Initial for ITV1, 18 June 2007 to 18 December 2009 (288 episodes in 6 series)
What stud poker would be a bit like if there was a giant lottery machine involved, and the prisoner's dilemma.
Four players are dealt out golden balls worth varying amounts of money (from £10 to £75,000) and some "Killer" balls. Two of each player's balls are on show, the rest are known only to each player. The aim is to eliminate the players with the Killers whilst keeping the big money in play, with a The Weakest Link style vote. Obviously players who dealt weak balls have to fast-talk their way into the next round. The final two players aim to build as big a jackpot as possible, and then inevitably go home with nothing because they're both very selfish.
In Round One, 12 cash balls come from the Golden Bank and four Killer balls, and from these, each player is distributed four each, two on the front row and two on the back row. They then open the front ones and leave them open for all to see. They then each get to peek at their back two balls and afterwards, they take it in turns to announce what they have on their back row, simultaneously trying to convince the others they're telling the truth whilst trying to convince the other two that someone else is a stinking liar (invariably by "shouting very loudly"). At this stage, balls on the back row can only be seen by the player who owns them.
Then we have the vote, with some stylish cards that are put on stands that can be turned around for Jasper's "The first/second/next/final vote is for..." The player with the most votes is out of the game. (In the case of a tie, the players discuss who to save and who to eliminate and, if they still can't agree, the ball machine decides for them via a random draw - one player gets a Killer, the others get an empty ball. The player who had the Killer is eliminated.)
The as-yet unrevealed balls are then opened and, rather predictably, there are a lot of Killers and missing zeroes knocking about, which often leads to how-dare-you hilarity of epic proportions when it turns out they've kept in someone with a shocking hand. The player who is voted off then has to "bin" their balls (a.k.a. drop them down a chute) and do the Walk.
The remaining players' balls go back into the massive roulette wheel thing, with two more cash balls from the Golden Bank and one more Killer ball, so we have 15 balls, 5 distributed to each player: two on the front row and three on the back row. Repeat the last round.
The remaining two players bring their balls through to the money-making round, along with another Killer ball, making 11 balls in play for "Bin or Win". Each person picks a ball to get rid of (Bin) and another to add to the jackpot (Win). If you pick a Killer to win, then your total is divided by 10, so if you have £10,000, your total drops to £1,000.
After they make up their row of five winners, they are given two final balls each: Spilt and Steal. If they both choose the Spilt ball, they share the remaining cash 50/50. If one chooses the Spilt ball and the other chooses the Steal ball, the Stealer gets all the cash and the Splitter gets none of it. If they both choose the Steal ball, they both go home with nothing. In later series, Jasper Carrott counted down from three before asking the players to reveal their Split or Steal balls. The distorted camera effect used to close in on the players is known as a Hitchcock zoom.
On 2007, a contestant named Nick got through to the Bin or Win round with another conestant named Ibraham and they both put in £13,600 in their Golden Five. When it came to Split or Steal round, Nick said to Ibraham he is 100% going to pick the Steal ball, which left Ibraham (and Jasper) stunned. He also said to Ibraham to pick the Split ball so that he can Split the money with him. Ibraham had a feeling that he was lying for 3 minutes until he changed his mind to trust him. The result later revealed both of them picking the Split ball meaning they both go home with £6,800 each.
Imagine if that happened on Divided.
In the unaired pilot, the top ball was worth £200,000, and there was a £100,000 ball also.
Somehow, Golden Balls became ITV's surprise summer hit of 2007 (and they needed one after Tycoon!). Achieving audiences of up to around 2.1 million, it was ITV's first show since The Paul O' Grady Show to win the ratings battle at 5:00pm and the first show (other than World Cup football) to beat The Weakest Link.
The smallest win was £1.83, won by both players, Adam and Chris, on the 2 February 2009 episode, as they both split the jackpot of £3.65.
The episode on 11 February 2008 had the largest possible potential jackpot to date - £168,100 - after the top two balls (£70,000 and £75,000) made it through to the final round.
A special episode on 14 March 2008 (the day Jasper Carrott turned 63) brought together four former victims of the Steal ball from the first series and gave them a second chance to play the game: Chloe (22 June 2007), Stephen (16 July 2007), Sarah (2 July 2007) and Darren (12 July 2007). At the show's climax, Sarah stole £100,150 from Stephen and became (somewhat ironically) the show's biggest winner to date. Sarah had previously appeared in a team of Accountants on series 2 of Codex - in the very same top, incidentally.
From 25 February 2008 to 13 February 2009, the show was sponsored by ITV Bingo (powered by Party Gaming) - except in Northern and Central Scotland, where it was sponsored by STV Bingo (powered by 888.com, if you must know). Now the show is sponsored by Carpetright (starting from 2 November 2009).