Game show shame: Deal or No Deal’s infamous 1p Club

by Staff & Contributors

It’s a dream we’ve all shared at some point in our lives – to go on a famous TV game show and win thousands of pounds, to soak in the adulation of the studio audience, to see other contestants look on in envy as you shake the host’s hand.

For many, entering a game show is seen as potentially an easy way to earn some serious cash. This would have been the case for the countless contestants who entered Deal or No Deal, the Channel 4 game show which graced our TV screens between 2005 and 2016.

Many Deal or No Deal contestants did walk away rich beyond their wildest dreams, not least the nine participants who won the show’s top prize of £250,000. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum are a group of people whose dream of entering Deal or No Deal to get filthy rich ended in more nightmarish circumstances.

There are more than fifty members of Deal or No Deal’s 1p club – that is, contestants who have walked away with the lowest amount of money a player can win on the show, a single penny. The first to do so was Nick Bain in 2006, who was left with the measly possibility of either 1p or £100, two values at the lowest end of the prize money spectrum. Nick decided to swap his box with the only other one remaining, and his fate was sealed as Noel Edmonds opened the box and revealed the penny.

Dozens more have experienced the bitter taste of that 1p being revealed in their box, some instances being more costly than others. Most can only laugh as the 1p is revealed, but the nature of being a Deal or No Deal contestant was that you got to see several other participants walk away with life-changing sums of money before you got your chance to play. To see those dreams dashed to pieces in one swift pull of a red seal must be devastating.

Indeed, to even be selected to take part in Deal or No Deal, given the popularity of the show and the sheer volume of applications, was an achievement in itself. But to then have the opportunity of winning so much money slip away must have been heart-breaking.

Some will question why there are so many more members of the 1p club than winners of the £250,000 top prize. The simple reason lies in the fact that if a player is left with significantly more blue numbers than red, they are more likely to play on until the end rather than accept the Banker’s offer. In those sorts of games there would eventually come a moment when such contestants would begin to think that things could not get any worse, so they played on until the bitter end.

However, it is those high stakes that attracted people to play Deal or No Deal, and that attracted thousands of viewers to tune in every weekday. The risk factor was what made the show so entertaining, and the risk of walking away with a penny was, in the eyes of so many players, worth playing on for higher amounts. The show is still produced in different countries, and its legacy lives on in many ways. You can even play online Deal or No Deal games here:

In many ways, Deal or No Deal was a ruthless game, where chance above all other factors played the biggest role. Each contestant only got one opportunity to play, and so you can only feel pity for those sorry members of the 1p club. However, the agony and disappointment of those who won only a penny serve to accentuate the euphoria of those who walked away with a quarter of a million from this rollercoaster of a game show.

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