Watching Telly: High Stakes

By | July 11, 2011

We know that High Stakes is filming this week in Manchester. Thanks to Thomas we know that host Jeremy Kyle can hint at the answers.

I’m not getting a chance to go and watch it but as ever I’m interested in your experiences and opinions of those who do.

I wonder what Jeremy is mulling over, here.

We gather that changes have happened from the pilot – the grid is smaller but you get fewer clues and picking a wrong answer drops you back two prize levels.

Thanks to the teriffic Barney Sausage for a recording write-up and also sending in two pictures (hidden under the cut)

And also a picture of Jeremy in a suit, if that gets you particularly excited you should be able to click on it for a bigger version:

26 thoughts on “Watching Telly: High Stakes

  1. KP

    This couldn’t possibly be because they realised just how cheap the show had become on the new prize tree and had to desperately find a way of dealing with it. 😉

    To give them their credit, the x4 leap from £25k to £100k is EV+ even if you have no avoids left (a 2/7 chance of quadrupling your money, and a £2,500 fallback if it goes Pete Tong), but only just, not nearly by enough for most UK contestants. Based on DoND experience, I think you’d need a 50% chance of winning for players to risk £22,500 of £25,000 to chase £100,000 – and if I’ve got the maths right, that needs two avoids and at least a 78% chance of knowing each clue answer. And a lot of players using only eight avoids in the first four levels won’t even get to £25k.

    It should be noted that a host hinting at the answers is going to fall foul of the US regulations on This Sort Of Thing, unless I am very much mistaken, and seeing as this was a format made with at least one eye on a US export… I just don’t understand this.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I wouldn’t have thought it would if it was built into the format and Standards and Practices know the host doesn’t see the questions beforehand.

  2. Alex

    I have a bit of reservation with the show title. I mean, “High Stakes” is pretty much as vanilla as they come.

    1. Tom H

      Yes, it’s very much in the name-mould of ‘Alta Tensione’, isn’t it…which also bombed.

      While we’re talking about new ITV1 commissions, are we actually going to see any of them? What happened to Christine Bleakley’s Control?

  3. Tom H

    In France, incidentally, Money Drop begins a summer/early autumn run on August 1st in the 7-8pm time slot on TF1 – with Laurence ‘Maillon Faible’ Boccolini at the helm.

    The unscreened pilot was filmed in London, but looks like they’ve gone with the American set for the series judging from the publicity snaps.

  4. Barney Sausage

    How exciting… I am waiting in the queue to see ‘ High Stakes’… I filed a recording report from the American pilot, so I might do a compare and contrast later on…see if / what they have improved…

  5. Barney Sausage

    the curse of the late train, and the fact I have work at 5am mean that I will do a write up tomorrow, if thats ok? Just got in – not the shows fault – and can hardly keep my eyes open!

