Be a Contestant

Appearing as a contestant on a game show has a completely different feel than playing from your couch or recliner at home. But if you have enough skill, a lively personality – and a bit of luck – being a contestant on a game show is an experience you’ll never forget! The most difficult part of being a contestant on a game show is becoming a contestant on a game show. has a few helpful hints that may assist you in realizing your dream. So, come on down… and check out the Insider’s Corner.

Once you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what you’re in for, click on Select a Show to get the latest information for the show on which you want to be a contestant. There you will find specific casting information that will lead you towards the first step of the whole process. Go get ‘em!


Although the producers have the final say, has information to help you on your quest to be on a game show.

Follow the links below for a step-by-step tutorial on becoming a successful contestant.

Watch the show

Unless you’ve already been paying close attention to game shows, watch the show you’re interested in competing on and observe the contestants closely. Of course, they know how to play the game. But what are their personalities like? Are there some contestants on the show that you would feel comfortable inviting to your home? Are some just trying to be funny, or are they naturally funny? Do you notice any contestant in particular that you find annoying? Do you find yourself rooting for one contestant more than another? The answers to these questions are purely subjective, based on each viewer’s likes or dislikes. Believe it or not, the producers of game shows select contestants in the same subjective way. So really observe the contestants that are already on the show and then take the next step:

Find out what they’re looking for

You’ve observed contestants on the game show in which you’re interested. Now it’s time to find out what the show is really looking for. Each game show has their own criteria and process for becoming a contestant. Study the information carefully. Some shows may require you to play the game really well by being able to answer tough questions or completing difficult tasks. Others may be looking for certain personalities to enhance what otherwise might be just a basic or easy game. And still others may select you out of their studio audience. Whatever the procedure, follow it closely. You can find out exactly what your show is looking for by checking out the show links. Simply select the show and follow the links for casting information.

Find out how and where to audition

There are several different processes that are used to “cast” contestants for game shows. Here is a brief breakdown of those processes:

On-site audition – Some shows will require you to audition at the production offices or at the studio. The audition process may include taking a test that will help them determine if you match the level of “expertise” required to play their game. They will also most certainly interview you to determine if your personality works for their show. And they may even have you play the game just to make sure you can play the game.

Video Audition – Some shows may require that you submit a video that displays you and your personality. Make sure you follow their instructions carefully. Most shows process thousands of video entries, so you want to make it the best audition you can. If they like your video, they will contact you with further instructions.

Contestant Search – Many shows will do scheduled contestant searches around the country, usually in major metropolitan centers. Keep checking their websites for updates on these schedules and get on their mailing list if they have one.

Online Test – Jeopardy! began online testing a couple of years ago. These are scheduled events and don’t occur very often. But it does allow more people to take a chance to see if they qualify. If you pass the test, you will still need to attend a scheduled Contestant Search in one of many cities nationwide.

Audience Member – As in The Price is Right, some shows may select contestants right out of the studio audience (after doing a short interview with each member of the audience before seating everyone in the studio). You will only have a couple of minutes to really grab the producers’ attention, so make sure you have a good idea of what they’re looking for.

Practice Makes Perfect

Start practicing the game. Corral your friends and have them play the game with you. If there’s an online version available, play it. Watch the show whenever it’s on. You may be selected out of tens of thousands that have applied. Don’t let this opportunity slip away by not knowing the game inside and out.

Energy, Energy, Energy

If you passed the testing phase and they want to interview you, this is where you want to shine. Most producers want you to be yourself. So, just make sure that you are, but do it with lots of energy.

How do you know if you’ve made it?

You passed the test and you wowed them with your energy and enthusiasm. What now? You wait. It could be a few days or as long as even a year before you hear back from the producers, if you hear back from the producers. This can be a painful process for some people. The only thing you really can do is acknowledge that you did the best you could and that it’s all up to the producers. You may never hear from them again. The producers will tell you that they will call you again only if they want to cast you in the show.

The Call

If you are one of the fortunate few that receives a call from the producers and they want you for the show, you’ve cleared a major hurdle. But, you’re not there yet. Some shows (like Deal or No Deal or Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader) will want to do some extended interviews to create some background information to use on the show. This information is collected into what are called “story beats.” Other shows may wait until you arrive at the studio for that information. Whatever the reason for their call, be ready to take down any information the producers want to give you; especially if they invite you to the studio.

The Invitation

Eventually, you may be invited to the studio. Some shows may require you to provide your own transportation and accommodations if you are traveling to the studio from out of town. Others may take care of that for you. Whatever date they want you to be there, try to be available for that date. You may not get another chance.

At the Studio

Game shows will shoot more than one episode on a tape day. On the nighttime Deal or No Deal, they may shoot two to three episodes. But, on the daytime version, they may shoot as many as eight episodes in a day. If there’s a possibility that you may appear on more than one episode, you may be asked to bring several changes of clothes. This way, it will appear to the home viewer that each episode is a different day. The producers will give you guidelines on the type of clothing and colors to bring.

