The Man Who Pressed His Luck ... and Won

In 1984, ice cream truck driver Michael Larson set a record by winning $110,237 ($283,454 today) in one appearance on the game show Press Your Luck — and he did it by gaming the system. He had noticed that the Press Your Luck board didn’t rely on luck at all, but was actually running in five predictable patterns, which he memorized with the help of a VCR over the course of six weeks. By the time the show’s taping was completed, everyone from the host to the contestants were mystified by Larson’s amazing ability to avoid the Whammy — the squares on the board which would end the player’s turn. Producers initially tried to avoid paying Larson, since his pattern-memorization might be considered cheating. Eventually, the producers relented, after determining that the official game rules didn't prevent a player from reverse-engineering the game patterns. Indeed, producers later revealed in a documentary that they knew there was a weakness to the game, but that weakness was ignored until Larson's famous performance. Furthermore, in order to get spins on the board, Larson had to answer trivia questions, which relied on his trivia skills. So, whatever happened to Michael Larson? He lost part of his money in a bizarre scheme involving $1 bills and a radio game show, and he lost the remainder when his house was robbed. Two years after winning, he was working as an assistant manager at Walmart. He died of throat cancer in 1999 at the age of 49.