Show Discussion: High Stakes

By | October 11, 2011

8pm, ITV1

(aka “KYLE’ll be the judge of that” – Thanks Dan)

We can hold it off no longer – tonight is the inaugural episode of High Stakes, a show I’ve not been backward in suggesting “sounds a bit rubbish”. But I’ve changed my mind before, will I do so again? Is picking numbers going to be exciting? A prize structure that nobody is going to gamble on a good thing? Will ex-gambling addict Jeremy Kyle be any use whatsoever? Ignore the idea that it’s the first show where the host can help contestants, it isn’t (see Treasure Hunt, Nick Weir’s Catchphrase passim).

If nothing else, we quite like the exciting floor screen from the adverts.

Once again, we wonder what Jeremy is pondering in that photograph.

History of High Stakes on the Bar: Pilot recording, Series recording.

54 thoughts on “Show Discussion: High Stakes

  1. David Howell

    I’d argue it’s not the prize structure that nobody will gamble on, it’s the nature of how the clues work.

    The gambles aren’t all that badly calibrated – they’re strongly EV+ for a start, which you’d think would be a given but isn’t (e.g. the top of the FTRoYL time ladder) – apart from the fact that you have to commit to them from the word go, and there is a screamingly obvious path of least resistance that leads directly to a sum of money that makes a very obvious target for the average UK game show contestant. Additionally, there will be absolutely no tension on the stop/go decisions – it’s screamingly obvious to stop when there’s no clues left (although it’s only EV- to play on with no clues once you get to the £100k/£500k decision, interestingly), and it’s almost as obvious to ensure you use up your clues before you walk.

    What needed to happen, as I’ve said before, is simply to get rid of the whole “clue/guess” element as it stands altogether, and make it a straight Q&A. Still seven consecutive integers as the set of possible answers for each question on each level, but now you have to pick the right answer. Get it wrong, and you lose a lifeline and have to pick a different wrong answer to stay in the game (i.e. it reverts to how the questions work in the actual show). Three lifelines to last the whole game. You can walk away at the end of each level as per the actual show.

    That way, you actually have some proper risk-reward decisions; people might play on with no lifelines, they might stop with one or more to spare. As DoND has taught us, it is the element of uncertainty over what the player will do that is the raison d’etre of risk-reward shows.

  2. Des Elmes

    I wonder if some people will avoid this show purely because of Jeremy Kyle…? 😉 8)

  3. Joe

    That Celebrity Big Brother answer is wrong! There are 8 winners, not 7. The producers got it wrong!!!

    1. David Howell

      Why am I not surprised. Oh, wait, they had a wrong question on the 20 provided to auditionees (built around the idea that BMI was a measure of body fat – it’s not, it’s a measure of body size).

  4. gareth jones

    I also like the floor but why would anyone step on a number without taking a clue,unless you wanted the top prize.

    1. David Howell

      And then they changed the format to make it even worse.

      Why the hell would you tweak a risk-reward format for the UK audience so that it has a clear path of least resistance to a five-figure sum of money? UK contestants will take that every time, rightly or wrongly.

  5. Joe

    I like Jeremy. He might be a bit of an idiot but he does have some charisma. I can’t say the same about Gethin Jones who hosts HOFAH.

    1. Des Elmes

      I much prefer Gethin in every way, shape and form, though… 😈 😉

  6. Joe

    I missed a little bit. Why haven’t the contestants not asked Jeremy for help yet?

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      They don’t have to ask he just gives it. That’s what our Jeremy is like! Give give give. A giver of experience and a giver of advice.

  7. gareth jones

    Oh for gods sake woman just step on 2 grrrr…this is now the point i stop watching i am afraid

    1. David Howell

      I did like this just now.
      he’s allowed to help the contestant along. It’d only be fair if his finances were simultaneously in jeopardy – “high stakes” indeed

      I’ll drink to that. (Fruit juice. I’m teetotal.)

  8. Joe

    Someone told me this was absolutely awful, but having watched it myself, it’s not THAT bad. But that could be because they chose to have the best episode first on.

  9. gareth jones

    not that bad,what channel are you watching,it was Atrocious.My idea of prime time entertainment is not some northern thicko who can’t figure out christopher robin has more than 2 friends..where is bob monkhouse when you need him 🙂

  10. Joe

    Limitation to the format made it obvious she was going to cash out at £25k. This will be a problem over the series.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Yes it will, but it’s an inbuilt problem because the format almost guarantees no-one will take away more than £25k. The lady gambled on the first two levels and it made her no more likely to gamble for the 100k than if she had just took clues from the very beginning.

      This is poor formatting. Going on shuld always look like a tempting option.

      1. David Howell

        This. They obviously tried to do that with the wildly skewed prize tree (ever seen a x4 or a x5 multiplier between prize tree steps before, apart from the £2k/£10k jump on The Cube which is there to ensure everyone plays three games?), but the fact is that not even that will tempt people.