When you arrive at the studio, you will most likely notice there are more contestants in the “contestant pool” than what the producers will need in a tape day. Not every contestant at the studio will get on the show that day. The producers may play the game with everyone to determine who seems to have the best energy for the day. Those that are not chosen that day will be “standby contestants” in the event the producers need to make a last minute change. If you don’t make it on stage that day, the producers may invite you back on another tape date. For those contestants that have traveled a great distance to be on the show, the producers will generally try to get them on the show that day. However, there is still no guarantee that will happen. Most often, viable contestants are selected at random at the studio through a process as determined by the producers and network or syndicator representatives. This is done to address fairness and to avoid the appearance that the producers might be “stacking the deck.”

While you’re at the studio, you will be sequestered from the outside world during the entire tape day. You will not be allowed to come and go, make any phone calls or, in some cases, not be allowed to interact with any other contestants. Game shows take security very seriously and want to avoid any appearance of impropriety that my include collusion between contestants, game material falling into the hands of contestants, or any other form of cheating. Contestants will be escorted at all times while moving around the studio.

Know the rules

While you’re at the studio, you will be thoroughly briefed on the rules of the game. Even the simplest of games will have extensive rules. You will be furnished with a copy of the full rules. After receiving a rules briefing by the producers, you will be required to sign the rules stating that you fully understand and will abide by them.

In addition, you will be required to sign a standard “contestant release” that has lots of legal jargon about what rights a contestant has on a show (which are few) and what rights the producers have (which are many). Make sure you read this document carefully as it addresses many issues that may come up later, including what happens if the episode in which you appear never airs.

Often times, you will meet a “Standards and Practices” agent that is an independent “arbiter of fairness” that will brief you on this information. They exist because of some quiz show scandals that occurred in the late 1950’s (the movie, Quiz Show, is based on one of those scandals; a must-see). Their sole purpose at the show is to ensure that the game is played fairly, according to its rules and in the manner described to the public. They are there to protect the contestants from possible cheating producers and protect producers from possible cheating contestants. Think of them as the Game Show Police.

You’ve been selected

When you’ve been selected, you will know it. You may not know until just moments before they start taping the episode in which you appear. Some shows may announce the actual players at the beginning of the day and any leftover players will be considered “stand-by.” On The Price is Right, you won’t know until you’re told to “come on down” by the announcer after the show has already started.

Most often, you will already be dressed for your appearance while you’re waiting. It’s important to know that, even after you’ve been selected, things can happen that may change a contestant order at the last minute, or there may be technical issues that interrupt the process. Delays may cause the bumping of a contestant or, in the case where the length of time a contestant may be on the show varies greatly (like Deal or No Deal), the episode may be over before you get on. So, it’s back into the contestant pool to wait for the next episode. Once you’re on the set and the cameras are rolling, then you can pretty much rest assured that you’ve made it.

When it’s time for your appearance, you will be escorted to the stage, usually by a contestant coordinator or a stage manager. Any last minute touchups on makeup and wardrobe will be done just off stage. Once you’re in the hands of the stage manager, that person will be your guide throughout the taping. They will tell you where to stand, when to enter and where to look. The contestant coordinators will also be there to help you stay focused on the game and answer any questions you may have. A “story” producer may be assigned to you as well. This person’s job is to coach you on things you might want to talk about during certain segments of the show.

Lights, cameras, action!

It can be pretty overwhelming when you step on the stage for the first time. Many shows will give their contestants a tour of the set ahead of time and may even let you practice the game before actual taping beings. Some shows may not give you that opportunity and your senses may very well be over-stimulated by the lights (there are many and they are bright), the noise (the audience is coached to be very enthusiastic), and the organized mayhem of the producing staff and crew. Stay focused! A majority of contestants have similar experiences of walking off the set when it’s over and have no idea what just happened. Take it all in, but then remember why you’re there. You’re there to play the game and win!

Play the game

You’ve practiced playing the game at home, in rehearsals, and now you’re playing for real. Play the game. Don’t try to beat the game. Don’t fall into the trap that you think you know how the “system” works or that there is some “pattern” to figure out. The people responsible for creating and producing game shows spend a great deal of time testing and tweaking their games to make sure they work and that they are fair. The games are designed to be challenging and fun. So focus on playing. If there is any hint of a contestant trying to “beat the game”, tape will be stopped and reviewed. If there is even an appearance of impropriety, the contestant may be removed from the show. You don’t want to be the contestant that appears on the news for having cheated (a federal crime with fines and imprisonment, and the loss of your winnings). You want to be the contestant that wins the big money!

