What Is Let's Make A Deal?

What Is Lets Make A Deal

Let’s Make a Deal is a popular game show that first aired in 1963 on NBC. Contestants are chosen randomly from the studio audience for a chance to win prize packages and cash in various games that require a combination of brains, intuition, and luck. The host of the show offers a series of tempting “deals” to contestants (also called “traders”) who weigh the options of keeping what they have with trading it for a prize that might be better. It now airs worldwide and has been a family favorite for decades. Read on to learn more about the show, its history, and how to play.


Let’s Make a Deal debuted in 1963 on NBC, moved to ABC in 1968, and had three syndicated productions in 1971, 1980, and 1984. Broadcaster Monty Hall acted as host until 1986, only missing filming twice during his tenure. Bob Hilton took over the post in 1990 when NBC revived the show but was fired due to low ratings that same year.

Another unsuccessful edition with Billy Bush aired in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2009, when Let’s Make a Deal relaunched on CBS with Wayne Brady as host, that the show proved its staying power in the new millennium. In 2023, the show continues to run with Brady as its host, and players partake in a lively update of the 60s classic.   


The objective of Let’s Make a Deal is to leave with the most valuable prize. Prizes are typically cash, high-value merchandise (such as cars, electronics, and furniture), or luxury experiences (like all-expense paid trips). The goal is to trade up for the best prize, but contestants aren’t told what they’re trading for. Contestants can choose to hold on to the prize they have or risk it for something unknown, usually presented from behind one of three curtains, concealed in a box, or in an unmarked envelope.

Contestants attempt to use their intuition and risk assessment skills to choose the most valuable option and avoid getting “zonked.” “Zonks” are gag gifts that have little-to-no value and sometimes prove outlandishly inconvenient. If traders aren’t careful, they could even trade away their trip to Malaysia for a rusty old wheelbarrow. The games are played in many different formats, but the objective throughout is to hang on to the prize with the highest value.   


Audience members often dress in outlandish costumes in an attempt to be selected from the audience to participate. Selections are made at the host’s discretion, and participants are chosen throughout the show, so standing out is crucial. The host works in tandem with the announcer, keyboardist, and the model/assistant who help present the various prizes and keep the show running smoothly. The team in 2023 consists of Wayne Brady (host), Jonathan Mangum (announcer), Cat Gray (keyboardist), and Tiffany Coyne (model/assistant).   

How to Play

Contestants play by taking part in a series of chance-based games that win them prizes. The show has evolved from the classic “What’s behind these three curtains?” to include all kinds of formats. Sometimes the choice is between a cash prize or the chance to spin a carnival wheel for other prizes. Other times contestants have to draw the appropriate card from a deck, guess the appropriate price for an item, or compete in more skilled games like trivia.  

Summary of Rules

Since the format of Let’s Make a Deal changes frequently, with a variety of different opportunities, rules vary from game to game. Below are the most common deal formats and what they entail:

Trading Deals are the most common format of Let’s Make a Deal, which involves a contestant being offered a prize with a known value and then offering them the opportunity to trade it for the unknown. They may receive information about the weight/quantity of what they’re trading for, be offered an amount of money in a foreign currency and have to guess its dollar equivalent, or guess between prizes at random concealed in envelopes, boxes, etc.  

Chance Games are a format of the show that include the carnival wheel, drawing cards from a deck, rolling dice, and other activities that require the contestant to rely on sheer luck when trying to get a good prize.

Quiz games are an addition to Let’s Make a Deal’s newest iteration on CBS. They are meant  to help differentiate the show from other similar game shows like Price is Right. Quiz games typically involve basic trivia, knowledge of prizes, products and their history, geography, and exchange rates.  

Big Deal is the biggest prize package of the show and is saved for the final segment. The contestant chooses a prize from behind three doors, and unlike in other segments, there are no zonks. Traders still run the risk of trading for a prize of lower value than they gave away, but genuine prizes are guaranteed. The best is usually the highest-value item, whether that’s a car, cash, an extravagant trip, or sometimes the contents of all three doors. The Big Deal is usually reserved for players who have already won cash/prizes to trade, but if none of them volunteer, a player who’s previously won only zonks can be eligible.

As the credits roll, the host can offer audience members fast deals (called “Quickie Deals”) that earn players a few hundred dollars. These often require contestants to produce certain items that they brought to taping, have a certain number of items in their possession, answer questions about their costumes, or guess how much money the host has on hand. The deals are rapid-fire, and as always, the selection is up to the host’s discretion. 


What is Let's Make A Deal?

Let’s Make a Deal is a television game show in which contestants participate in a series of “deals” with the show’s host. The show was popularized in the 60s and 70s and involves playing various guessing games to try to secure the best-valued prizes. In 2023, it is broadcasted on CBS and hosted by Wayne Brady.

How do you play Let's Make A Deal?

If chosen to play, contestants are offered a series of “deals” and have to participate in various guessing games to trade up for the best prizes. Contestants apply with a photo and short video explaining why they’d be the perfect trader. If selected, they join the studio audience hoping to be picked out by the host to compete. Audience members often wear crazy costumes to stand out. They then must compete without getting stuck with a “zonk” or a prize with no worth.

Who hosts Let's Make A Deal?

In 2023, actor, singer, comedian, and television personality Wayne Brady hosts Let’s Make a Deal. The show has been previously hosted by Billy Busch, Bob Hilton, and its original host Monty Hall.