
The gift certificates for the four bottles of sleeping pills came by standard mail — but were only valid for redemption in the USA.
The best was the item I had believed to be a SunBeam bread maker. I was surprised when the UPS driver showed up and only asked for $27 in brokerage and shipping fees. Seemed like a pretty good deal until I opened the box and discovered two loaves of SunBeam bread...or something that resembled that. They'd been held up in a brokerage warehouse for three weeks, and were more suitable for a 'science project' than a 'sandwich.'
The last of my prizes having arrived, I did receive the cheque soon thereafter.
Last little bonus — UPS driver made one last trip with another $65 tab. Not sure what it could be as all of the gifts had been accounted for. By error, a second Dirt Devil Dust Buster. FML.
19 years later, still a good party story."
10."My brother was on $25,000 Pyramid in '77 or '78. He got a lifetime of Rice-A-Roni. It was a case of, like, 48 boxes every year for, like, three years. We got a letter that the show was going off air and out of the Rice-A-Roni business. Cut us right off."
11."I won Jeopardy! twice. ... After you win, they pull you aside and make you sign triplicate carbon receipts for the money you won. It's a really weird day — going from exhausted shambling at 5 a.m. to THE MOST ADRENALINE IMAGINABLE to bureaucracy to walking around shell-shocked, but it's still two hours to dinnertime. Bonus: I just poked around the Sony Pictures lot for a bit and bumped into Ron Howard in a bathroom."
And if you're wondering what happens directly after you win... "They line you up. One of you is completely adrenaline-drunk and shaking, and the other two are completely exhausted and shaking and very fucking sad. So, you just stand there under those lights and sway a little. Alex starts talking, asking light questions — about your trip in, the hotel, the weather back home. You just need something to do with all that energy and confusion, and Alex channeled it into inane babbling."
12."A family friend won a lifetime supply of Tic-Tacs off of Match Game in the '70s as a consolation prize. She said they sent her one box a month for about a year and stopped. She was okay with that."
13."I won Wheel of Fortune two years ago. I won $67,000. After taxes, it ended up being about $52,000. I paid off all my debt, went to Disney, bought some new furniture for the house, and paid cash for a car. Still have about 20k sitting in savings. It was absolutely phenomenal. It had always been my dream, and I still can’t believe it happened."
"I didn’t get to talk to Pat much, but he was nice, for sure. We did get to see Vanna before taping. She was wearing Ugg boots, I will never forget that. One dude cried when she walked in."
14."My girlfriend (now wife) won a year's supply of pizza as a consolation prize on The Price Is Right. Only problem was we live in California, and the pizzeria was in New York. So, what did they do? You guessed it, they shipped the pizzas via regular delivery (not even overnight) from New York to our apartment in California. When the pizzas got there, they were often three or four days old, and were not refrigerated, thus moldy and disgusting. After about a week of this, we contacted the show, and they agreed to a 'cash value' of just over $100 (far less than the value of the pizzas). Ever since then, I have had a dislike for The Price Is Right."
15."I was on Let's Make a Deal in 2016, and I won a new car. It was actually perfect timing because my old car was on its last legs, and I had started saving for a new one, then I won a new one and the money I had saved paid the fees and stuff."
"I won the car in August but didn't actually get it until November when the episode aired, but they drove it to my apartment and had me sign the deed, and it was all pretty painless. I had heard rumors throughout life about winning on game shows 'costing you' and things like that. I guess because I already had some money saved for fees and taxes, it ended up really painless. Got a brand new car worth 16k for about 3k in fees and stuff. Totally worth it and would totally recommend it!
Here's a tip: If you ever go to one of those game shows that pick contestants out of the audience, they have a producer briefly interview EVERYONE (usually in groups) beforehand, and as long as you're lively without being theatrical, and seem interesting without being bonkers, you have a good shot at being picked. When the producer was interviewing the 20-member slot of audience members I was grouped with, he asked everyone their name and what they did and one interesting fact about themselves. And one random guy who desperately wanted to be on TV started doing the worm there in the interview area. You could immediately see on the producer's face that though he was forcing laughter, that's definitely not what they're looking to put on TV. Loose cannons are a big no-go."