The Judges

In all instances, the producers will have the final say in what constitutes a correct response in any game. On the show, Jeopardy!, there are many researchers and writers. During the taping of the show, researchers are constantly looking up incorrect answers that may come up during the show. They are “testing” the possibility that an incorrect response by a contestant might possibly be correct. If that possibility exists, the researcher will notify the producers who will then stop the taping at an appropriate point and review the matter. Once a conclusive decision is made by the producers, the game will continue.


It doesn’t happen very often, but sometime during the game you may feel that something wasn’t quite right. You may have thought that the answer you gave to a question was correct, but ruled incorrect by the host. Or you may feel that your opponent was ruled correctly when you thought their answer was incorrect. It’s important that you bring up your challenge to the issue at the appropriate time. Generally, you will be instructed to not “stop tape.” Usually, during the natural breaks in the taping (for commercial insertions), this would be the time to bring up your issue. Do not discuss it with your opponent(s) or the host. Most likely, one of the contestant coordinators will be with you during the breaks. Bring it to their attention and they will handle the details. If they’re not available, tell the stage manager you need to speak with a coordinator or producer. Do not hesitate to bring up your question or challenge at those designated times. If you wait until the show is over or until you get home, it’s most likely too late to do anything.

Any challenge will be taken seriously by the producers and they will review the matter. In those rare occasions when the contestant’s issue proves to be correct, the producers will gather with other judges and network representatives to determine what needs to be done. Most likely, there will be procedures followed as outlined in the official rules. Sometimes the game will be backed up to the point where the error occurred, or sometimes the host will make an on-camera correction, adjust the scores, and then continue. Ultimately, the producers’ decisions will be the final answer for any issue and you will be briefed accordingly before the game continues.

As stated before, mistakes in a game are rare and, most often, the mistake is caught by the producers before the contestants are even aware of it. The producers take their game very seriously and are quick to make any corrections necessary for accuracy and fairness.

The end of the show

At the conclusion of your game, you will be escorted from the stage. If you are on a show that has a returning champion and you were fortunate to become that champion, you will be brought back to the contestant holding area to change your wardrobe and get ready for the next episode. If you are the returning champion and the episode you just taped is the last one for the day, you will need to return on the next scheduled tape day to continue playing.

If you have finished taping your final appearance on that show, you will be escorted to another area to “sign out.” If you have won anything on the show (cash and/or prizes), you will be asked to fill out a prize form that will list your winnings. This form will be presented to you from a prize representative or a member of the production staff. For more information on what you should know about prizes that you’ve won, visit our section for Prize Winners.

With copies of prize forms in your hands, you will be brought to the contestant holding area to gather all of your belongings. You will then be escorted from the studio area to exit the studio lot. Congratulations! Just getting to be a contestant on a game show is milestone in anyone’s life. If you’ve won cash and prizes, it will be an experience you will never forget.


Follow the link for your favorite show to get more information about being a contestant or audience member.


If you were fortunate enough to appear on a game show and you won prizes or maybe even a bit of cash, Congratulations! What happens next? has some links below that will lead you to some information that might help you.

The Prize Form

When you concluded your appearance on the game show, you were most likely escorted to an area where you signed one or more documents that outlined the prizes and/or cash that you won on the show. Most likely, a representative from the show or the prize company explained to you what you won and let you know some details on when you will receive your winnings, what to do about forfeiting some prizes, how to change your address, and other pertinent information. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t recall a lot of that information after just coming off stage with your head still spinning from all of the excitement and competition.

One of the forms that you should have received is a Prize Form. On the form, you will need to provide your name and address. This address is where you will receive your prizes. It will also indicate the date in which your episode was recorded (the tape date), the show number, and a date in which your episode will be broadcast (the airdate). In addition, the form will list all of the items you’ve won including merchandise, travel destination and transportation info, gift certificates, etc., along with any cash amounts. There will also be some contact information for you to use in the event you need to speak to someone about your prizes. The contact is usually a representative from a company that handles all prize merchandizing for game shows, like

Now, if you’re still unsure about some of the information, feel free to explore more of our site. may have the answers you’re looking for.

The Airdate of Your Episode

The airdate is one of the most important pieces of information. It will lead you to the answers for most of your questions. The airdate is simply the date the episode in which you appeared will be broadcast. If at the time that you signed your form, there was no airdate available, it will most likely say “TBD” or “TBA” on your form. This indicates that the producers have not yet determined when the episode will air.

Why is the airdate so important? The delivery of your prizes, the period for which you will be taxed and, obviously, when you get to see yourself on TV is determined by the airdate. There may be quite a length of time between when your episode was taped and when it airs. There are even some cases where an episode may take around a year before it airs. In most cases, you will be notified by the production company as to when your episode will air. However, there may be instances when they fail to notify you. If a substantial period of time goes by where you have not received any notice of your airdate, you may want to contact the production company to find out. One way to know for sure if your episode has aired is that you may start receiving your prizes.