  6. Barney Sausage

    Well, my second visit to High Stakes…my experience of the US pilot is well documented – particularly the “fiddly” nature of it, the game rules and so on. This recording was the UK one – in fact, the last recording session of the series – and starred the one and only Jeremy Kyle! I’ll come to him in a moment…just a thought on the queuing procedure, which was again a little “higgledy-piggledy”, to say the least. We were being marshalled into lines outside the mock-Rovers return pub within Granada studio’s grounds, and of course it’s a working environment – cars and vans coming and going occasionally etc. Left to ourselves, we would have lined up against the wall and sorted ourselves out…but there seemed to be one chap asking us to stay in front of some cones on the floor – in the path of oncoming traffic – whilst another lady was imploring us to move the other way…then we were arbitrarily split into two random groups at either side of the road…it felt like some sort of Krypton Factor-style brain bending test, just to work out where to stand!!
    Into the studio, and it was almost identical to the pilot – the game area being a square platform of maybe 25-30 ft square, surrounded by an audience of 300 seats – all of it built up on scaffolding somewhere between 12 and 15 feet in the air, to allow for the show’s gimmick…once a contestant loses, the centre of the floor – the gameboard, if you like – sinks, sending them to their doom….the only difference in staging was that the audience were a lot nearer to the action now. In the pilot, there was almost a “moat” around the game area, a space between the action and the first row of the audience. Now, you’re practically in the game area – we were on the second row, and when Jeremy was on our side of the floor, I could almost have leant over and touched him!
    Speaking of Jezza…he makes for a surprisingly entertaining host! When he came out and did the meet the punters bit, he struck me as really arrogant…however, as soon as he opened his mouth he shot that thought down – doing his “put your hand up if you’ve got a job” schtick…asking a pregnant woman if she knew who the daddy was, or if she wanted a DNA test and so on – seemed happy enough to take the mickey out of himself. Interestingly, he also said it’s a sad time for him as the family are off to the US for a good while, so he can film the American version of his talk show…and he genuinely seemed a bit wistful about it. He introduced the show as “the first game show on British TV where the host can help the contestants”…now, I don’t want to be a party pooper – but if I was Kenneth Kendall, I’d be a bit miffed! I reckon he helped out nicely on Treasure Hunt – clearly an educated man, he’d point out art and literature references, dig out the right books and so on. More on Jezza’s “help” in a little while…
    They’ve changed the game play a bit – now, the money tree goes £1k, £2.5k, £10k, £25k £100k and the jackpot row – £500k. In each row, seven numbers appear – and you must avoid the “traps” to win the cash for that row. There’s one trap on the 1k row, two on the £2.5k row and so on – up to six traps out of the seven numbers on the jackpot row. So…in round 1, choose one of the seven numbers by standing on it – “making your move” – and if it’s NOT the trap, you win a grand. If it is…the floor glides down, and it’s back to Jeremy’s secret lair…the “High Stakes dungeon”, as he kept referring to it – where four family members and friends were watching the game, and occasionally Jezza crossed to them for a bit of a chat, which was a nice touch. Then, it’s take the grand or face doing the same feat twice on the £2.5k row, three times for ten grand and so on – up to 6 times out of the 7 numbers on the jackpot row. But, there’s “clues” to be had – you start the game with 10 clues, and you can use them instead of random guesses. The clue is a question with a numerical answer…and that number is the trap for this go – so solve the question, and you know which number to avoid for that go. Example clue – numbers on the row are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 – and the clue is to AVOID the number of the longest motorway in the UK…basically, work out the answer and stand on ANY OTHER NUMBER bar that. Once you have survived the relevant number of traps and won the cash for the row, you can keep it – or go on to play for the next row. Win it and all is well – but lose, and you go down one rung on the money tree (not the two rungs I had heard of).
    So far, so good…but despite the great set, the surprisingly good host and the potential amount of cash on offer – the clues show up the major flaw for me. You get 10 clues…the perfect number of clues, if you use them from the get-go, to get you exactly to the £25,000 mark. In this instance, you would then have to collect you £25k – or gamble on without any clues…meaning you would have to guess your way through 5 traps from 7 numbers. Although it can obviously be done…you’d have to be very brave to go for it. You would either win £100k – or fall to £10k…so you’re risking 60% of your winnings, admittedly for the chance of quadrupling it…but still…I thought immediately that the contestants would follow the “take 10 clues to get to £25k and get the hell out” strategy…and I was right, as far as the two contestants on my show go anyway. They both won £25k and retired…and I have to say, despite the clue questions getting a little more tricky on the £25k row, there was nothing there to trouble the average quiz fan. And…I dare say that, once the novelty of the initial show has worn off, you’ll get fairly bored of watching a procession of people come on, burn off their clues and go home with – admittedly chunky – money, without even the intention of challenging for the jackpot. In that sense, the JP might as well be a million squillion quid…if no one’s going to go for it, it’s meaningless.
    “Ahhhh…” I hear you say…”but Jeremy can help!” Hmmm…I also had a bit of an issue with the help bit. It’s fair to say that Jeremy Kyle is a reasonably intelligent man, I think – worked in the media for ages…man of the world…and so on. Some of his help was a bit uneven handed – for example, one of the clues was avoid the age Billie Piper was when she had her first number one hit. He strolled around, racking his brains – because he was working in Swindon when this happened, and he interviewed her – and he eventually came out with the right answer of 15. Fair enough…but he was mega, MEGA vague on other clues – another example, the numbers were 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67 and 68 – and the number to avoid was “the year when Marilyn Monroe famously sang “Happy Birthday Mr President” to JFK”. Now…I reckon there are Tibetan hermits and remote undiscovered tribes in the depths of the rainforest who would both know that JFK was assassinated in 1963…it’s probably the most famous criminal act in history…so you’d head for the safety of 66 or 67. But Jezza claimed not to know when JFK bit the bullet – and started trying to work Presidencies back…starting with “now, Gerald Ford was Pres from 1970 to 74…” – and offered nothing about JFK. That’s just one example of many – so I wonder if his “help” is more to keep the show flowing arbitrarily, rather than a genuine device to be used in play. Either that…or he is astonishingly dumb – unaware of pretty much the entirety of the world around him. Can’t really see that, but I could be wrong…
    So – recording went well, with the excellent Ray Turner on warm-up duties…Jeremy seemed genuinely chuffed when people won…great set, nice vibe…but the game seems angled at “you COULD win this….but you’ll probably settle for that”. – and I reckon it’ll get a bit weary, a bit quickly. I have mailed a couple of photos to Brig, which they said we could take at the end of the recording – one of the game board, the other of Jeremy bathed in a ring of Messianic light whist he recorded the trailer for the show – which he’ll hopefully post for us. And you can check it out in October – according to the floor manager, it’s going on Saturdays before X Factor…but I think it’ll be a one-shot wonder myself. If you ant to watch a genuine chance of huge amounts being won, I’d direct you to the Irish lottery show at the moment – “The Big Money Game” – with it’s amazing end game where 7 balls roll down a slope into a pan, so one will settle in the middle. The different colours are worth (all Euro) 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k, 100k (two of those) and the jackpot of 250k…in effect, a three in seven chance of winning 100k+…and a genuine bit of excitement. At least the JP is achievable –and has been won already this season – and it’s available on the RTE web site internationally!