16."I won the showcase on The Price Is Right. It was the spring break episode so it was only college students. It was my senior year of college. Winning a new car and a bunch of other stuff made the last semester of college awesome. It's been 9.5 years, and I still drive the car. So, I guess it's changed my life in that I've never had car payments."
"Had to pay tax on the value of all the prizes as if it were income. Luckily, I hit a dollar on the big wheel and a nickel on my bonus spin and won enough cash to cover taxes. [I also won] $11,000, two surfboards and wetsuits, a week-long trip to Sandals Bahamas, and a few other odds and ends like a printer."
17."My family and I were the last family to win $10,000 on Family Feud back in 2000 when Louie Anderson was the host. We were the third show of five on the last day of taping for the season, and the two families behind us didn't win the $10,000, and they began the next season with a $20,000 prize. (We were also on the show when winners weren't allowed to come back and repeat, which sucks)."
"We taped the show in October, and our show didn't air until February. We were told to keep the result under wraps, but of course, we told all our family and friends about it. We didn't receive the money until April. ... They auto split the prize for us, and sent me and my four family members $2,000 each and a W-2 form at the end of the year. I made a photocopy of the check before I cashed it, but I don't know where it is. I was only 18 when we won so that was, like, a huge deal to me, and I bought a computer and a few other things for myself for my upcoming college education."
18."I was on the show The Substitute on MTV. Haven't heard of it? No surprise there, it sucked. I won $5,000 on the show which was the grand prize, and on camera, they handed me a briefcase full of money. The money was fake, though, and if anyone knows anything about money, then they would realize the amount of cash in that briefcase would have been significantly more than $5,000. After recording finished, they took the briefcase and fake money back and gave all the participants pizza and told us we would receive a check in one to two months after the episode aired. The way this particular show worked I ended up splitting the $5,000 with the other 19 contestants, so we all got a check for $100 about four months later."
"Since the prize money was under $500 for each person, none of us had to pay taxes on it."
19."I was on U-Pick Live on Nickelodeon once as a kid. They were about to wrap up the season before the summer started so they were traveling around a bit and did one week of shows in Orlando, Florida where coincidentally, my dad was taking my brother and I. At the front gate, there was a group of people handing out tickets to get into the screening like they were bibles or something. I begged my dad to let us get them, and then I had to beg him again later to let us go and watch the show. Then, when we're there, 'Pick Boy' comes out, and everybody is raising their hands to be picked and screaming. I STAND UP and put both hands in the air and shout. He points at me, I point at myself, he nods, and I run down to the set."
"They introduce me and ask me what door I wanted to pick from the prize wall. I think I had a chance at winning a 'can of cash' which, as the name implies, was a trash can full of money of an undisclosed denomination. I didn't get that, but I got a GameCube, which was not bad at all. The sucky parts were: It took, like, four months for them to ship it to me, and I lost the tape of the show pretty quickly after I got it."
20."I won a contest on early ITV kids television around age 11. This was the time that laptops were just starting to come out and get big, and thus, when the prize was a laptop, I decided to enter. The question was something to do with the cartoon version of Tarzan, and I won. The picture showed a brand new laptop. When it arrived, it was a leapfrog learning laptop aimed for 6-year-olds. I was 11. And batteries weren't included."
21."My mom got on (and won) Wheel of Fortune. I’ll try to be vague to protect her identity. Per the show, she officially won an all-expense-paid trip to a country I won’t list, a (at the time) brand new Infinity (2010 range), and, like, $25,000 cash. She said she was required to pay taxes on the car, which was several thousand dollars upfront that she just had to pay as her game show winnings took a while to arrive so she couldn’t use that. She took out a short-term loan using the car as collateral to pay that tax. She sold the car, paid off the loan, and kept the difference."
"Something they don’t tell you is how heavily taxed income from game shows is; I remember her only keeping a few grand out of her 25k. She did, however, get to keep most of the money from selling the car, AND the trip to a foreign country was legit (including the spending cash they give you when you’re out there). Overall, she used the money to pay off some debts and lived basically the same after the show (minus some debt and with the added life experience in another country).