But suppose your episode never airs. It’s rare when this happens because the broadcasters usually want to recoup some of the money they spent buying the show. If the ratings are very low, however, then it’s possible the show will be canceled and the unaired episodes will be lost forever. You will want to make sure you know what happens to any prizes or cash that you won if your episode doesn’t air. When you signed your contestant release, there may have been a paragraph in it that disclosed the policy of the production company or broadcaster that pertains to unaired episodes. If the policy states that the production company or broadcaster is not obligated to pay out cash winnings or prizes to the contestants appearing in unaired episodes, you may not receive anything. Generally, the show will try to accommodate winnings for the contestants. But, know that they may not be obligated to and you will be powerless to fight it if the contestant release has this policy

The Value of Your Prizes

Determining the actual value of your prizes will be something you may want to consider, especially when it comes to making decisions about your taxes and whether or not you want to forfeit, donate or sell anything that you’ve won.

Game shows use two different standards for declaring the value of a prize promoted on a game show. One standard is for merchandise like cars, furniture, electronics and so forth. The other standard is for travel related prizes. These standards are also used for tax purposes.

For merchandise, the value is established by using the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). The MSRP is determined by the manufacturer or supplier. Now, you may be thinking that you can buy the same TV that you just won on a game show at your local retailer for a lot less money than what is listed on your prize form. That same TV might also be a bit more expensive at a different store. Those prices are considered the “fair market value” (FMV). That is why game shows use the MSRP, because it would be impossible for them to research fair market values. They’re in the job of producing games, not following current economic trends across the country.

For travel related prizes like hotel stays, cruises, air travel and car rentals, the value can be even more confusing. Hotels and cruises will most likely report the value of your room or cabin at the peak season rate; the rate you would pay if you were staying there at their busiest times. The airfare value will most likely be reported as the highest, roundtrip, unrestricted coach airfare for their peak season of travel. You may be thinking that you can buy a ticket to fly to Hawaii from Los Angeles, roundtrip in coach for about $400. And yet, the value listed on your prize form might be a thousand dollars or higher. You’ve now discovered, once again, the difference between fair market value and the standard rates used by game shows.

So, what can you do to find the fair market value of your prizes and declare that amount for tax purposes? It won’t do you any good to argue with the production company or prize supplier. They have contracts that lock-in their values. Consult your tax accountant. They may be able to help you with some tools to lower your tax obligations. It may help to reduce your taxes, especially if you’ve won quite a lot of stuff.

Exchanging or Swapping a Prize

Suppose you want to see if you can get a different prize from the game show than the one you actually won. As an example, you may have won a beautiful new sofa, but you just recently redecorated your living room and bought new furniture last month. Or, maybe you grew up in New York City and spend several weeks a year there, and you just won a trip there. Unfortunately, the saying “what you see is what you get” is pretty much the rule when it comes to game shows. One reason is that the prizes come from the manufacturers and suppliers that were promoted on the show. But, the most important reason is that broadcasting standards are governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since what is portrayed on a game show is supposed to be “real,” if a show makes a “deal” with you to give you something else, it may be considered deceptive and opens up the producers and you to a whole bunch of problems with the federal government. It can even lead to fines and/or imprisonment. The only time you may receive a different prize than the one you’ve won is if the show needs to substitute the prize.

One final note that addresses a common thought for many contestants – cash will not be substituted by the production company for a prize that was promoted on their show and awarded to you, period.

Prize Substitutions

In rare instances, the prize you won on a game show may not be available. This will sometimes occur if an episode in which you appeared takes a while before it airs and the product you won is no longer available. Or, the company may have gone out of business. When you signed your contestant agreement, you gave rights to the production company to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. Most often, the production company will determine what that prize will be and you will have the choice to either accept the substitution or forfeit. If you accept the substitution, you will receive a revised prize form or a substitution letter that you will have to sign and return before you get the prize. In some instances, the production company may offer you a choice of substitutions. But, don’t count on it. This is one area in which you have little recourse but to accept or forfeit the substitution.

Delivery of Prizes

Delivery of your winnings will most likely be determined based on the date in which your episode is broadcast (the airdate), not on the tape date. Generally, the prizes you receive from the show come directly from the various companies that manufacture or provide them (the suppliers). These companies have supplied the prizes to the show in exchange for a promotion on the show. When you hear the announcer talking about the prize, you are actually hearing a promotion for the prize supplier. The prize suppliers are not obligated to provide their prizes until after the episode has aired and they have received their promotion. After an episode has aired, the suppliers are given a period of time to deliver the prizes.

