The Chance Of A Lifetime: UIS Edition
It’s a part of the American Dream to pluck someone from obscurity and grant them the chance to win big. It does not discriminate on the basis of color, background, or gender – only luck. Where did you need to be to collect a ticket? What number needed to be imprinted on the ticket, its placement inside the rotating collection of other dreams waiting to be granted, and the hope someone else doesn’t come to collect theirs?
The wisp of change entranced several hundred students to arrive at the Student Union on Monday night. Each with the same goal, $500 encoded onto a VISA gift card, to be placed right into one of their hands. Furthermore, the promise of smaller monetary sums and other gift cards to places like Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings made the event even more enticing.
After walking up a flight of stairs or taking a quick elevator ride, you were greeted at the entrance of the Ballroom with a blue raffle ticket. Values ranged from $300 to a penny, put amongst numbered cases ranging from 1 to 26. Simply put, pick the lowest values for the highest results. The lower the numbers, the higher an offer you get from The Banker. If you, however, pick the highest values, the offer will decrease. Would you bet on yourself to pick the correct cases, or would you bow out with a locked sum? Of course, they couldn’t get a selection of models to display the cases, so they used a program to emulate the game.
By the time 8 p.m. rolled around, the ballroom was filled at a lower capacity than expected, possibly due to a rainstorm occurring on campus. Most either found their seats with friends or stood in line for popcorn or cotton candy. The MC, Aaron Vasquez, repeatedly reminded the crowd to make sure they had their blue ticket.
However, those wishing for the high monetary gains of gift cards would have needed a red raffle ticket. The event had been promoted since the start of the semester, and you would have had to visit the CAMO booths located around campus to obtain these red tickets. Some students held foot-long rolls of these tickets, hoping their number was to be called.
Before the raffle, however, there were games to be played. At about 8:15, the first shuffle of blue tickets occurred. Everyone held with bated breath as Vasquez slowly called out the numbers. From the right side of the room, a person rose with their ticket visible to all, and walked up to the stage with mild applause. Then chaos broke out. Everyone wanted to participate in some way, either by yelling out what case to pick or whether they should “Deal Or No Deal” with The Banker, dubbed Steve by Vasquez. Steve had issues computing the correct deal to offer, so Vasquez took it upon himself to give out the values. The contestant’s first offer was low, so they kept going. However, luck was not on their side, as they quickly lost most of the higher cases halfway through the first few rounds. While some of the crowd wanted them to continue, the contestant decided to deal with Vasquez, being awarded $75. Unfortunately, when he opened the case that had been selected at the start, it was worth $250. A sigh roared throughout the room, but hey – the contestant did come away with $75 they didn’t have coming in.
This continued through three more contestants. The second had dealt at $100 compared to a $10 case. The third had terrible luck, getting mostly high numbers, but was able to walk away with $75 compared to the extremely low amount of a penny within their case. The fourth wound up with $80 but lost out on $225 from his selected case. At this point, the students were becoming anxious as the clock closed in on 9 p.m., awaiting the raffle for the $500 prize. However, Vasquez wanted to get as many people as he could to play, so decided to go for one more round before the raffle. The person selected was Brandyn Johnson-Foster.
Johnson-Foster selected the case number nine to start his game. By this point, the continued screams from the previous rounds had forced your humble reporter into the lobby, and by the time I recollected myself, the left side of Johnson-Foster’s board was nearly empty of low numbers. It was impossible to fathom how much luck resonated from each case being knocked off the screen. The cheers grew louder and harder, as the remaining low numbers fell off the board. Even when the groans for Johnson-Foster losing $300 occurred, his chances of leaving with anything under $100 were zero.
The offers from Vasquez and Steve kept rising and rising. The highest offer to that point in any round was $110, but up they went, from $140, to $175, to $190. With three cases left, the only numbers on the board were $100, $110, and $275, yet still Johnson-Foster declined. Everyone in that room was standing, cheering on their fellow classmate. Once $110 fell from the standings, the room became a simmering pot of anticipation. Vasquez had no clue what to do at this point. After a brief respite, he returned with the number 200, but Johnson-Foster quickly shot back with No Deal. The crowd was lost in the euphoric nature of the moment. Cheering and jumping from their seats, one pretended to walk away as the tension had built so high that only the wrong case could bring it down. Vasquez tried to build it up even more, asking Johnson-Foster if he wanted to swap or keep his case. With no hesitation, he stuck with his number nine case. The crowd was delirious.
Johnson-Foster was then brought onto the stage, closing in on either $100 or $275. The moment was set, Vasquez lingered the mouse cursor over case nine and clicked it open. A slow fade revealed the computed number. In that brief moment, no one moved, and the room fell silent until everyone began jumping in joy as $275 glared upon the screen.
Elation poured out of the contestants with high fives all around. Johnson-Foster was thrust to the front of the stage, waving to the crowd as he gave his information to Vasquez before taking a seat back in the audience.
Yet, even after all of that, there was still the matter of the $500 gift card. Before the raffle, members of CAMO came around to give a ticket to those who had not gotten one from the previous two weeks – an ironic blow for those who went out of their way to get them. Finally, the raffle began: first the restaurant gift cards, then both a $10 and $50 gift card were distributed to the lucky winners.
Before the $500 gift card was finally raffled, Vasquez expressed his wishes for the students in the room to visit their upcoming event, 828! This was for those who wanted to speak about their relationship with God, and if Jesus was still relevant in today’s world. When looking around the room, most heads were either buried in their phones or dishing out on cotton candy and popcorn.
After the two-week build-up of red raffle tickets and advertisements of money, a winner was decided, but not until after two false tickets were chosen belonging to people who hadn’t shown up. Finally, a winning ticket was called and the prize was claimed. Almost immediately people began walking out of the ballroom. Some waited to see if their blue ticket would be called for another round of Deal Or No Deal, but once the number was declared, over half the room left back into the lobby and out of the building. The event lasted one more round, which ironically almost bested Johnson-Foster’s round, with the contestant receiving $225 dollars from a deal and a case with $175 in it.
The night epitomized the very nature of the American Dream. Six students had the chance for a decent sum of money and walked away with more than what they had arrived with. Yet for most, it was only that – a dream. Some got close by a number or two, but the chance for prizes fell just out of reach. An interesting evening to say the least, though some might feel the money and energy could have been better used elsewhere. Can’t win them all.