For any Wheel of Fortune fans, she said Pat is short in person, that everyone stands on pedestals to make them appear identical in height, and that Vanna White is extremely nice."
22."I was on Wheel of Fortune in 2017 and won the bonus round. I ended up with $46,200 and a trip to Cuba. After taxes, I made close to $30,000, and the trip was amazing. I was on for Teachers Week and am still treated as the local celebrity around school. Vanna was a doll, and Pat is what you would expect."
NBC / CBS / ABC
23."My old boss won on GSN's Trivial Pursuit show while that was still on the air. He said the person that won in the taping just before his got a trip to Jamaica, so he was looking forward to a tropical vacation. Imagine his surprise when they announced he'd won an all-expenses-paid trip...to San Antonio. In his words: 'After you've gone to Six Flags, you know what's fun to do? Pack your shit and leave.'"
24."My mom was on Jeopardy! in 1991 and got no money but won: a cellphone (huge '90s cellphone that you plug into your car), a year's supply of centrum silver (one of the show's sponsors, a vitamin for men), [and] a blender that immediately broke."
25."This was way back in the early aughts; my roommate was booked on a Fox Network game show, I think it was called Greed, and meant to compete with the wildly popular (at that time) Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? I still remember the day he comes home from taping the show; opens the door, throws his arms up in the air in a victory pose, shit-eating grin, and declares, 'I just won a LOT of money!!' Apparently, he had signed an NDA of sorts, so he couldn't tell any of us (friends and family) how much it was until the show aired a few months later. He won 300K before taxes (which were significant). Funny thing; he only bought one big thing, a new but entry-level Honda and put the remaining $$ in the bank. Didn't change him in the slightest from my recollection."
26."One of my parents won £500,000 on a game show in 2012. Before this parent went on the show, we had been served an eviction notice from the rented house we were in; needless to say, they bought a lovely house, and it was the first time I ever had a nice bedroom to decorate. Being on the property ladder changed their lives drastically, and now, they’ve moved to Australia (from the UK), and they’re living their best life."
"The show was called Red or Black. It was canceled not long after."
27."I won $1,600 on Cash Cab. Who would have thought that knowing the name of George Clooney's pet pig would prove to actually be useful someday? We were given 'money' on the show, but after filming wrapped, the producers took it back, and the money was sent to us after the episode aired. None of our earnings were taxed because this wasn't in the US."
28."About $60K on The $100,000 Pyramid. Got a check in the mail about two weeks after the show aired. They tell you beforehand (and you have to sign a paper confirming your understanding), that they do not have to pay you your winnings if the show gets canceled and your episodes are never broadcast."
"I don't recall a lot of tax withholding, but you do have to declare the winnings just like regular income, so you're taxed on it at the same rate your other income is taxed. The bummer is that applies to both cash and prizes, so if you win a $5,000 cruise, it's still gonna cost you a few grand in taxes. Thus, when you walk off the stage at the end of the show, the contestant coordinator has a list of the prizes you won, and you can waive your right to any of them to avoid the tax bill. (In the old days of Wheel of Fortune, the contestant won an amount of money in each round, and then had to go 'shopping' from a gallery of prizes with pretty high prices, so they ended up with no cash but a lot of useless crap that they had to pay taxes on. Due to contestant complaints, they did away with that part of the game, and now, you get to keep the money you win. Check YouTube to see some of those.)
Finally, the secret treasure you win are the 'parting gifts.' They mention them quickly during the end credits, but your find a package on your doorstep every few days from the most random companies. I got about 50 coupons for free bags of kitty litter (gave them to classmates who had cats), a vacuum cleaner, a clock radio, a case of Hormel Chili, and a check for $25 from a denture cream company. And because they are considered promotional items, there's no tax on those."
29.And finally, let's end on the person that lived out every kid's dream... "I was slimed on Slime Time Live. Won a razor scooter and a year subscription of Nickelodeon magazine."
Have you ever won money or a prize from a game show, radio show, or contest? Let us know in the comments!
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.