    1. KP

      When we heard at the audition how it was going to be done, more than one of us immediately said we’d stop at £25k. I wasn’t one of them, I stopped and did the maths, worked out that it is EV+ to play to the end, but did the utility calculations and realised it wasn’t a positive-expectation move on a utility front, and I speak as someone who doesn’t have a utility curve that inflects in the £15-25k bracket like seemingly most UK game show contestants.

      There was a moment in the audition when we were asked to stand up if we wanted to skip the first interview bit and rely on the flip a coin; heads we went to the second part of the audition, tails we went home immediately. Turned out that was a fake – but pretty much everyone who went through at our audition did stand up for that. Add to that the clip of the pilot we saw involving Jeremy talking up the contestant’s gambling tendencies, and it was pretty clear that they were desperately seeking risk-taking players. I’m delighted for the two players who slipped through the net (and the really poorly handled audition process) and have taken home a seriously life-enhancing sum of money out of this.

      How to make this show instantly better: instead of the clue system, have a question at every step, with the aim being to pick the right answer. If they get it wrong, they lose a life, and then have to pick a wrong answer (as they do now) to avoid the fall. Three lives would probably suffice if the questions are pitched at ITV daytime audience level, as they seemingly are. As it is, it’s desperately trying to combine the DoND luck elements with a quiz show, and I didn’t ever think a show would do that less effectively than In It To Win It.

      Is it only a one level drop for a fail now? Last I heard at the audition it was two.

      And Ford was President from ’73 to ’76. 😉

      1. Barney Sausage

        Good thoughts KP – and I thought Jezza was wrong with those dates for Ford! It is one level drop for a fail, as per our recording anyway – and it was clearly shown as such on the big screen graphic – perhaps they thought against it?

        1. KP

          They said two at the audition: from my other experiences there, I am going to chalk that one up as “desperately trying to get more people to gamble”.

          My utility calculations would probably see me play for the £100k under that ruleset actually. Taking one guess first on each level gives you a (6/7)^5 ~=0.46 chance of surviving the guesses, and by backloading the guesses towards later levels you can reduce your risk of a zero or 1k win at the cost of a few hundredths off that (because you’re replacing a 6/7 with a 5/6 in that calculation). Of course you can fail on the questions, but you can luck out even if you don’t know, Jeremy offers some help (again, I reckon that’s a twist added late on to encourage people deeper into the game), and you only need to identify a wrong answer, which you have an odds-on chance of doing on any one question by sheer dumb luck.

          This game is somewhat mathematically and strategically interesting to me and some other people. Then again, so was The Colour of Money, and that flopped even with Chris Tarrant and possibly the best game show set ever going for it.

          Another question: does Kyle intervene at all on the risk/reward decisions?

          I was slightly pedantically wrong on Ford btw. 1973 to 1977. He lost the 1976 election, but Carter was only inaugurated in January 1977. Similarly, George W. Bush was President from 2001 to 2009, not 2000 to 2008.

          1. Thomas

            Contestants do drop down two levels if they hit a fail.

          2. KP

            …maybe they changed it mid-recording when nobody went past £25k…

            The simplest way to fix it: make level one’s easy question a freebie, like in the pilot. The better way: get rid of the clue management element altogether and do it as a straight game of skill with three lives. Heck, make them lifelines – use the “avoid” lifeline and all you need to do is identify a wrong answer.

    2. David B

      FWIW, I wouldn’t know the Kennedy thing so chalk me up as dumb. I look forward to receiving your Only Connect application also.

      Is it me or is the ‘pit’ idea just a bit silly? It doesn’t really fit in with anything.

      At least they get to reuse all their old Winning Lines questions!

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I can at least see the appeal of trapdoors (apparently the original intention when the idea was first mooted was to do this above a swimming pool) but having the floor slowly lowered down? Can’t see it myself.

