I won on The Price Is Right.
Here’s What I Learned.

One of the quirkier things about me is that I was a winner on The Price is Right.
Since it aired, I'm often asked for tips on how to win, so here's my playbook.
(Spoiler: It's about selling yourself.)

Published On: May 12th, 2020

Like most 90’s kids, my childhood consisted of listening to Green Day on my skip proof disc man while reading Goosebumps books and taking poor care of my Tamagotchi. There were, however, glorious days on which a holiday took place or I was able to convince my parents that I was too sick for school. And on those days, faithfully waiting for me promptly at 11am*, was Bob Barker and The Price is Right. The bright colors, the excitement of the contestants, the complete lack of decorum and caring for one’s own dignity among the contestants. It was a place of pure happiness and I needed to be a part of it some day.

* I feel like not having DVR will be my generation’s “we had to walk 15 miles in the snow uphill to school everyday” struggle when we tell our kids about our childhoods.

A quarter century later, two close friends’ wedding provided me an excuse to spend some time in Los Angeles, and I knew exactly what needed to be done. I did my research, got tickets to the show in advance, and ended up fulfilling my childhood dream of winning on The Price is Right.

So let me take you through the entire process played out for me, and offer up a few helpful tips to increase your chances of being chosen.

The journey to Contestant’s Row becomes much smoother if you do a little preparation beforehand. First, you’re going to want to consider making yourself a customized shirt for the show.

TIP #1:

Have a Custom T-Shirt Made

Yes, it’s corny, but it will help. Go to CustomInk or a similar t-shirt printing service and it won’t be too expensive. You’ll want to allow time for it to print and ship, and make sure to mention where you’re coming from if you’ll be travelling a long distance.

Yes, it’s corny, but you’ve got to be all-in on this in order for these tips to work, so throw dignity out the window and do it – especially if you’re travelling a long distance. They look for people that travel for the show, and having it on your shirt is a good way to advertise that. Regardless of where you’re coming from, a corny shirt shows you’re a big fan of the show which always will help your chances of being chosen.

Clearly I was a bit excited about the whole Price is Right situation | Sean Patrick O'Leary

Clearly I was a bit excited about the whole Price is Right situation

Next, get tickets. The Price is Right actually makes it pretty convenient for people who have a planned trip to Los Angeles to make it into a taping of the show. All you have to do is visit The Price is Right Tickets Page at On-Air-Audiences.com.

Tickets are released up to 60 days before the show date, so don’t miss out. If your dates aren’t available 60 days beforehand, check back often because you will want to get Priority Tickets for your date. Why? Because Priority Tickets guarantee you a spot in the audienc whereas General Tickets (or stand by) means waiting in line for the chance to get in.

Not sure how many people you’re going to go with? These are free tickets. So if you need to grab a few extra in case some friends decide to tag along, do it. If you don’t use them, it just means people lining up for the taping (those without Priority Tickets) will get in. Win Win.

TIP #2:

Get Priority Tickets in Advance

If you have Priority Tickets and you show up on time for the taping, you are guaranteed to get into the show. So that’s half the battle won before even setting foot in L.A.

Once you arrive at CBS Studios for your taping, you’ll see the line and realize how great it was to get Priority Tickets. Knowing this, make sure to pay it forward and offer any extra tickets you may have to people in line. I’ll touch in this more later, but you’re going to want to “know” as many people from the audience as possible, so this is a good way to make early friends.

Upon entry to the Studios, you will wait for a while in an outdoor check-in area with a souvenir booth. Price is Right employees come around to check you in, give you a number, and take personal items such as your phone, larger bags, etc. You won’t get everything back until after the taping, and you’ll have to wait around 2-3 hours for the taping to start. So get ready for a little time without your phone, but this is valuable time that you can use getting noticed.

I was chosen to play Cliffhanger, which actually has the highest success rate of all Price is Right games | Sean Patrick O'Leary

I had the opportunity to play Cliffhanger, which – fun fact – has the highest success rate of all Price is Right games. So that was lucky.

You may be asking what I mean when I say “getting noticed” if you have the impression that contestants are chosen at random. That is untrue. While they may claim to choose contestants at random, they – at the very least – chose a subset of people to pick from based on things like:

  • Excitement Level
  • Distance Traveled
  • Are they a good story? (service member, engagement, birthday, etc)
  • Will they make for funny TV? (AKA: Are they a little crazy, but in a fun way?)
  • Likability

Basically, they want to make sure you won’t be a dud if you get up on stage. Therefore, from the moment you step onto CBS Studios (and even before, as in the case of my tip of giving out extra tickets), you have to turn it on, and you have to make sure you stand out from the bunch.

