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File:Whammy wheel-of-fortune4 2799.png

*cue slide whistle*

"Big bucks, no Whammys, stop!"
—Typical contestant speech while watching the Big Board on Press Your Luck.

A Whammy is a Game Show's sadistic streak personified in a condition that takes from the unlucky player who gets it, usually everything. A player who gets a Whammy can pretty much throw in the towel right then and there, unless of course his opponents (if there are any opponents) also hit them as well.

If the Zonk is the prankster that tapes a "Kick Me" sign to your back, and the Flokati Rug is the annoying roommate who thinks putting Saran Wrap on the toilet is the surest way to express his friendship, then the Whammy is the guy who mugs you with an AK-47. There's no reasoning with the Whammy. He only takes, and just how much he takes is purely up to the show's producers.

Mostly a Dead Horse Trope. The opposite of the Whammy is the Bonus Space. Getting a Whammy during a Golden Snitch situation leads to an instant win for your opponent. Not related to a Wham! Episode, though it may induce the same kind of feelings...

Examples of Whammy include:

Live-Action TV

  • Press Your Luck: Trope Namer. Not only does the Whammy cause the player who gets it to lose all their money and prizes, but a player who gets four Whammies is eliminated from the game. Adding to the sadism is the fact that players could pass their remaining spins (after taking at least one) to a designated player, and that player had to use all the spins passed to them (but all unused passed spins were moved to the "earned" column once a Whammy was hit, provided it was not #4). Almost always done by the player who's ahead by a wide margin, and doesn't want to hit a Whammy, but occasionally (and entertainingly) done by a player who's far behind and whose only hope of victory is for the leader to "Whammy Out".
    • Second Chance, the predecessor of PYL, had Devils instead and no animations, but the same purpose.
    • The GSN revival raised the ante with the introduction of the Double Whammy in Round 3, which is just like the Whammy only it also throws in random physical humilation, like dropping flour, feathers or even dirty laundry on the player.
  • Beat the Odds: "Sammy the Whammy" may be the Ur Example, as the show debuted in July 1961. The idea was to make words of a certain length, determined at random, and beginning and ending with the letters dictated on the spinning reels. You could keep trying to make words as long as you wanted and freeze your score at any time, but Sammy was on each reel and took all your unfrozen points if one came up; getting a Double Whammy awarded a $50 gift certificate instead. The 1975 revival attempt hosted by Chuck Henry replaced Sammy with a lightning bolt.
  • Wheel of Fortune: Bankrupt is the Whammy in more genteel clothing, because it only take away a player's winnings from that particular round with money won in previous rounds being retained, and multiple Bankrupts won't cause a player to be eliminated. There's also the more gentle Lose A Turn, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • In the shopping era, contestants could put their winnings "on account". That money would be added to the contestant's winnings in the next round...but if a contestant hit Bankrupt, the on-account winnings would be wiped out as well, similar to the Wild Card and Million-Dollar Wedge.
    • On Wheel 2000, Lose A Turn wasn't gentle at all, as it was called "Loser" and added the humiliation of that show's virtual Vanna White "Cyber Lucy" mocked the kid for landing on it by her making the "Loser L" sign on her forehead toward the contestant. Meanwhile, Bankrupt became "The Creature", a CGI dragon-monster-thing that lived under the Wheel and came up whenever his wedge was hit to "eat" the player's points.
  • Tic-Tac-Dough: The Dragon of the 1978-86 and 1990 runs. Revealing the Dragon meant instant loss on the Bonus Round. In the 1990 version, it rapped, and a rapping knight was an instant winner. This seemed to be a favorite with Jack Barry.
  • Wipeout: On another Peter Tomarken show, (no relation to the newer stunt game), picking one of the five incorrect answers in the first round took away not only the player's money, but also the prize if the player had found the Hot Spot earlier.
  • The Whammy in High Rollers is simply rolling a combination that couldn't be used to take numbers off the board (which is why control of the dice is so important).
  • Nick Arcade had secret "enemy" squares on the game-board, where steering Mikey onto one would immediately give control to the other team. Also the "Time Bomb" spaces, where contestants who didn't see the big bomb shape saying don't go here, you've already been here would have to pong-spell a word in ten seconds with each other to keep control of the board. It never went well.
  • Parodied in the nonsensical game show Joey's auditioning for in the Friends episode "The One With The Baby Shower". At one point, Chandler gets all of Ross's points for no real reason. Then at the end Chandler "gets Bamboozled", which apparently means that Ross wins...somehow.
  • Stopper tiles in Scrabble. Still, as Chuck Woolery explained on the 1993 finale, if you picked two of these tiles and knew it, you could guess the word and thus ship the no-win off to your opponent.
  • Lingo featured red balls (also called "stoppers") that, when pulled out, would automatically hand gameplay control to the opposing team.
  • The "Stinger" on The One Million Chance of a Lifetime. Picking the lone available letter that wasn't in the puzzle ended your turn immediately.
  • Million Dollar Money Drop: Pretty much the whole point. In this case, the Whammys are the wrong answers. You have to wager all the money you have on the choices, and you must leave one choice with no money on it, and if you leave the right answer empty...
  • $100,000 Fortune Hunt: A WGN game show for winners of the Illinois Lottery. Among the dollar amounts on its game board were a "bankrupt" icon and a crying face. The latter eliminated a player from the game, but nobody left with less than $1,000.
  • Several pricing games on The Price Is Right give players the progressive option to stop where they are with what they've won in that game or continue on, knowing that a slip-up means you get bupkis.
  • In several games on Let's Make a Deal, the Zonk symbol sometimes worked as this.
  • Strike it Rich/Lucky had the Hot Spot (or Bandit in the short-lived original U.S. version), which ended a turn and took away non-banked prizes. It's not a good spot. However, sometimes couples had a chance of earning prizes back from Hot Spots as a Consolation Prize if they didn't do well, depending on the host's mood.
  • Couch Potatoes had "Pay TV" as one of the channels in the "Channel Roulette" Bonus Round, during which you had to accumulate 1,000 points by guessing TV shows based on cast pictures. Hitting Pay TV wiped out your score and you had to start over.
  • The Jokers Wild had a devil on one of the slot machine windows during the bonus game which lost the prizes and/or cash the players had accumulated to that point if it appeared during a spin.

Video Games

  • Mario Party: Bowser usually fulfills this role in various titles in the series. A wide variety of things can happen at his spaces, but all of them end in loss of coins or stars for one or more players, and no player ever gains from the spaces. Unless they are completely broke; then he can feel pity. Or he'll give you stuff just so you have something for him to take from you. Depends on which game you're playing.
    • Bowser Revolution takes everyone's coins, and divides them by the number of players, giving them an equal amount. If you're broke or have few coins compared to everyone else, this works out for you. Otherwise, it can cause problems (if you had enough coins for a Star earlier but not after this, for example).
  • Sonic Shuffle: The Eggman card. Drawing it in a battle results in an instant loss.
  • In New Super Mario Bros Wii, getting two Bowser or Bowser Jr. faces in the Red Mushroom House mini-game ended it immediately, meaning you couldn't pick up any more power-ups.
  • The online game Slingo features a devil which takes away half your points. Sometimes, though, he's counteracted by an angel.