It's not too often you get a chance to compete for money on a nationally televised game show like "Deal or No Deal, " let alone walk away significantly richer. When those opportunities do arise, it's not too often you walk away with only $5, either.
But that's exactly what happened to Cheryl Jackson, a Texas mom who appeared on the show's premiere back in 2006. After declining a $172,000 offer in favor of taking a chance on another briefcase, she went home having won a pre-tax total of only $5.
On the December 12 episode, however, her son Artis got the chance to redeem her. And he won a total of $63,000. Not quite the $1 million grand prize, but a whopping 12,600 times more than his mom's total.
"What was on my mind during the entire show was, 'Please walk away with more than $5,'" Artis tells CNBC Make It. "I just kept saying, 'I need to walk away with something that has a comma in it.'"
Most people try to eliminate the case worth only a penny as soon as possible, he says, but "mine was the $5. I felt like that was the little curse I had to break."
After his mom's episode aired, Artis and his brother joked about the missed opportunity for years. "At the time, we were sitting in the audience and so she couldn't hear us screaming when she got a $172,000 offer," he recalls. "We were screaming, 'Deal! Take the deal!'"
But her supporters urged her keep going.
"When she walked away with $5," Artis says, "I would walk in the room and I'd be like, 'Mom, if you just needed $5 that bad, look, I got it.' I would pull it out of my wallet, take her to Subway and be like, 'We can cash your "Deal or No Deal" check — $5 Footlong, anything you want.' I would just give her jokes on top of jokes," he says, "just out of good fun."
So when Artis got the opportunity to compete on the show himself 13 years later, naturally, he could only tell himself, "Please don't blow this."
Like many contestants, Artis didn't have a game plan going in. "My strategy was to not have a strategy," he says, "because I feel like, if you overthink it, you're going to walk away with $5 or less."
His mom told him to go with his gut. "She didn't give me too many pointers. She just said, 'You know what? You go out there, you have fun. If you want to go to the end like I did, go for it.'
"'If there's a time in which I shout a case number and you're not feeling it,'" he remembers her saying, "'go with what you feel because I want, ultimately, for what happens to be because you were comfortable with it. You made that decision and you can live with that.'"
So that's what Artis did. After eliminating the $5 case fairly early in the game, he decided to go as far as he could.
"I'm just naturally a risk-taker, " he says. "I kind of like to bet on myself. I believe it's redemption time, you got to keep going, you can't just play it the safe route. … So I just wanted to go for it. My mom did it, why not?"
He ultimately took a deal from the banker for $63,000, and Artis says he isn't disappointed. "I mean, $63,000, that's a lot of money within three hours of work. How many people can say that they can make that?
"Leading out of the show, when we were walking out of the tunnel," he says, "I didn't feel like a loser. The audience was amazing. Everyone was just hyped, the whole crowd was hyped. My mom and my wife and my brother — we all were hyped. We were on cloud nine. "
Artis says he plans to spend his winnings on family: A portion will go toward his children's savings accounts, a share will go toward a trip for him and his wife, and some of the money will go into a rainy-day fund.
As for the rest, he plans to donate to his mom's charity, Minnie's Food Pantry, a nonprofit in Plano, Texas, that feeds under-served families, which took off after she appeared on the show in 2006.
His advice to anyone who comes into a windfall: Make a plan and get help, a tip shared by money experts and "Deal or No Deal" winners alike, such as Tomorrow Rodriguez, who won $1 million on the show in 2008.
"If you're about to get handed a large sum of money, you need be prepared for it, " Artis says. "That's what I'd say to anyone who's just gotten to be the lucky winner of that $1 million check."
"Me and my wife, we were planning to win the million," he continues, and while they didn't quite get there, "we went into it with a plan of how we would help others, help ourselves and our children."
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Video by Helen Zhao