TIP #3:

Get Noticed during the Pre-Show Process.

The Price is Right contestant selection is not completely random. They look for people that would make for good TV, so during the pre-show process, make sure to:

  • Show that you’re fun.
  • When interviewed, be interesting and excited (be over the top, seriously)
  • Even if you’re in a group, make sure to talk to as many people as possible – staff and other audience members. The more people you have “on your side”, the better.

Premature Celebration on The Price is Right | Sean Patrick O'Leary

I thought I had spun 1 dollar on the wheel so I began my celebration…I did not spin a dollar. I spun 15 cents. It was embarrassing.

Before the taping, you will be shuffled between a few waiting areas, starting with the check-in area. Once everyone has checked in, they begin calling groups of 20 people to line up for a brief interview with one of the show’s producers. While this interview is taking place, you’ll notice a handful of assistant producers hanging out in the background taking notes. This is your first chance to shine.

The producer will ask you a few basic questions (What’s your name?, Where are you from?, What’s your favorite Price is Right game?, etc). Make sure to really ham it up when they ask you the first question. If you get a follow-up question, that’s really good news. If you get a chance to speak for a third (or more) time, you’re in great shape. I saw a lot of people who had longer interactions with the producer on Contestant’s Row. I guess this is The Price is Right’s version of stressing a good first impression.

Once you complete the first interview, you will stand in line for a while, then will move to a sitting area where you will wait to enter the studio. Throughout this time, you are not interviewed directly, but you may notice staff members (and some of those assistant producers) wandering around and taking more notes. You should be interacting with as many people as possible at this point. Personally, I saw a lot of the assistant producers checking in with security staff, so make sure to be nice to them, too.

The entire pre-show process takes about 2-3 hours and involves shuffling from place to place, but it isn’t completely uncomfortable and boring. Everyone around you is excited about the show so people are generally excited to talk about where they’re from, how much they love Bob Barker, and what they’d do if they won a car – so the time goes by quickly if you play it right.

Also, there are bathrooms available most of the time (with the exception of when you’re standing in line) and food is for sale at the area where you sit and wait for entry to the studio. Note: The food sells out very quickly, so if you are hungry, make sure to line up as soon as they announce it or you’ll miss out on the good stuff. I had to settle for a cheese quesadilla. One star.

TIP #4:

It’s ok to go alone, but you’ll have to work a bit harder to get noticed.

There is a popular theory that you’ll only be called down if you’re with a group, but I went by myself and I was among the first crop of contestants called. The key is to make the producers notice you before the show and it doesn’t matter who you’re with.

There is a common myth that you have to be part of a big group to get called down. This is NOT true. While being in a big group may help, becoming a contestant is about selling YOURSELF.

There were many large groups at my taping (with matching outfits, the whole deal) and only a few were were represented on contestants row because a majority just chatted amongst themselves. If you are successful in standing out, you have a good shot no matter how many people you came with. For me, I found a couple other groups of 1 or 2 people and started talking with them. I met a woman by herself, a Mother and Son, and an older couple – and they became my group. However, I still talked with everyone I could: If they were dressed up in any way, I asked them about it. If they came from an interesting place, I talked to them about their hometown. Anything to spark up a conversation. In a way, you can think of it as a networking event, but in this case, you’re a salesperson selling excitement.

Ready to react to ALMOST a perfect spin on The Price is Right | Sean Patrick O'Leary

After more covert observation by producers and a short video on how to be a good contestant (basically just show clips), you are taken into the studio. And it’s glorious. It’s as bright and beautiful as you’d imagine. It’s a surreal feeling being there. It’s a place that you spend a majority of your life seeing on television and then you’re just in it. To say I was excited would be an extreme understatement.

To get people even more pumped for the show (not that anyone really needs it), they have a playlist of pump-up music (think Jock Jams) going when everyone walks in. For about 20 minutes, the music continues and everyone is encouraged to dance and scream. It’s an infectious atmosphere and you see just about everyone dancing like fools.

