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July 30, 2002

NTN's Million Dollar Match Competition
By: Bill Rushton (MEGUMI)

As it turned out, it started and ended in Las Vegas.

When I heard that NTN had revived the Million Dollar Match contest, and that
the finals would take place in Las Vegas, I was naturally interested. I had
remembered the previous contest some years back, and I had come pretty close
to being able to get to the finals in that contest (missing out on a second
tiebreaker). Additionally, I wouldn't be handicapped by not having a whole
lot of teammates to help out (a la Showdown), but it would be more of an
individual competition (a la QB1).

I was in Las Vegas for the first week of qualifying, with LEOASC, PLCMTS,
and the rest. In the second game of qualifying that night, I was only 1000
away with a whole bunch of questions left, but waited until the very end to
finally pick up the 1000 to get the match. In the next three weeks back
home, I was fortunate enough to pick up an additional 4 matches, even though
the second game never came up one week. At this point, I figured I had to
be in as good a position as anyone to get picked in the random drawing to go
to Las Vegas.

The next week, I was in Colorado, and came very close to a 6th match, but
blew it by just missing 1000 on one of the last questions - too bad, because
I was hoping for matches in three different time zones. The 6th week saw
the 6th match, and then I was shut out again in the 7th week, even though I
probably had just as many opportunities that week as any other. I picked up
the last match in the last game.

So, I ended up with seven matches, being able to hit them just about half
the time. According to BADBOB's excellent recordkeeping and statistics on
the tournament, I ended up having more matches than anyone, not too bad for
doing it by myself every week but the first. Unfortunately with the random
draw, I still only had about a 6% chance of being chosen to go to Las Vegas.

The time for the random draw came and passed without any word. About a week
before, the announcement came up of the people who were going to go, and not
surprisingly, since I hadn't heard anything, I wasn't one of them. I was
happy to see one of the BadBart denizen mentioned (RACER), but disappointed
that I wasn't one of the winners. I checked to see how many times the
winners had matched, and no one had more than three. Of course, I thought
it was unfair, but it was a random draw, and that's the way it went.

The next day, out of the blue, I received a call from Nicole at NTN. She
said something that led me to believe she was calling about the recent
Playback promotion, and I told her I had received the tickets. However, it
wasn't about that - she was calling to tell me that I was going to Las
Vegas! Naturally, I was pretty shocked and excited. I had seen that there
were only nine names listed the previous night, but didn't think much of it.
Apparently, one person never got back to them, and I was the first
alternate, so I got to go. I quickly took care of what I needed to do and
prepared to leave for Las Vegas the next week. They even had it up on the
network that same day that I would be going.

The time came to go, and I flew out to the extremely hot Las Vegas, with
temperatures going into the 110s - normally, I avoid Vegas in the summer due
to this, but this was a special occasion. I was alternately nervous and not
so nervous about this, although once I went out there, I was pretty calm.
They gave everyone a nice Million Dollar Match bag, filled with NTN goodies
(squishy playmakers, key chains, t-shirts, etc.).

Friday came soon enough, and it was time for the competition. I went over
and met some NTN people in person, including Nicole, Jay, and Mark DeGorter,
the president of NTN. The NTN people were easily identifiable, with the men
in black NTN polo shirts, and the women in white t-shirts. I then joined
RACER & DIVOR - also there was AIRKEV, as well as PLCMTS, who had made a
special trip back from Houston to be there, and LILJOL, who came in from
California to view the proceedings. Some preliminary games began, which
were not part of the network. Of course, the first game got cut short due
to some technical glitch, although we got to see the whole game later on
that evening (and some of the questions a third time, when everyone pretty
much had the numbers of the answers memorized). Prizes were given out for
high scorers in these games, most of which were won by DIVOR & LILJOL.

I was surprised I wasn't too nervous at this point, but I was having fun,
playing NTN with friends just like I would do ordinarily. We were at the
top virtually all of the games, so I didn't see much competition from the
other contestants. I was playing around with the box I had for a while
(they told us we'd get different boxes once the competition started) to see
if I could hit out to exact scores, and I wasn't happy with the timing of
the box; between that and I figured they would make the questions hard and
the limit high didn't give us much of a chance to win the million. Mark
came over and chatted with us, and said that they set up the game figuring
that 1% of the people playing had matched, so the probability of someone
matching twice was .01%, and they proceeded accordingly. As much as I
wanted to believe that, especially since I was matching it about half the
time, so my own probability of matching twice was 25%, I felt that it was
going to be somewhat harder to win the million.