Delivery time for merchandise, gift certificates and cash usually fall under the same guidelines. Some shows require that these prizes be delivered within 90 days after the airdate. Others set that limit at 120 days. Check your prize form for the specified delivery period. Please note that sometimes a prize may take longer than the delivery period. This may be due to a specialty or unique prize that will require a little extra time. As an example, you may have won a car that is very popular and the availability may be limited. There may also be a delay in the delivery of your prizes if you have received a withholding tax bill from the production company. Delivery of your prizes will not begin until that bill has been paid. Check out our Delivery Issues section for more information about merchandise delivery.

Delivery time for travel related prizes falls under different guidelines. If you have won a trip/vacation, you will be given a specific period of time in which to complete your travel. This may range anywhere from one year up to as much as two years from the airdate. You will most likely receive information (separate from your prize form) on your trip that will include the period of time in which you may travel, how to book your reservations and other pertinent information. For even more information on taking trips as a prize winner, check out our Taking Your Trip section.

One final note: Never contact the prize manufacturer or supplier directly unless you have received instructions from the production company or prize representative to do so. People who work for the manufacturer or supplier most likely won’t know what you’re talking about when you call and your efforts may cause confusion and delays.

Taking Your Trip

If you’ve won a trip or vacation package, timing is everything. You are going to want to plan far in advance in order for the booking process to be completed effortlessly. You most likely received a document that is specific to the trip you’ve won, sometimes referred to as a “trip letter.” Sometimes it may even be a voucher or travel certificate. The information contained in the documents should give you all of the information you need to book your trip including securing reservations for your hotel or cruise, your air and ground transportation, and securing any vouchers for meals or activities. Note that not every trip includes everything. Some shows may only supply the hotel but not the transportation (rare). You may be responsible for securing your own ground transportation or even providing your own meals. Make sure you read your document carefully to fully understand what is or is not included. Also you will want to make sure you know the time limit allowed in which to complete your vacation. If you have one year from the airdate to complete your trip, do not wait until the eleventh month to try and make your reservations. The following links will give you more specific information that may help you in your planning.

Making Reservations – In many cases, you will receive a form to fill out when making your hotel or cruise reservations. Follow the instructions very carefully. If the form requires you to submit it within a certain period of time (i.e. twelve weeks before your first requested travel date), then make sure you do so. Most likely the form will require you to submit three different choices of travel dates. For example, you may have won a trip for six nights and will be required to submit the date for your first night’s stay (the day you arrive) and the day after your last night’s stay (the day you return home). Then you will be required to make a second choice for when you arrive and depart; and then a third choice. The hotel and transportation providers will do their best to secure your first choice.

Confirmations will be based on availability; and contest winners will be given last priority. It’s just the nature of the business. Sometimes, you may secure the flight confirmations and discover that there are no rooms available for you to stay at the hotel. Sometimes you’ll book the room and discover there are no seats available on any flights for your travel days. However, if you book early and are flexible with your dates, you will be able to secure your confirmations and then have plenty of time to get ready for your trip!

Hotel Stays – When making your hotel reservations, make sure you’re aware of their peak periods. These are the busiest times for the hotel and you may have difficulty securing confirmation for those periods. It’s best to avoid holidays and traditionally busy periods around Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you will want to be aware of their holidays as well. Also, make sure you check your documents to see if there are any Blackout Periods. A Blackout Period means they will not accept any contestant reservations for those dates. Don’t even try. If your hotel stay includes Air Transportation, you are going to want to make sure that you coordinate your reservations carefully. That’s why it’s important to book early and avoid peak periods.

One other piece of information you may want to make yourself aware of is what type of room you have been awarded. If your accommodations are for a room with a queen-size bed, don’t expect a two-bedroom suite with ocean view. Your travel documents should specify what type of accommodations you can expect. If you travel during a slow period for the hotel, you may be able to upgrade to better accommodations based on space availability. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Cruises – Cruise reservations are a bit different from hotel reservations, mostly because they sail on specific dates. It’s even more important to book early for a cruise as there may not be as many dates available as for a hotel stay. Because cruises are date-specific, air transportation may be a bit more challenging to secure for that reason. Many people who are taking cruises will be arriving and departing at the airport on those specific dates. So again, book early!

Be aware the cruise lines most often will need to collect a port tax for each passenger, including winners of game shows. You will be advised of the tax when you receive your confirmation and may be required to pay the tax at that time. Sometimes the production company may pay for that tax, but it’s very rare for that to happen. If they are paying the tax, it should be included on your prize form.

Air Transportation – If your trip includes air transportation, it is most likely for coach service (cheap seats) unless otherwise specified on your prize form. You may have an opportunity to upgrade depending on how full the flight is, but at your own expense. Upgrading will most likely not be available until you check-in at the airport. Also, most air transportation provided by the show will be from the nearest major US gateway. In other words, it will be from the nearest major city to where you live, not your local air field. You may want to check with the specified carrier as to which airports they serve. Also, make sure you that you allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport at the appropriate check-in time, especially for international flights. It’s also a very good idea to know what the carrier’s baggage restrictions and security considerations are. You can usually find this information on the airline’s website.