And at this point, you can relax and let loose, too. The show taping is right around the corner and you will have done everything possible to help your chances of getting chosen for Contestant’s Row. So sit back and enjoy. No matter what happens, you’ll leave knowing you had a really good time.

If you do have the good fortune of being called down as a contestant, here are a few things I felt noteworthy from my experience:

  • You may sweat.

    Despite being pretty cold while you’re sitting in audience, it is VERY hot on stage. With all of the lights pointed directly at you, it becomes a problem quick if you’re prone to a bit of sweat like me. Fun fact: They had to stop taping twice to dab me with a towel and put makeup on me because I looked too shiny on camera…and I still ended up looking shiny. The takeaway here is not to wear anything that will show sweat.

  • The Wheel

    • The wheel is heavy. As a fairly big guy, I was surprised at how heavy the wheel was. I honestly don’t know how some of the older ladies get it around twice. If you get to spin the wheel, move it back and forth a bit before you spin so you can get a feel for how heavy it really is.

    • Make sure to give the wheel time to stop before celebrating. Take it from experience: The wheel can surprise you. One of the most hilarious (and mortifying) moments of my appearance was the moment I celebrated like I spun a dollar…but then it slowly clicked over to 15 cents.

  • It really is hard to understand the crowd.

    Can honestly say that I never really considered any audience feedback during my pricing game. It’s chaos. Unless you’re looking at one specific person, you have to block them out (but definitely still make it look like you’re listening because they love it).

  • The show taping actually takes “commercial” breaks…and they’re awesome.

    If you’re a Drew Carey fan, you know how good he is at stand-up, and that’s exactly what he does during “commercial breaks”. Yes, the taping stops for an amount of time similar to a commercial break and Drew tells jokes and interacts with the audience. It’s a real highlight of the experience.

  • Yes, there are taxes.

    This is probably the biggest question I’m asked, and sadly: Yes, there are taxes. I was lucky because I won cash (and an item under $5,000 in the Rolex) so the taxes from California were taken out directly. I also had to pay New York State and Federal Government taxes on it, which did take a substantial amount. This is why it can be a tough decision to accept the prizes if you win something like two cars (which happened on our episode). You have to pay taxes on all of the major items (trips, boats, etc) and it can be a bit of an unexpected burden. Definitely take this into consideration before going.

  • They do not provide you with a recording of your episode.

    This is important because you won’t have any video evidence of your appearance unless you record it when it airs. Remember, they take your cell phone so you won’t even have pictures of yourself on the set. DVR is your friend here and make sure you can back up the recording somewhere.

  • Your prizes won’t come until 4-6 weeks after your episode airs.

    Have visions of driving off the CBS lot in your brand new car? Yeah, you can forget about that. Your prizes won’t arrive until 4-6 weeks after your episode airs, and it can take a long time for your episode to air so be ready to wait (more on this next).

  • If you win, you can’t even talk about it until your episode airs.

    Yes, they make you sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). If you win a prize (and accept the prize), you have to sign a document that says you won’t tell anyone about the outcome of the epsidoe until it airs or else you may forfeit the prizes. In my case, I went to the taping in October of 2017 and my episode didn’t air until February of 2018. That was a long 4 months of not being able to brag about it to all of my friends.

  • If you win, you can’t be a contestant again for 10 years.

    Also important to keep in mind: You can be a multi-time Price is Right winner…but you have to wait 10 years. You better believe I’ll be going back in 2027 for another shot at the Showcase Showdown.

Admiring my future Rolex on The Price is Right | Sean Patrick O'Leary

Wanted that Rolex. Got that Rolex.

While the tips in this post mostly relate directly to success on a specific game show, there are lessons for the real-world, as well. The ability to walk into a room and stand out from the crow in a positive way translates to good outcomes in so many situations. In professional networking, dating, politics, and apparently even in getting chosen for a game show.

Having the confidence to put your personality on display in front of a large crowd can be scary, but if done in the right way, it makes you memorable to many. In this case, I was able to stand out and become one of the nine contestants chosen out of 250, which gave me the opportunity to win a pretty unbelievable prize package. A chance I would have never had if I hadn’t made “getting noticed” a priority.

So good luck to all of you! If you have any questions for me or would like to know more about my Price is Right experience (or chat about your own), shoot me a message or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Web Design & Digital Marketing Services in Rochester, New York | Sean Patrick O'Leary