        What’s really funny is that the auditions were really obviously looking for gamblers – we were “jokingly” told to stand up if we wanted to skip the first part of our audition and have it decided on a coin toss instead, a handful of us stood up before we were told they were only kidding, and I’m pretty sure nearly everyone who stood up went through and nearly everyone who sat down did not – and yet everyone’s still going to walk at £25k, because it’s the obvious strategy, the path of least resistance.

        The only show on British television IMHO where people regularly take significant financial gambles by the standards of international game shows is DoND, where the path of least resistance is presented as being “courageous” enough to take the box.

  11. art begotti

    Well, I only caught the last ten minutes or so, but it didn’t seem too bad of a show. When I first heard the rules, I got the impression that they would be given the clues but they’d get no confirmation as to whether they were right or wrong, as though they’d spring all the traps at once when they picked a number. I kinda like the way they’re doing this though, and I can see myself enjoying this.

    …unless if there was something AMAZINGLY hideous that I missed in the first part of the show. Going by most everyone else’s opinions on here, that hideous bit seems to be the first part of the show.

  12. Brig Bother Post author

    Loads of people confused by the format initally on Twitter (“are all the traps live on one level? Does it move around? Or what?”)

    I can’t help but think that indeed having all the asked for clues upfront and getting all the reveals done in one go would have been a better way to go.

  13. Weaver


    The good: Jeremy Kyle less rubbish than I expected him to be.

    The less good: Amazing Rising and Falling Floor less spectacular than billed: it’s all a bit Eurovision ’09.

    The bad: No rollover games means it’s obvious when the final player finishes. Strategy is either to settle for £25,000 or gamble for a hundred grand.

    The curious: Why does this show require *four* editors?

    In summary: once may be enough.

    1. David Howell

      I’d add that players will usually end up with £25k simply because it’s a blindingly obvious path of least resistance, and that’s always going to make people more likely to follow it. There’s perfectly reasonable strategies (plural) for chasing a six-figure win, but they aren’t nearly as obvious, and if anyone does play for Not!£25k, chances are it’ll be with a decidedly sub-optimal strategy. Wouldn’t be expecting this show to appear on the All-Time Winners List.

  14. Brig Bother Post author

    It’s really popular on Digital Spy.

    My prediction: 60 BILLION viewers.

    My prediction for the end of the series: about 2m.

    1. David Howell

      Wouldn’t it be hilarious if next week’s DoND Live beat High Stakes in the ratings?

      Never going to happen, but I can dream.

  15. Brig Bother Post author

    I accept and understand the strategy for saving your clues for later. The other problem is that if they just go for a risk, it’s basically a really crap and largely tensionless version of Russian Roulette, one that looks like it could be fixed (even though I largely suspect it isn’t).

  16. John R

    So you can’t ‘switch’ your clues then? (assuming spares are available)

  17. Greg

    As pointed out, people are just going to take clues to get them to £25k then walk.

    I think something more along the lines of 50 numbers 1-50 pick a square if its green it is banked if it is red you drop down a level.

    Hang on a minute, have i just described that awful show with Nicky Campbell from a few years back?

    1. David Howell

      Oh goodness. That was the first show I ever went to see recorded, and I’m amazed there was ever a second one after that experience.

      Nicky Campbell absolutely goaded players on in that show. Ironically enough it might take Jeremy hosting like that to give this show an interesting moment – and the tabloids would seize on an ex-gambling addict coercing players into losing everything, and I somehow suspect Jeremy himself wouldn’t take that well himself.

      (Mind you, corollary: the Italian DoND host was also a celebrity from another field with a history of gambling addiction, and I understand he tends to encourage players to gamble.)

  18. Brig Bother Post author

    Well I’ve just been informed this got 2.11m last night, excluding HD, and an under 10% share if you’re that way inclined.

      1. Travis P

        Control would’ve got no more than 3 million if it was placed in the same timeslot. That’s why some people have called it the Tuesday Flopzone. Apart from one-off events (Football). I cannot recall the last show that reached above 4 million. When was the last time a show got above 3 million?

        You cannot blame ITV for hiding the show. They did advertise it but the majority of the UK hates Jeremy Kyle.

    1. David B

      Not Terribly Good (both the format and the ratings). What’s the slot average, tho?

      Bit of a pity, since the production values were decent. It wouldn’t have taken much to get it right.

  19. Mark D

    JK kept saying “You’ve not got to be right, just don’t be wrong” when he surely meant “You’be got to be wrong”.

    Even the phone in competition has a poorly worded question with 2 right answers?

  20. Daniel H

    At least on The Cube if someone had loads of lives left for the jackpot, although traditionally thought of as virtually impossible to win, it could be done – whereas on this show you’d have to trust to luck at least 11 times (i.e. more than half the time) which is never going to happen and frankly just seems pretty unfair. Giving them somewhere between 12 and 15 clues would probably been better.