Ground Transportation – In most cases, you will be responsible for your own ground transportation to the airport from where your travel will begin. Be sure to allow plenty of time to get to the airport considering any possible traffic delays or if you’re flying on a traditionally busy travel day.

When you receive your hotel or cruise confirmation, you will want to inquire about how you are to get to their location from the airport. Many hotels or cruise lines will provide shuttles from the airport to your destination. However, some hotels or cruise lines may not have shuttles or car service and you may be required to get your own ground transportation. The hotel or cruise will provide you with that information. If ground transportation is included with your trip, it should be indicated on your prize form.

If your travel package includes car rental, then you will most likely pick up your car at the airport and you will not need to worry about how to get to your hotel… as long as you have good directions and a map.

Travel Related Taxes – You may be surprised to discover that there are certain taxes related to your travel, so you will want to be prepared for that. These taxes may include room taxes, airport taxes and port taxes. Make sure you find out about these at the time you are booking your trip. Some taxes may be collected as you return home. You don’t want to discover these after you’ve already bought souvenirs and have no money left over.

Meals – If you’re fortunate enough to win a trip to a resort that is “all-inclusive,” then you won’t have much to worry about as far as how you’re going to eat and drink. All-inclusive basically means that you can have all your meals and drinks right at the resort that is included with your stay. As some hotels may have a different definition of all-inclusive, you may want to get the specifics before your travel.

If your hotel is not an all-inclusive resort, then you will want to find out what is included with your stay besides the room. There are usually three different levels of meal availability: Full American Plan (FAP), Modified American Plan (MAP) and European Plan (EP). Full American Plan means you will receive vouchers or have access to the resort’s on-site restaurants for three meals a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Modified American Plan allows you two meals a day; usually breakfast or lunch, and dinner. European Plan means no meals are provided; you’re on your own. . Whatever plan has been designated for your trip, it should be indicated on your prize form or trip letter.

Make sure you’re aware of any limits as to how much you are allowed in meal credits or vouchers. If you go over the limits, you will have to pay the difference yourself.

Activities – Cruises, of course, have lots of activities on-board as well as on-shore at different destinations. Some of these activities may be included and for some you may have to pay extra. This information should be made available to you when you confirm your travel dates and may also be included on your prize form or trip letter.

Hotels may have certain activities available at the resort that are either included or for a nominal fee. Again, this information should be made available when you confirm your travel dates. If some of the activities are included with your stay, check in with the front desk on how to book these activities.

Wherever you happen to be traveling, spend a little time researching the areas you plan to visit. If you wait until you arrive at the resort to make your plans, check in with the concierge. They may have some terrific ideas as well as information on deals and special events.

Credit Cards – When traveling to a hotel or resort, even a winner on a game show will be asked to provide a credit card when checking in. Even if your stay includes meals and activities, the resort will still want to secure a credit card to cover any other incidentals that may not be included such as taxes, phone calls, laundry service, room service, or tipping. So, make sure you have one available. You may want to inquire how much money they will want to hold on the card so you are prepared ahead of time. Just ask when you receive your confirmation.

Travel Documents – When you are planning for your trip, make sure you take into consideration what travel documents you may be required to have. If you are only traveling within the United States, a government issued photo ID such as a drivers license is all that’s required. However, if you are traveling internationally, you will most likely need a passport. If you don’t have a passport, make sure you allow plenty of time to get one. Many US Post Offices and Public Libraries have information or even services for passports. You may also be required to secure visas in advance from the countries to which you are traveling. For more information on securing a passport or what each country requires for US citizens traveling there, check out the US State Department’s travel website.

Cancellations – In the event you need to cancel your trip arrangements after you have received confirmation, do so immediately. Depending on the game show’s policy, you may be able to rebook your hotel stay. However, if airline tickets have already been issued, you may be required to pay a fee to change your flight or even purchase your own tickets. In some cases, you may not be able to rebook your hotel or transportation at all. Make sure you know the cancellation policies for your trip before you make your reservations.

Taxes strongly recommends that you consult a tax professional if you have any specific tax questions. If you were fortunate enough to win a high value in prizes and/or cash, it may be worth your while to speak with your accountant. The various tax entities take the issue of taxes very seriously, and so should you.

The most common question that contestants have is how much money will need to be paid in taxes on their winnings. Basically, all of your winnings are considered income and will be taxed accordingly. How much the tax will be is based on your annual income from your work or other sources, combined with the total value of your prizes. Obviously, if you won a lot of prizes, then you will most likely fall into a completely different tax bracket. Now you can see why it’s probably a good idea to consult your tax accountant.