Happy NTNing,

MEGUMI

-------------------------------- PART II --------------------------------

Ten easy chairs were set up in the corner of the area we were in, so it was
obvious that would be where the competition would take place. Additionally,
video equipment was set up to tape the proceedings (don't expect to see any
of it; I've heard it's going to be used for sales & marketing). One of the
NTN people was on the mike for most of the night, making occasional
announcements to encourage people who were in Gameworks to come over to the
area to see if anyone would win a million dollars (twice, he referred to it
as the "World Championship"). By the time the competition was to begin,
several dozen people had gathered in addition to the contestants themselves.

Each of us randomly chose a number beforehand (on NTN coasters, naturally)
to see where we would be sitting. I ended up with the seat closest to where
our group was located; RACER was three seats down, on the far right. We
were each introduced to the crowd, and asked, of course, what we would do
with the million dollars. I had some lame answer; you'd think by now I'd
have come up with a decent answer to this question by now, but I still
haven't. RACER did much better with his response about purchasing NTN
stock, which made him a favorite among the NTN people that were there.
Finally, we were handed our boxes, instructed to log in, and the game began.

They started out with the usual MDM intro screens, and yet another sign of
trouble came up when the match number started with a '1'. It ended up being
10,279. The first question popped up, and already we could see it wasn't
going to be those softballs they were throwing us during the qualifying
rounds. After about two questions, it was obvious to me that in all
likelihood (1) no one was going to win the million, and (2) either RACER or
I were going to win both games, since it looked like it was going to be the
high score that won.

I got off to a poor start, and was only slightly over 2000 after six
questions, stuck in the middle of the pack. There wasn't any pressure on,
since the thought of a million was pretty much gone, and at this point, it
would have been near impossible to get to over 10,000 with nine questions
left. I figured I had a good shot at winning one of the individual prizes,
but it wasn't doing well so far in this game. However, it turned around
after this, and after the 14th question, I was in first place with an
insurmountable lead. I didn't have to answer the last question, as I
couldn't match anyway, but I couldn't resist, since I knew it cold, as it
had only come up the previous night, although in a different form. I guess
not a lot of people played the previous night, since there were 7 -250s on
this question. I ended up with 98-hundred-something, and won the prize for
the first game.

Then they proceeded to present me with one of those oversized checks as if I
had won the big jackpot on the slot machine or something. The next game
began quickly after that - actually, the whole thing moved along pretty
quickly, as there was no break between the 5th & 6th questions, and only a
short break between the 10th & 11th. This game didn't start much better
than the other one. They offered an extra 1000 if anyone matched the score
in this game, which ended up being the exact 10,279 from the previous game -
of course, this had no effect. RACER & I quickly opened up about a 3000
point lead over everyone else. At this point, they could see that things
were getting real ugly real quick, so the announcer said that anyone from
the audience could help out, which I didn't think was such a hot idea, since
there was still a prize on the line (well, for RACER & I, anyway). As it
turned out, there wasn't too much offered from the audience besides a few
guesses, which made it feel more like your local place where people just say
answers without really knowing what the actual answer is. Many questions
would have the announcer asking if anyone knew the answer, followed by dead
silence.

With the other contestants disposed of at this point, RACER & I exchanged
several -250s and lead changes as the game headed into the homestretch.
However, after the 14th question, I opened up a lead over 1000, so again, I
was in the position where I didn't have to bother answering the last
question. There was no chance of matching, as I only had slightly less than
7000 at this point. Since I wasn't sure on the last one, I passed on it,
and ended up winning with that score. Again, I received another oversized
check. The whole tournament was videotaped, and they wanted me to stick
around for an interview, if you can believe that. While they were setting
this up, I was able to escape to the bar to get a drink - I hadn't had
anything before the game, and since NTN was paying the tab, I didn't want to
miss out.

The interview was pretty easy, with questions even I could answer (where I
played, how long I've been playing, etc.). Once this was done, I was
finally able to rejoin the rest of the group. Some more games started up,
but we spent most of the time talking with President DeGorter about NTN.
Other participants were interviewed as well, and there were group pictures
taken, and we all signed the MDM banner they had brought over. Later, we
headed over to one of the PTs in town to play, where DIVOR proceeded to wax
everyone at cutthroat.

In spite of the troubles NTN has had, the people representing them there
appeared to have genuine enthusiasm for what they did. They put together a
nice party for that evening; I know I had a great time, as I'm sure everyone
else did.

Happy NTNing,

MEGUMI


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