Golden Balls
GenreGame show
Directed byJulian Smith
Presented byJasper Carrott
StarringAmanda Grant
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series6
No. of episodes289
Running time60 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production companyInitial
DistributorEndemol Shine Group
Original networkITV
Picture format16:9
Original release18 June 2007 (2007-06-18) –
18 December 2009 (2009-12-18)

Golden Balls is a British daytime game show which was presented by Jasper Carrott. It was broadcast on the ITV network from 18 June 2007 to 18 December 2009. It was filmed at the BBC Television Centre. Golden Balls Ltd licensed their name to Endemol for the game show and merchandise.


Round 1

At the back of the studio is the "Golden Bank," a giant contraption like a lottery machine. Inside are 100 golden balls, containing cash values that range from £10 to £75,000. Twelve of these balls are randomly drawn from the Golden Bank and put into a mixer, and four "Killer" balls are added by Amanda Grant, referred to by Carrott as the "Balls' Assistant" or "Killer Queen." These 16 balls are split equally and randomly among four contestants, each of whom places two balls on their own front and back row holders without looking inside. As Carrott introduces the contestants, they open their front-row balls for all to see.

Following the introductions, the contestants each secretly look at their own back-row balls and announce the contents; they may either tell the truth or lie as they see fit. They then discuss who they think is lying and try to establish who has the worst set of balls, in terms of the lowest total value and/or the most Killer balls. Each contestant secretly casts one vote as to whom they want to remove from the game. The contestant who receives the most votes is eliminated with no winnings. In the event of a two-way tie, the contestants not involved in it must discuss further and try to reach a consensus. If they do, the chosen contestant is eliminated; if not, each tied contestant is given one more ball at random, dispensed from the mixer. One is a Killer, the other is empty, and the person who receives the Killer is out of the game. If every contestant receives one vote, all four continue their discussion; the first three to reach an agreement on who should be eliminated advance to the next round.

All four contestants reveal their back-row balls, and the eliminated contestant must then "bin" their balls, dropping them down a chute and removing them permanently from play.[1]

Round 2

The remaining balls from the three surviving contestants are closed and put into the mixer. Two more cash balls are drawn from the Golden Bank, and one more Killer is added to give a total of 15 balls in play. Each contestant receives five balls, placing two on their front row and three on their back, and play proceeds as in Round 1.

Bin or Win?

The two remaining contestants' balls are again closed and put back into the mixer, and one more Killer ball is added to give a total of 11 balls in play. The balls are mixed and placed on a table, with the contestants seated at opposite ends. Starting with the contestant who brought more money into this round, each first chooses one ball to "bin" (eliminate) and then one to "win" (place in the jackpot). Each ball is opened as it is chosen. If a cash ball is chosen to win, its value is added to the potential jackpot; if a Killer is chosen, the jackpot is immediately divided by 10. Any "win" Killers that are found before the first "win" cash ball do not affect the jackpot. The contestants take turns choosing until they have five "win" balls, after which the one remaining ball is opened and binned.

Depending on the distribution of the balls in the first two rounds, the number of Killers in play at the start of this round can range from one to six.

Split or Steal?

Each contestant is given a set of two balls, one each marked "Split" and "Steal," and must secretly choose one to indicate their intentions after looking inside to confirm which is which. The contestants may speak to each other and ask Carrott for advice before making their decision.

The "Split or Steal?" game element, essentially a variant of the prisoner's dilemma, was also used on Shafted, a previous Endemol production, and on the American game show Friend or Foe?. The Dutch television show De Verraders also used this game element but with a twist: if both choose to steal, then the runner-up rather than either of the two finalists would win the prize. In this approach, the prize is always awarded to at least one contestant.


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Series Start date End date Episodes
1 18 June 2007 10 August 2007 40
2 2 January 2008 21 March 2008 58
3 21 April 2008 4 July 2008 80
4 27 October 2008 13 February 2009 65
5 27 April 2009 4 September 2009 40
6 2 November 2009 18 December 2009 35

Scientific research

Golden Balls has attracted attention from social scientists as a natural experiment on cooperation.[2][3] A team of economists including Richard Thaler have analysed the decisions of the final contestants and found, among other things, the following:

Two evolutionary biologists, including Stuart West, have also analysed the correlates of decisions of the final contestants and found similar results. In addition, they also found the following:


The first show opened with 1.6 million viewers. Viewership climbed to a steady 2 million viewers. In the same 17:00 timeslot, eight of the first eleven episodes beat Channel 4's Richard & Judy, and The Weakest Link on BBC Two also took a dent from the show's success. Series 2 went on to average 2.1 million viewers in early 2008. As of summer 2009, the show's popularity fell; it attracted only around 1.2 million viewers, which led to the show's termination on 18 December 2009. It is still regularly shown throughout the week on Challenge in the UK and Republic of Ireland although usually during off-peak times. It is now also showing on ITV again but usually after midnight.[1][4]

British psychologist Adrian Raine criticised the show, arguing that it "encourages deceitfulness", and that many of its contestants are celebrated for displaying "characteristics of psychopathy".[5] In a review of another ITV quiz show—The Colour Of Money—Charlie Brooker criticised Golden Balls' rules, saying that "[Golden Balls] has more rules and clauses than the European Convention on Human Rights"[6]

Home versions

Main article: Golden Balls (video game)

A video game was released on the Nintendo DS and Wii platforms, and another version for mobile devices was released in 2007. In 2008, an interactive DVD game was released by Channel 4. Other versions include an electronic board game in 2007 and a card game in 2008.[7][8][9]

International versions

An Argentine version aired on América Televisión in 2008, hosted by Horacio Cabak.[10]


  1. ^ a b ""Golden Balls – UKGameshows".
  2. ^ a b Van den Assem, Van Dolder, and Thaler (January 2012). "Split or Steal? cooperative behavior when the stakes are large". Management Science. 58 (1): 2–20. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1110.1413. hdl:1765/31292. SSRN 1592456.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b Burton-Chellew, Maxwell N.; West, Stuart A. (2 April 2012). "Correlates of Cooperation in a One-Shot High-Stakes Televised Prisoners' Dilemma". PLOS ONE. 7 (4): e33344. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033344. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3317651. PMID 22485141.
  4. ^ Brook, Stephen (3 July 2007). "ITV strikes teatime gold". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  5. ^ Raine, Adrian. "21st Century Television's Faltering Moral Compass". The Economist. 8 April 2009.
  6. ^ Brooker, Charlie (21 February 2009). "Charlie Brooker on The Colour of Money". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Golden Balls [Interactive Game] [DVD]". Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Golden Balls Electronic Game". Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Golden Balls Card Game". Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  10. ^ redactor (27 October 2008). "TV: comienza 'Golden balls', conducido por Horacio Cabak". Periodismo . com (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 March 2019.