Luck or Pattern Memorization?
Sometimes patterns that look random are, in fact, completely predictable. This was the case for Michael Larson who set the record for highest game show winnings in 1984 by winning $110,237 in a single episode of Press Your Luck.
The main feature of the game show is an electronic board with 18 squares. Each square has either a prize or a little red character called the “Whammy”. Squares light up in an apparently random pattern and players slap a button to stop the “spin”. If the spin ends on a prize, the player gets the prize. If the spin ends on the “Whammy” the turn is over. In addition to cash and prizes, players could also win additional spins.
Michael Larson realized that the squares didn’t light up randomly. Instead, there were five predictable patterns each consisting of a fixed sequence of eighteen numbers. He memorized those patterns over a six week period and practiced stopping on prizes using his VCR’s pause button.