Also, you will need to consider which taxes you will have to pay. Usually, you will be required to pay federal taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state taxes to the State for which the production company calls home. For instance, you would pay the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board of California if you appeared on Wheel of Fortune. You may be required to pay taxes in your home state as well. So, now you can see another reason why you might want to consult your tax accountant.

The next most common tax question is usually about when those taxes get paid. The show will not usually deduct any federal taxes from your winnings as long as you are a legal US resident. You will simply pay that tax when you file your return for the appropriate tax year. The show may, however, deduct state taxes if you are not a resident of the state in which the game show is based. For example, if you appear on The Price is Right – which is based in California – and you reside in another state, California law may require the production company to withhold a certain percentage from your winnings before sending your cash and/or prizes. The withholding is only required if you have won prizes that exceed a certain monetary total (varies in different states). If you only won prizes with no cash, then you will most likely receive a withholding tax bill from the production company. You will be required to remit the withholding tax before the show will authorize the shipping of your prizes. During the time when you normally file your federal and state tax returns, you can file a tax return for the state that withheld your taxes to see if any of what you paid will be refunded; yet another reason for consulting a tax professional.

But, that still doesn’t answer the whole question about when you pay the taxes. So, here’s a little bit more detail that may just make your head explode. Since your prizes are delivered based on the airdate (not the tape date) of the episode in which you appeared, your tax obligations are usually determined from that date. Let’s say your episode aired sometime in May of 2009. Since your prizes and cash are delivered within four months after the airdate, you would be taxed for 2009 income which you would report on your tax return filed by April 15, 2010. If your episode aired in November or December of 2009, you most likely will not have received your prizes or winnings by the end of the year, so you may not have to report them until April 15, 2011. If you are unsure of when you should report your winnings, check with the production company on when they will be sending out your Form 1099 (see next paragraph). If any of what you just read in this paragraph is confusing, did we mention that you should consult a tax professional?

So, you may think you’ve grasped a bit of the information on when you pay the taxes. Now, let’s dive into how much is really reported. The production company is required to report to the Internal Revenue Service all cash and prize values awarded to a contestant that total $600 or more. This is reported on a Form 1099 of which you will receive a copy, usually around the end of January following the year in which you received your winnings. So, if you were thinking that maybe the IRS wouldn’t know about your winnings, you would be thinking wrong. Don’t make the mistake a certain winner on a certain survival show made by not reporting your income. Like that certain winner, you may be penalized and go to jail. Also, it’s a common myth that if you win less than $600, you don’t have to report it. It’s important to emphasize that you are required by law to report all winnings that you receive from a game show; even if it’s only a dollar. It’s the production company that does not have to report your income if it’s less that $600. So, remember that you will be required to report all of your winnings when you file your tax return for the year in which you received your winnings.

All of the information contained here about taxes is general and may not necessarily apply to your situation. employs a vast number of years of game show prizing and production experience. So, please seriously consider our recommendation when we say, “Consult your tax professional for all of your tax questions.”


You may want to consider forfeiting a prize or two if you are concerned about taxes, or if you just don’t want the prize. If you forfeit the prize, you will not be able to “un-forfeit,” so make certain your decision before proceeding. You can make your choice to forfeit right at the studio when you are signing out on your prize form at the conclusion of taping your episode. However, making such an important decision right after you come off the stage can be a bit overwhelming. Generally, you are given a short period of time to decide on forfeiting any prizes once you leave the studio. It may be as few as three days or as long as a couple of weeks, depending on the production company’s policy. Whatever period of time is allotted, you may want to contact a tax professional that will be able to answer any questions you may have about your tax liabilities. Be aware that there may be a “non-disclosure” clause in your contestant agreement, so keep the details of your appearance, the show and the outcome as generic as possible. Focus on your tax questions.

If you have decided to forfeit a prize, you will need to immediately contact the prize representative to let them know. They will send to you a “forfeiture form” which you will need to sign and promptly return.

Transferring a Prize

A common question that a lot of contestants have is whether or not they can give a prize they won to someone else. There are some restrictions, so make sure you know what they are. The contestant release that you signed before competing on your show will have stipulations about your prizes and their disbursement.

First and foremost, if you have won a trip, cruise or vacation, those prizes are non-transferable – period. You (the contestant) must take the trip. Also, any gift certificates or cards that are issued in your name may only be used by you.

Generally, once you receive any merchandise, you can do what you want with it. Obviously, if you’ve won some furniture and you decide to give it to a relative, friend or charity after you receive it, that’s your choice. However, you still need to take into consideration that your tax liability doesn’t just go away. The show’s only obligation is to deliver your prizes to you. Since you are ultimately the receiving party, the show will report your winnings to the IRS (see taxes), regardless of what you do with them afterwards. Consult your tax professional with any questions about how you declare or deduct any prizes that you gave away or donated.

One more thing to note: you must take delivery of your prizes first before you can give them to anyone else.

