Pay Cards!

(Super) Pay Cards!
Created by Nick Nicholson
E. Roger Muir
Presented by Art James (1968-1969, 1981-1982)
Paul Hanover (1973-1975, Canada only)
with Mary Lou Basaraba (1981-1982)
Narrated by Fred Collins (1968)
Glenn Ryle (1968)
Jerry Thomas (1969)
Mary Lou Basaraba (1981-1982)
Country of origin United States (1968-1969)
Canada (1973-1975,1981-1982)
No. of episodes 260 (1968-1969)
Running time 26 minutes
Production company(s) Nicholson-Muir Productions
Distributor CTV (Canada)
Metromedia Producers Corporation (United States)
Original network Syndicated (daily)
Original release September 9, 1968
September 5, 1969 – September 14, 1981
April 23, 1982

Pay Cards! was an American syndicated game show created and produced by Nick Nicholson and E. Roger Muir[1] that first aired from 1968–1969 and a revival, titled Super Pay Cards!, ran from 1981–1982. Both series were hosted by Art James. The original Pay Cards! taped in both New York City and Cincinnati, while Super Pay Cards! was taped in Montreal. A Canadian version, hosted by Paul Hanover and also recorded in Montreal, aired from 1973 until 1975.

Pay Cards! (1968–1969)

Three players, one of whom was a celebrity playing for a studio audience member, attempted to build poker hands from a board of 20 hidden cards.

Five Card Draw

In the first round, the first player called out three cards to reveal. If a pair or three of a kind came up, the player was required to keep those cards. If not, the player had the decision to either keep the cards or turn them back and pass control to the next player. If the cards were kept, that player called out a fourth card. If they chose to keep it, the process repeated for the fifth card. However, if they refused the fourth or fifth card, control passed to the next player.

After two players each completed a five-card hand, the remaining player was required to complete his or hand by keeping whichever cards he or she revealed immediately thereafter.

At the end of each round, the players received money based on the rank of their poker hand.

Payout Hand
$10 Each Pair
$30 Three of a Kind
$50 Full House
$100 Four of a Kind
$150 Five of a Kind

The player with the best hand at the end of each round received a $50 bonus. The player with the most money at the end of the third round played the bonus round. All players kept their money.

Strategy Round

The four corner cards were revealed at the start of the round. On their first two turns, each player called out two more cards and selected two cards for his or her hand from the six which were showing. After a player collected four cards, that player selected one last card to complete his or her hand.

Wild Card Round

This final round was played similar to Five Card Draw but also included Wild Cards hidden among the others on the board. This allowed a player to make a hand of Five of a Kind and thereby earn $150.

Jackpot Game

The player attempted to memorize twelve cards and their positions for twelve seconds. The cards were then concealed and the player spun a wheel to determine which card the player must locate on the board. If the player recalled where that specific card was located on the board, he or she won a bonus prize.

Super Pay Cards! (1981–1982)

A new version, titled Super Pay Cards!, aired in syndication again with Art James as host. Joining James was co-host Mary Lou Basaraba. Overall gameplay remained similar. However, in this version, only two contestants (male vs. female) competed, and faced a board of 16 playing cards instead of 20.

This version was taped in at CFCF-TV Studios in Montreal and featured a musical theme that was a remix of the theme to the earlier Nicholson-Muir production Spin-Off.

At the end of the third round, the player with the most money won the game and advanced to the bonus round for a chance to win $5,000. The losing player received a copy of the show's home game in addition to whatever money they had earned.

Five Card Draw

Four cards were revealed to the players at the start of the round before being concealed. The player in control selected three cards and attempted to build the best possible five-card hand with them. If a pair or three of a kind was revealed, the player automatically kept the three cards and tried to build the hand. As before, the player selected a fourth card and could keep it or refuse the card and pass control to their opponent. The process repeated with the fifth card. This continued until one of the players completed their five card hand, forcing their opponent to select cards to complete their hand without having the opportunity to refuse any of the cards.

Again, players received money based upon the rank of their hand.

Payout Hand
$20 Each Pair
$50 Three of a Kind
$100 Full House
$200 Four of a Kind
$300 Five of a Kind

As in the original series, a $50 bonus was awarded to the better hand in the round.

Round Two

Round Two was played in one of four ways.

Wild Card Hand

The Wild Card Hand was played similar to round one, but with one, two, or three jokers shuffled into the cards to make a hand of five-of-a-kind possible.

Bonus Round

In the first phase of the bonus round, the champion was given four seconds to memorize the location of four cards. After four seconds, the cards were concealed and the champion selected a card from a deck Basaraba was holding. If the champion correctly recalled the location of the hidden card they won $50.

The second phase involved memorizing eight cards for eight seconds. Correctly locating the selected card increased the champion's winnings in the bonus round to $500. If the champion reached the final phase, twelve cards were presented for twelve seconds and the champion won $5,000 for selecting the correct card.

If the champion made an incorrect guess in either the first or second phase, they forfeited the chance at $5,000 but could win the lesser amount from that phase with a second guess. The cards were reshuffled and displayed again for either four or eight seconds depending on the level. The champion kept the $500 from the second phase if they made a mistake on the final phase, but did not earn a second chance.

Audience Game

Basaraba asked a member of the studio audience to study eight cards for eight seconds, then pick one of those eight cards from her hand. The audience member won a prize (e.g., a small appliance) if they could recall where that card was located on the board.

The audience game was included due to regulations for programs taped in Canada which state that at least one Canadian citizen must appear on camera within each program. However, the audience game was edited out of episodes aired in the United States.

Home game

Whitman Publishing produced a board game of Pay Cards in 1969. The game included play money, a vinyl card mat with pockets to hold the game cards, and 4 game decks: three 20-card decks for main round play (one each with Red, Orange & Green backs) and a 12-card Blue-backed deck for the Jackpot Round. Gameplay was simplified in that all three main rounds were played in the "Five Card Draw" format, and all players participated in the Jackpot Round to try to find the chosen card. Two different versions of the game were released, both with identical boxes and near-identical contents. The only difference in the latter release version is the inclusion of Wild Cards in the Orange and Green card decks (one in each, replacing one card from the earlier release's decks); however, the game rules in this latter version do not allow for a "five of a kind" payoff.

A board game of Super Pay Cards was published by Milton Bradley in 1981 and plugged on-air (given to losing contestants), but there has been no evidence it was ever mass-released.


  1. Hevesi, Dennis. "E. Roger Muir, 89, Dies; Backed Howdy Doody", The New York Times, October 28, 2008. Accessed October 28, 2008.
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