Deal or No Deal Explained

Howie Mandel and Deal or No Deal Models
Howie Mandel with Deal or No Deal Models. courtesy Getty Images

Deal or No Deal was an incredibly popular prime time game show that aired on NBC. It was later made into a syndicated daytime version, though after four years viewership waned enough that both versions were canceled.

Host: Howie Mandel
Executive Producer: Scott St. John
Series Premiere: December 19th, 2005
Network: NBC
Aired On: Wednesday and Friday nights from 8 - 9 pm Eastern
Top Prize: $1,000,000
Catch Phrases: "Deal, or no deal?", "Open the case!"


Deal or No Deal was a slick and modern game show hosted by stand-up comedian and actor Howie Mandel. The main attractions of the show were the 26 models who held shiny briefcases containing anything from one penny to one million dollars inside. A glitzy money board displayed all of the dollar amounts in play during the course of the game.

Contestants selected a case to keep for themselves, and then began the task of eliminating the small dollar amounts by randomly choosing the numbered cases held by the models. As each chosen model opened her case, the amount inside was removed from the money board. The contestant's goal was to keep the higher amounts in play, and hopefully end up with one of the larger amounts in their own case. Each round consisted of a predetermined number of cases to be opened before the contestant could get an offer from the banker.

The Banker:

Working behind the scenes was the banker, who was only ever seen in silhouette and communicated with Mandel via telephone.

After each round, the banker made an offer to purchase the contestant's case, based on the amount of cash still in play on the money board. The offers started out small and gradually increased or decreased, depending on how many large dollar amounts were still in play as the game progressed.

When Mandel received an offer from the banker, he then presented the offer to the contestant.

The contestant had to choose whether to take the offer or keep on playing the game. This was when Mandel would ask, "Deal, or no deal?"

Support From Family and Friends:

After the first round of play, Mandel introduced three or four people who were the contestant's support group. These folks may be friends, family, or co-workers, and were there to provide encouragement and advice throughout the course of the game.

How it Ended:

The game finished in one of two ways. Either the contestant accepted an offer from the banker, or continued to eliminate cases until he or she was left with only their own case, chosen at the start of the game. If an offer from the banker was accepted, Mandel played out the rest of the game in a "what if" fashion, to discover whether or not the contestant made a good deal.

Pros and Cons:

Deal or No Deal depended mostly on random luck and the willingness of the contestants to keep pushing for more money. The show kept things interesting with special guests, theme nights, and an interactive game that viewers could play at home. The models were glamorous and served as eye candy, while the set itself was modern and bright.

Mandel was a warm and engaging host, and interacted well with the contestants and models.

If you're looking for light entertainment value, this is a great game show to seek out in reruns on GSN. If you prefer a challenge, trivia, or games of skill, however, you won't find them here.