Sell a Prize

You may decide that you want to sell one or more of your prizes. One of the considerations for this is that you may want or need the cash. It’s a pretty fair bet that you will not be able to sell the prize for its retail value. So, if you accept any money that is lower than the retail value, check with your tax professional to determine the correct tax liability with the difference.

Before deciding to sell a prize, there are a few things you should know. First, hotel stays, airline transportation, cruises, or any gift certificates or cards issued in your name may not be sold or transferred. Only merchandise can be sold. Please be aware that there may be a clause in your contestant agreement that prohibits you from selling or advertising to sell a prize prior to you receiving it. You risk forfeiting any prize if you violate any clause of the contestant agreement as it pertains to your prizes. There’s another danger of selling a prize that you have not yet received – the prize may be substituted. This leaves you with the problem of explaining to the buyer why they will not be getting what they agreed to pay for and, if you’ve collected any money, having to issue a refund.

A more serious problem can occur if you try to sell a car that you’ve won prior to taking delivery so that you can avoid having to possibly pay license fees, registration fees and sales tax. The production company, prize representative and car dealers work very closely during the contestant delivery transaction. If you attempt to circumvent the transaction in any way, the production company may suspend delivery and cause you to automatically forfeit the car. So, why risk it?

Once you take delivery of your merchandise, then it’s up to you as to whether or not you want to sell it.

Delivery Issues

There are usually three different kinds of delivery issues. Unless instructed to do so by the prize representative on your prize form, do not contact the manufacturer or supplier directly. Check the links below for the delivery issue that most applies to you.

Non-Delivery of Prize – If you’ve allowed for the designated delivery time for any prizes you’ve won and still have not yet received one or more prizes, check your prize form for the contact information of the prize representative or production company. When contacting them, make sure to have handy the name of the show in which you appeared, the show number and the airdate. They will want to verify your contact information and address. If you’ve changed your address but failed to notify them, that could be the problem. See Changing Your Address for more information. Once the representative has your information, they will notify the prize supplier or manufacturer and find out any pertinent information as to the delivery status of your prize. You should get a response back in the form of a delivered prize or, at the very least, a status report from the representative within two weeks of your inquiry. If it doesn’t arrive or if you have received no report back within two weeks, you may want to check back with the prize representative. If the prize representative reports back to you with a status, make a note of the time frame in which they expect you to receive the prize. In most cases, the delivery will be made promptly after your first inquiry.

Damaged Prize – Occasionally, you may receive a prize that has been damaged. It is extremely important that you save all packing materials in which the damaged prize was delivered. Check your prize form for the contact information of the prize representative or production company. When contacting them, make sure to have handy the name of the show in which you appeared, the show number and the airdate. The representative will take a report from you and contact the supplier. The supplier will have to do an investigation to determine where the damage came from. This may take a bit of time. Once it has been determined that the damage came from shipping or at the warehouse, arrangements will be made for a replacement prize to be shipped and the damaged prize to be returned. Because there are several parties involved in the ordering, packing and shipping of prizes, the process may seem a bit bureaucratic. Just be patient and know that prize representative is looking out for your best interest.

Wrong Prize – In very rare instances, you may receive a prize that was not listed on your prize form. It is extremely important that you save all packing materials in which the prize was delivered. Check your prize form for the contact information of the prize representative or production company. When contacting them, make sure to have handy the name of the show in which you appeared, the show number and the airdate. Let them know what was received and they will take it from there.

Now, you might think to yourself, “Gee, I don’t imagine they’re going to miss this car. I think I’ll go ahead and keep it. It’s their fault for making the mistake in the first place.” There are two things about this way of thinking that may not bring about the results for which you’re hoping. The first is bad karma. The second is that, eventually, someone will discover the error. You will be contacted and you will have to give the prize back. There may even be legal ramifications. The only exception would be if the prize was a substitution and they failed to notify you ahead of time. So, do yourself a favor and immediately contact the prize representative listed on your prize form.

Changing Your Address

If you have moved or are about to move and have not yet received everything that you’ve won from the game show in which you’ve appeared, you will want to submit an address change to the prize representative listed on your prize form. If you fail to submit an address change in a timely manner and prizes have been shipped to your old address, you may be responsible for any additional shipping charges to your new address. Any address change will have to be submitted in writing. When writing to them, make sure to include the name of the show in which you appeared, the show number, the tape date and the airdate. Let them know what prizes and/or cash you’ve received so far and they will take it from there.


If you happen to live in or are traveling to a city where your favorite game show is being taped, you may want to attend the show as an audience member.

There are several ways to get tickets to your favorite show. Timing is everything since each show has its own unique production schedule. The more popular the show, the more schedule flexibility you will need. So plan early.

Once you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of when you want to go, click on Select a Show to get the latest information on how to get tickets. Make sure you read their policies on age restrictions, seating priorities and overflow.