Catch 21 Explained

catch 21 logo gsn game show
courtesy GSN

Catch 21 aired on GSN from 2008 through 2011. It was an original game for the network and was fairly popular with viewers. It had a simple concept and was easy to play along with. You can still play the online game at

Catch 21 Quick Facts

Host: Alfonso Ribeiro
Co-Host: Mikki Padilla
Executive Producers: Scott Sternberg and Merrill Heatter
Series Premiere: July 21st 2008
Network: GSN
Aired On: Weekdays at 7:30pm
Top Prize: $25,000


Catch 21 was based on the popular game at the GSN website. It combines trivia questions with the card game blackjack, and gives contestants the chance to win up to $25,000 in prize money.

Three contestants start the game, and each one is dealt one card. As in blackjack, the goal is to make it as close as possible to a score of 21 with the cards, while trying to force opponents to go over that magic number. Multiple-choice trivia questions are asked, and the contestant who buzzes in and gives the correct answer first gets another card. He or she can then decide whether to keep that card or force an opponent to take it.

When contestants have what they feel is a winning hand, and they have possession of the board (by being the most recent person to correctly answer a question), they can freeze their hand and force the other two contestants to continue playing and try to beat their score.

There are no ties in this game, so play must continue until one contestant has the highest hand, and the other two have either frozen or gone over.


Contestants receive 100 points per correct answer, plus a bonus of 500 points if they win the round.

The Main Game:

The first few rounds are played with all three contestants.

After two rounds of play, the contestant with the lowest point score is eliminated, and the remaining two contestants face off in one final round to see who will move on to the bonus round. This contestant also wins a $1,000 cash prize for being the last person standing.

The Bonus Round:

The Bonus Round is made up of three hands. One card is dealt for each hand, and the contestant is given a number of Power Chips based on how many rounds he or she won during the regular game. Power Chips allow the contestant to pass on any unwanted cards that are dealt.

Cards are revealed from the deck, one at a time, and the contestant chooses which of the three hands the cards should be placed on. The goal is to get three hands worth 21 to win the grand prize. The prize ladder is:

  • 1 hand of 21: $1,000
  • 2 hands of 21: $5,000
  • 3 hands of 21: $25,000

The contestant can choose to walk away after winning the smaller amounts, but once they decide to keep playing, they risk the money they've already banked.

Game Review

(Note that this review was written when the show premiered -- it is no longer currently airing, though GSN could eventually bring it back.)

Catch 21 is a fun game with a solid concept. The hosts are positive and upbeat, and the contestants really seem to be having fun with the strategic element of the card play.

The show lacks the flash and drama of some of the recent prime time game shows, but in my opinion this is a good thing. It has an air of the classic card-based game shows with just enough of a modern touch to keep viewers coming back for more. It's definitely worth checking out!