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January 4

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A Penny For Your Thoughts
January 11

When I was growing up, my father said something that has stuck with me to this present day. I think it's part of who I am because of it. He said this, "Money makes people do strange things. Money doesn't define who you are, but it defines what you would do in certain situations. Once money comes into play, we find out what sort of person you really are."

Last time I went to Atlantic City with Jason Block, he spent $20 in a Deal or No Deal slot machine. I put in a $20 and I went to the Deal or No Deal Bonus Round. I had 3 cases left - Enough coins to make $100, $2 and $1. The offer would put Jason and I at $45, which would be enough to make the money back and a little. I took the deal. The case we had was the $100 case, but I didn't care as much because the goal was to get Jay's money back. Goal accomplished.

However, not everyone listens to their own goals. Case in Point: Deal or No Deal this season. Heather McKee, who was looking to get some money for both herself and for charity. Thrice, she had the opportunity to take some reasonable sums that would qualify for that ($207,000, $45,000 and $71,000) - and didn't do it. Why? Greed. The first offer is understandable - you had a pair of Million Dollar cases on the board and knocking them both out in the same round is just bad luck. But turning down $71,000 when you have no safety net is just plain foolish. And even the last offer of $5,500 is not awful money and you could still do something with it. It's not like you had $1 or $5 left on the board. So make it four times that Heather had a chance of goal fulfillment - and four times lost. We got to see Heather's priorities, and unfortunately, they weren't pretty. Neither were the results - she was the first person in Deal or No Deal history to walk off with a penny - far under a number of opportunities for her to satisfy her goal of something for herself and charity.

But she's not the person in my mind who's the biggest offender. That honor goes to another contestant from season 3. That person is Donna DiBiase. All Donna wanted to do was to make a better life for her and her son. All she wanted was to get enough money enough money for college and a chance to move back to New York. She gets there - $96,000 offer, but unlike Heather, there's no safety net. She has a huge gap under the million ($400,000) and nothing more than $5,000 after that, which will mean a brutal drop should the million go away. Even after taxes, if you stuck the remaining amount ($70,000 or so) in a maturity fund for her son, he'll have plenty to go to college with. So she actually GETS the money that she needs should she deal. Instead, she got hit by the greed bug. The result is enough to take her son out to a diner for $25.

If you want to do something for a worthy cause, go to Cheryl Jackson's web site - Now Cheryl is a player from Season one who also probably went too far and wound up with $5. But the difference here is that she made a pledge to Oprah Winfrey that she would give $100,000 that she made on Deal or No Deal to charity. She never got to that level (though a $100,000+ deal was there, it would have been under the mark post-taxes, as was discovered on our interview with her), but the priority wasn't the money - it was the charity. You could argue that some was better than nothing, but at least I commend her for sticking to her beliefs and trying to fulfill a promise - a promise that both Heather and Donna would have fulfilled if they stopped and took the deal.

Now I'm not saying that money isn't important. Of course money is important. But money pales in comparison to other things in life - like enjoying life or enjoying other people who can use the money more than you can. And so what if you don't win the million - enough money to complete the goal you want is vastly more important. That's what makes game show train wrecks fascinating - not just the pursuit of money, but what you are willing to risk - and lose - to get it.

Gordon Pepper's offer... that you e-mail him at