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That time I won a prize on Let’s Make a Deal and paid tribute to Hamilton

If Freakonomics is where a “rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything,” my journey to the Let’s Make a Deal stage was Freakylawyernomics- where “a not-so-rogue lawyer uses statistics, kindness and knowledge about Wayne Brady to win on Let’s Make a Deal.”

Curious? So, was I. I first read everything I could about other contestant’s experiences. There are great blogs like this one written by a former fellow winner. Take a break and study up.

The studio audience

Here is where statistics work in. There are about 200 people in the audience. Of that, most people have 2 to 3 people in their group. So that means there are 50-100 groups to choose from, as they aren’t going to separately select two people from the same family or group. Then, there are some people who are brought in who seem to be otherwise ineligible- either they are interns, paid or otherwise not among those who are random members of the public. We saw some people coming in and they handed them costumes just to blend in. As 6-10 people are selected each show, it is still a long shot, but crunching the math, you have a better shot at being selected than you think. You’ll never be satisfied with just watching others win.

Get tickets

This is easy. It starts with a visit to On Camera Audiences website. They allow you to essentially RSVP to a taping of the show. As a longtime fan of Let’s Make a Deal and Wayne Brady, I thought it would be fun to watch on a trip to Los Angeles. It’s surprisingly easy to be in the audience with a little forethought. Tapings are usually in the spring and summer, so don’t expect to have a winter’s ball on the show.

I’d suggest picking the earliest taping available. They film multiple shows per day, so you can multiply your chances to come back to a later show while being decked out in costume. We attended the first taping that morning and did not get selected. We just missed the cut-off for the second show. We then were invited back for the third taping. We know some people attended all three tapings that day. They say those who come back stand a greater chance. I agree. I appeared as a contestant on my second of two shows I attended. With a little flexibility, you’ll be back.

Here are photos from our morning show appearance where we were not selected:

You unquestionably increase those odds by being someone the producers have on a list by following a few simple suggestions.

Plan ahead

Now that you have reservations, you need to begin planning how to dress to impress. I picked out (a fellow lawyer’s) duds which would give me a good chance to be noticed. And I told my story while genuinely being nice to people and having fun.

We spent some time researching local LA costume shops, as I wanted to go with something Alexander Hamilton themed. I am (1) a fan of Hamilton (the musical) and (2) knew Wayne Brady played Aaron Burr, Sir in Chicago’s run of Hamilton. It was an easy way to identify with him, give him something he could improv about and otherwise give me something relatable to discuss with producers, which showed I have interest and passion for the show. That seemed to be the trend with people selected.

The inventory at Heritage Costumes is awesome and made the experience more fun. I highly recommend them. You can certainly make something at home or rent or buy something there, but we wanted to stand out and have a bit more of a professional look without looking like we were extras for the stage production. We made a “Let’s Make a Duel” sign and bought some nerf guns (which were confiscated). We received lots of compliments and had plenty to talk about with fellow contestants. Our costumes matched and fit a theme, which you see a lot on the show. Make sure to bring a right hand man.

What’d I miss? Avoid trademarked costumes. They will try to hide those with trademarks and logos with stickers or put them in areas cameras don’t usually film.

Scary or provocative also don’t play well on a family show. Say no to this.

Be kind and respectful

What comes next? You walk in and go through a bit of an assembly line- giving information, having a photo taken, getting your assigned number and otherwise signing a contract and release. You don’t know who is in charge of making decisions. Be nice to everyone. Don’t be obnoxious, but say hello. Show interest. Tell jokes or sing a little tune. Dance. Do you. If you’ve seen the show, they like people with personality. You can show you are interesting without being solely self interested. Decisions are being made at all times.

You will then line up in a group of 10-20 people and be interviewed for 30-180 seconds. Again, be relatable. This is them gauging how you’d do when called up to the stage. How are you one-on-one and how do you handle awkward surroundings? If you are tired and disinterested here, you probably stand a fat chance of being selected. You will still have a blast, but you make your own luck. Not being charismatic here will leave you helpless.

Again, you never know who is watching, including possibly with other planted contestants. We were pretty sure some fellow contestants were affiliated with the show. One security guard asked one of the contestants about whether she should let our nerf guns in as if he knew her well. It was a weird moment. I am not certain of this, but if you consider everyone as deciding your fate as a contestant, you certainly will stay “on.” History has its eyes on you.

Photo time

After the brief interview, they take solo and group photos of everyone. You can purchase these. I suspect they get associated with a file. Have energy if you want to be a contestant. Stay alive.

Pre-show, breaks and the show

You will enter the room where it happens and be assigned a seat. Cameras are always facing the audience. They are making decisions based on how you act. Have fun, dance and have energy. Non-stop. Seating doesn’t matter. I was selected from literally the last row.

Don’t wait for it. Have fun during commercial breaks. This is where their list turns into contestants. Once selected, again, be respectful of the process and Wayne. Let him make the deals- don’t ask him for more than he offers or be rude or seem disinterested. They will have you sit back down. The shows don’t air live, so they can edit what they need to.


You know they are coming. The good news is even those zonked get $100. Luckily for me there was a zonk right before I had to choose between $1000 and curtain #1. The odds were in my favor. Getting zonked would burn.

SeaDoos & Dont’s

My shot: I was selected along with two ladies who were prompted to guess my age.Wayne took my driver’s license and gave me $1000. Although I was dressed to look well over 200 years old, powdered wig and all, they both guessed 46. I was 42. They guessed the same thing, which was interesting as he acted like it was a surprise even though the cue cards prompted as to that action. It made no difference to me and gave both of them a chance to win. One of the prizes was bottles of gravy, a zonk, which they drank. I made a joke about “that’s why they call it a gravy train, which was a hit.” I got the option of $1000 or the curtain. I took the curtain. My fate was behind that curtain- who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

I won a SeeDoo and they invited me to hop in and have Alexander Hamilton ride off through a hurricane of winning.

After the show

No matter what your prize was or whether you got to sit down with it or not, you don’t get to take it with you. You will be pulled aside after the show and taken separately with the other winners to a room where they will explain the rules of being a winner. These include a prohibition such that you cannot win on Price is Right for a year or win again on Let’s Make a Deal for 3-4 years. You also will not get any prize until the show airs. The sponsor must get consideration by the show being aired before they provide the prize. Some prizes are the actual prizes you see on the show while others are drop shipped without warning as soon as the show air. So yes, that sauna may be sent to your apartment.

We had to agree that we know and understood that confidentiality was an absolute must until the show aired.

Think that would be enough? It’s not. This is your chance to understand the tax consequences of your decision and forfeit your prize if you want to avoid taxes. For instance, I won a SeaDoo. I have to pay California income tax. I will then pay Florida sales tax and federal income tax. I can pick it up at a local dealer. Some people have not been able to afford the taxes on their prizes or basically lose money on things they otherwise do not want. Consider wisely.


All in all, it was extremely lucky and an awesome experience. I’d recommend it to anyone. Wayne and Johnathan were extremely personal and kind to me and my friends and the whole staff was wonderful. It was a blow us all away moment. One thing is certain- I certainly did not throw away my shot.

Good luck!