      2. Barney Sausage

        Won’t be entering Only Connect David – though I love the show dearly, I’m nowhere near clever enough! Now, I wasn’t using the word dumb as an insult to anyone – and I know not everyone would know the year MM sang to JFK…but I think most would know when he was killed. Logically, if you know that fact then any number after 63 is good – she sang it to him whilst he was alive. Perhaps not the best example I could have used – but I genuinely think Jeremy plays more dumb than he is…you’ll see what I mean when the show goes out. If that is the case – if he sometimes holds back, when he knows or could reasonably work out the answer – then for me, that renders the help element redundant…it’s a gimmicky talking point, rather than a true game mechanic.

    3. Des Elmes

      Most Irish people think The Big Money Game is a load of crap, though. 😉

      After all, it’s just a summer version of Winning Streak – none of the games have any bit of skill in them, and most of the contestants are senior citizens from the west of the country (Galway, Kerry, Clare etc).

      And, let’s face it, The Big Money Game isn’t the most imaginitive title, is it? 😉

      1. Barney Sausage

        Hi Des – do you know, I really like TBMG! Says something about my taste in game shows, eh?! I know it’s…erm…searches for a suitable word…’unsophisticated’, but it’s a bit of fun with a genuine chance of seeing someone win a big prize…which I like. Agree totally though – there’s not an ounce of flipping skill in it!

        1. The Banker's Nephew

          The fun wears away when you’re halfway through the show and still playing the same game.

    4. Thomas

      The contestants on the show I attended played it almost identically. It looks like everyone has worked out that you can get to 25K on the clues alone. My wife suggested that maybe contestants should be forced to use the guesses in some way. A system of rewarding correct guesses with clues (earier rounds earning more clues than those taken later on) would force players to gamble early if they wish to aim for higher amounts. Not sure if this would work – my brain hurts thinking about it.

      I didn’t think the questions were that easy to be honest, but maybe I’m just thick. I also have to hold my hands up and admit that I always don’t think of the obvious, especially when pressured, all logic shoots out of the window. For the JFK question I do know when he was shot, but to be honest it didn’t even spring to mind when I read the question. Of course it happened when he was alive. This happened to me a few times during the recording. As soon as Jezza/contestant said ‘it can’t be even because…’, I’d think ‘oh, yeah’

      Snow White is missing a dwarf…and I’m here!

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  8. KP

    OK, this is going to be long, hence not being done as a reply to an earlier post, but I’ve done some mathematical analysis of High Stakes.

    Simplifying assumptions:
    1. it is assumed that P (knowing a wrong answer) remains constant throughout the game, and one either knows or does not know an answer, with not knowing treated as tantamount to taking a guess;
    2. Guesses are used up first on a level, with clues used later. This is optimal because this minimises the probability of a guess going wrong.

    If we treat P (knowing a wrong answer) = 1, so as to focus entirely on the luck element; you have a 46% chance of reaching £100k, by means of taking one guess first up on every level. You have about a 26% chance of leaving with nothing, or 37% if you fall two levels with a fail; you have a 9% chance of leaving with (£1k if you fall two levels / £2.5k if you fall one), and a not quite 8% chance of (£2.5k / £10k).

    Either way, EV is roughly £47k, so a clearly positive-expectation gamble compared to the certain £25k you get if you know all the answers and use nothing but clues for four levels then get the hell out, but on a coinflip between £100k and what is likely to be zero, most people would take the certain £25k. People take less than that on blue/£100k on DoND.

    Playing for £500k – by using the ten clues 1-2-3-4 starting from the third level – offers a 16% chance of going all the way. Remember, that’s if you know all the answers with certainty. It also makes it odds-on that you’ll win nothing if there’s a two-level drop, and close to a 40% chance even if there’s only one. EV is still a lot higher at roughly £80k, though.

    But what about if you don’t know all the answers? Taking P (knowing a wrong answer) = 0.8;

    * You have a 71% chance of getting to £25k with nothing but clues, and about a 12% chance of leaving with (£1k / £2.5k). EV is just under £18k.
    * Going for £100k with one guess per level, you have a 30% chance of getting just that, with a roughly 14% chance of leaving at any given level of the previous five. EV is just under £31k.
    * Going for £500k as described above, you have about a 9.5% chance of getting there. Winning nothing on the two-drop condition is now a 58% chance. EV is a bit over £48k.

    So in each case, the gambles are EV+, significantly so, but given the high probability of winning very little, possibly not quite enough. Incidentally, using an adapted version of the FD calculation, the £25k strategy is optimal for all values of P (knowing a wrong answer).

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