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The Price Is Right's Historic Three-Way Tie We'll Never Forget

Be honest. Do you know the price of a jar of Beech-Nut baby food? Could you accurately pinpoint the cost of a brand-new Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint or an all-expenses cruise to the Caribbean? Because this is the sort of stuff you'll need to know if you want to be a contender on "The Price is Right." After all, there can be only one winner.

Or wait — that's not accurate. It's a game not only of knowledge but also of chance, with players spinning wheels, rolling dice, and to an extent, letting luck lead the way. The fates don't always care to narrow it down, and there have been instances throughout the show's history when the game wrapped up with more than one winner. In more than one tie, both contestants won the showcase. Since the game show's very first iteration started airing in 1956, there have also been eight times when a single contestant has won both showcases.

But what about that unicorn of competitive price-guessing: the three-way tie? It's happened, too, though highly unlikely. And one particular three-way tie was so rare it made "Price is Right" history.

A magical mathematical moment

The legendary three-way tie fans can't forget unfolded in such an unusual way that news of the event circulated widely. It happened in October 2016. By then, Drew Carey had taken over for the show's best-known longtime host, Bob Barker. Contestants Cathryn, Manfred, and Jessica each had a turn spinning the show's famous Big Wheel marked with numbers. Everyone aimed to land the coveted $1 mark that would translate to a $1,000 prize as well as another spin for more cash. Optionally, two spins adding up to (but not exceeding) $1 would achieve the same goal.

None of the contestants won on their first try, so they lined up for their second spins. Cathryn went first, screaming at the wheel to land where she needed it, on the 65-cent mark. When it hit, she danced off to the side excitedly to watch Manfred take his turn.

Manfred needed the wheel to stop at the 50-cent mark. When it did, he jumped with joy and hugged Carey. The audience cheered over the tie. But the game wasn't over yet. Jessica stepped up to spin, and Carey kept up the commentary.

"A three-way tie of a dollar would be amazing. This just might happen," he said, watching for the 70-cent mark Jessica needed as the wheel began to slow. When it stopped, he shouted, "Three-way tie! Three-way tie! Three-way tie!" It was the first time in 45 seasons that three contestants won at the Big Wheel with different combinations adding up to one dollar.

Ties happen - but not like this

The history-making moment in 2016 was certainly exciting. But it wasn't the show's first-ever three-way tie. In September 1991, Bob Barker calmly explained the rules to three contestants waiting to spin the wheel. The first one, a man named Waylon, stepped up and immediately won $1,000 by hitting the $1 mark. His reaction: Happy, but compared to Cathryn, remarkably subdued as he walked to the waiting area to watch the next contestant hoping to beat the odds. "See how easy it is, Theresa," Barker encouraged the second contestant. "Go ahead. You can do the same thing, Theresa." 

She spun the wheel and — astonishingly — also hit the $1 mark. Still, she and Barker kept their excitement over the unexpected tie well under control as the third contestant, Stacey, took her turn. This time, she only got 30 cents on her first spin. But she got another try and to everyone's delight, the wheel stopped on the 70 cent mark! At that point, fans didn't hold back, cheering loudly as the contestant jumped up and down, celebrating her own win as well as the three-way tie.

"In all the years that we've been spinning the Big Wheel on 'The Price is Right,' that's only the second time that all three contestants have won the thousand dollars," Barker announced, before starting the spin-off round.

Years later, there was a third three-way tie on Barker's watch in 2003. Still never before — and to this date, never again — did a three-way tie come together the way it did in 2016, without any of the spins landing on the $1 mark.