THE STORY SO FAR….
26-year-old Alex Dusek has won 9 consecutive episodes of Million Dollar Minute, and now finds himself at the end of the episode, having to decide whether to leave the show with the $307,000 he’s won so far, or return the next night, to potentially play for $500,000. Earlier on the show, he had quoted his father (Oh, and also Homer); To those that flee comes neither power nor glory…”
So the natural question is:
SH: Why didn’t you come back the next night to play for the $500 000?
AD: I knew that with saying that quote on the show that I would have to answer this question sooner or later, and it’s a good one. Going on that quote, theoretically I should have continued playing for the million. There are four points in the game, there are four levels of money, where you have to make a decision where you are risking more than you stand to gain; at the $50,000 mark, at the $200,000, at the $300,000 and at the $500,000. So I wanted to, with at least one of those levels, make what I considered to be a bold decision and continue to play.
The first of those levels – at $50 000 – is below the $75 000. If you are a serious player and you want to be a champ you’re always going to continue from the safe money and go on. So that $50 000 level to me gets taken off the ledger so that leaves the $200,000 the $300,000 and the $500,000. Basically what the quote was doing was saying that for at least one of those levels I was going to continue on and stand to make less than what I was risking.
My dad had said that line to me that morning so I did want to bring it up. I did a little shout out to him because we’d always done trivia together and I thought I was doing it for him and for myself at the same time. So I wanted to include him in the celebrations.
SH: That’s great.
SH: It sounds like you’ve analysed the game and its structure very carefully beforehand. Had you made all these decisions beforehand? Could you have been swayed in the heat of the moment, if the game play had gone differently? For instance, on the night?
AD: That’s a really good question.
SH: Thank you very much.
AD: The one thing that people don’t think about enough is what they are going to do at the particular levels. It is stressful enough playing the game and managing your emotions that you want to only have the game to worry about. If you come in and you have no idea of what you are going to do at any particular levels, you’re just creating a whole lot of extra emotional stress for yourself. I wanted to as much as possible in my own mind and have my decisions at each level worked out before I went on the show, and I think that’s what happened. I was always going to play for the $75 000 and then once I got there, I was always going to continue on. $300,000 was kind of in my mind always like an out point.
I never thought I was ever going to be playing for $500,000. Also, before you go on you don’t want to expect too much of yourself; you don’t want to think “I am going to win every game from the moment I get on”. Initially you are still working out “am I as good as I maybe thought I was?” Certainly $300,000 was the out point that I had in the back of my mind and I had made all those decisions, but I still felt a tremendous amount of guilt leaving, like I was letting everybody down who might have been watching.
I said to myself that the biggest trap in the game is taking safe money and I won’t do it. And I ended up doing it twice. There is some room for being lured into making some silly decisions under the studio lights.
SH: Hey, that’s exactly what I did. I had a philosophy going in – and we can equate the “safe money” to the “gift shop” in Sale of the Century, which tempts the contestants to spend some of their lead for more instant gratification. It is exactly the same thing, but in Million Dollar Minute it’s infinitely more tempting because it is cash, and everyone is tempted by cash.
SH: That was always my philosophy; Focus on the main game, don’t get distracted by these things. When people were distracted by the shiny baubles and gave away their lead I just thought “Oh well, you don’t believe you can win this”. It always seemed to me a way for the contestants to blatantly advertise to everyone exactly how un-confident of winning they are. It seemed to me that every time one of your competitors accepted safe money rather than hanging on to their points, they were announcing to the world – and far more importantly, announcing to you – “I don’t believe I can win this game, I might as well get some cash on the way home”. What did you think?
AD: That is such a good point which I don’t think people realize often enough. It is exactly the same. As soon as anyone sold their lead for points it just gives you a huge mental reward and you feel like they are acknowledging that you will beat them in the end, and often that is how it goes. I played against a number of people who were leading against me early on, and could have put a lot of pressure on me in the end game, but they sold their leads, and often they ended up scoring lowest out of the three; finishing the game on 30 or 40 points, when I was on 90 or 100. I couldn’t believe it. As the champ there is that aura about you, and people think “I can’t beat this guy”, but in your own head you know that all it takes is one person, some brash young challenger, who is not going to take any money, who is going to make it a dogfight and play to the end and put you in an uncomfortable position.
You are only one step away and you’re just waiting for someone to do that but so few people do it. Out of the 9 nights, I remember one person, Tamara, rejected the money and made it a contest. She levelled the scores twice in double points and I really admired her.
SH: It always surprised me and it’s an absolute admission of surrender. Did you find in the later nights when you were meeting up with your opponents in the green room (and obviously not engaging with them too much), did any of them have a waft of defeat about them, before they even went on?
AD: I think there was a sense of it, yes. I think after going through the lengthy process of getting on the show to begin with, it is natural to feel some disappointment, such as “why have I been put up against a champ, why couldn’t I be beside two new people?” You do get that impression some feel that they have been put in a bad position and you can kind of tell that beforehand. As a side note to this, when I chose to leave and then went back into the green room there were three new contestants waiting there and one of them was Pierre Sutcliffe who went on to become the highest winning player by winning $500,000 plus safe money. He was the very next competitor. Maybe it was because he has a unique look about him, but I remember getting the impression that he would have been exactly the kind of person who wouldn’t take any money and would have made it a tough game. He was the first person that I got that kind of vibe from, who was in it for the long haul.
SH: It’s good that they didn’t put him up against you.
AD: Well…Lucky for one of us!
SH: The luck of the draw! Or maybe it was deliberate. Who knows?
Next week, we discuss ‘That Winning Feeling’, and the aftermath of this life-changing event; the instant fame, the publicity…. and address the age-old question: Exactly what does make a good TV Game Show champ?
Apart from knowing the answers to the questions.
See you then!