    Also, on the Darts question Jeremy tries to show off about his darts knowledge by, in addition to simply giving the answer to the question, also describing how you can get a 9-darter. Hilariously, everybody whoops and cheers when he does this as it seems like top Mathematical skill whereas actually (unless my Maths is ropey), he actually gets it wrong!

    He says, it’s 2x 180 = 360 leaving 141
    then T20 = 60 leaving 81
    then T19 = 57 leaving 24
    but then suggests D17 which is of course 34…

    1. KP

      Bah. Any darts fan knows it’s seven t20s, t19, d12. D17 would mean going bust. A bit like ITV if they have more new shows like this.

      1. Dan Peake

        I don’t really want to stifle their creativity though. For every High Stakes there’s a Cube. For every Red or Black a Chase, etc.

  21. Travis P

    I think we’re on the same wavelength that the show is OK but it’s totally flawed.

    It seems a lot of effort is needed just to win £25,000. Also it’s a drag to watch someone to win that, especially as it’s an ITV primetime show. Looking at the editing last night it would take 45 mins (with commericals) for someone to reach that. Millionaire can give away £50,000 in under 30 mins with The Cube can use a whole show to give away £100,000 or £250,000. It’s clearly obvivous IF someone does go for £500,000 then the show would straddle across two shows.

    The format is the biggest problem as you can use all your clues to win £25,000. Thinking about it, they could’ve done either.

    1) Have a clue for nothing but if they’re stuck to offer an additional clue from the clue bank (still have ten available). By doing that they wouldn’t go blind (if chosen to) on every go and this would remove the russian roulette style risk. Also if they know straight away then they would save their clues.

    2) Keep the ten clues but for each round, force the contestant to take a risk on the first number since the odds are always 6/1 to dodge it.

    It’s a clever move by ITV Studios/Escelate to offer £500,000 as they know nobody will win it. Bit like Smarter Than YOUR 10 Year Old? when they doubled the jackpot from £250,000 to £500,000 but knowing nobody will go for it.

  22. Little Timmy

    Shows like these come along once in a while, the ones whose formats we can all take away and think “how would we have made that actually WORK?”.

    I for one have so many ideas I don’t know where to begin:

    More clues
    Clues only
    Sticking bonus clues/mini-cash prizes in certain squares
    Roll a die after committing to a row to see how many clues you get for it
    Rejig the money tree
    Get the audience involved
    Have the clues set by another MOTP sitting at the other end of the board who profits if you lose
    Thirty seconds max to respond to a clue (drop the prizes if rapid winning is that much of a concern)
    All traps and safe spots are fixed at the start of the row, a single clue by itself therefore not guaranteeing safety without all the other clues after it (needs more clues, a method of marking squares (question-related symbols?) & considerably less blockheaded contestants/audience to work)
    Other person’s suggestion: Jeremy Kyle’s fee in jeopardy
    Not wasting good set money on a floor that adds absolutely nothing to proceedings

    And this is a problem I think most of the shows getting commissioned these days are suffering from. In situations like this, if there’s that many different ways to improve it, but the format cannot fairly be played around with episode-by-episode, the devisor should bin it and start again. There is no longevity in something this bland.

    As mentioned earlier on this thread: terrific production values, exhausted within one episode.

  23. The Banker's Nephew

    I honestly don’t know why anyone would bother to use a clue on the first fail of each level. I get that they want some security, but I’d say that a 6/7 chance of surviving is plenty secure.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      It’s an interesting strategy, although your odds on not hitting a fail square on the first attempt over four levels is in fact not much over 50%.

      1. David Howell

        That’s the optimal strategy for £100k. Your chances of surviving five levels that way, assuming you get the questions right (not a particularly unsafe assumption if you’re at all smart, from what I can tell), is about 46%.

        (You can use a clue on the first level and then go two steps without one on a later level, slightly reducing your chances of £100k, but slightly increasing your chances of winning more than zero.)

        1. Dave M

          I was bored while watching this last night (fancy that), and figured out the best strategy to play for £100k that would maximize your utility (albeit while sacrificing about £2k in raw value) would be to take your clues over the five rounds as such: 1/2/2/3/2. Assuming that taking a clue gives you a 100% chance of moving onward, you’d win the £100k 42% of the time and £10k 31% of the time.

          Also, while going for the £500k may be a massively +EV proposition, I couldn’t find a strategy that would be worth more in utility than the £100k strategy, or even just taking the £25k instead.

          1. David Howell

            Of course that makes certain assumptions wrt utility. 😉

            I’d probably agree with 1-2-2-3-2 as optimal on my utility curve though to be honest. I knew that 0-1-2-3-4 was optimal for maximising P (£100k), but didn’t realise just how little that went down with alternative strategies.

  24. Barry

    STV have axed The Hour (again) after 4 episodes meaning that High Stakes will be shown in it’s place.


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