Super Pay Cards!

(w/help from Dave Mackey, Harry Mahardi, Mark Jeffries, Jason Bereza, and Mary Lou Basaraba [yes, THAT one!])

Host: Art James
Hostess: Mary Lou Basaraba
Airdate: Syndicated Sep. 14, 1981-Sep. 1982
Packager: Nicholson/Muir Productions in association with Champlain Productions
U.S. Distribution: Metromedia Producers Corporation
Canadian Distribution: CTV
Origination: CFCF-TV, Montreal
Opening Spiel: "It's the television card game that everyone can play...(it's) Super Pay Cards!"

Premise: Two contestants competed to built poker hands in this card game which closely resembled "Concentration".


Two contestants (always a man and a woman) sat facing a gameboard of 16 playing cards; the object of the game was for each player to build a better poker hand than his/her opponent. Payoffs were as follows:

Three of a kind=$50
Full house=$100
Four of a kind=$200
High hand=$50 bonus

Here is how each round was played:

In round 1, called "Five Card Draw", four of the sixteen cards were shown briefly to the players at the start of the round. Each player, on his/her turn, called out three cards, and if a pair (or better) was found, the player kept it and tried to complete that hand, with only one card called at a time on all subsequent turns (this selection method was also used for all other hands described below, except "Strategy").

In round 2, one of four different hands was played, each of which is described below:

"Four of a Kind": Similar to round 1, but hidden on the gameboard were four sets of four of a kind.
"2-3-4-5": The board consisted of two pairs, three of a kind, four of a kind and one hand of five cards; payoff for five of a kind was $300.
"Strategy": Three cards were uncovered at the start of the round and remained exposed for the duration; the players called two other cards each on their first two turns and selected two cards from the five that were showing. On their third turns (and any subsequent ones), they each called out one card.
"Seven-Card Stud": For this rarely-used variant, Mary Lou offered each player a choice of two sets of two cards, which were then placed in front of their podiums. The players used their own two cards and built their hand in the same method as round 1; however, the two extra cards were not revealed to their opponent until both players kept all five cards.

Round 3 was called "Wild Card Hand". This was played in a similar fashion to round 1, but there were several wild cards (or "jokers"), which made five of a kind possible; as in "2-3-4-5", payoff for five of a kind was $300.

Once a player successfully completed his/her hand, the other player had to complete his/her hand immediately with whatever cards s/he called off (NOTE: If neither player had yet completed their hand and time was running short during a round, both players were required to immediately complete their hand in this same manner).

At the end of each round, the players recieved payoffs for their hands (with the player who built a better hand recieving the aforementioned $50 "high hand bonus"); the player with the most money at the end of round 3 won the game and went on to play the bonus round. The losing contestant got to keep whatever money s/he had earned, and also recieved a copy of the "Super Pay Cards!" home game (NOTE: In the event of a tie after round 3, a playoff was held, w/each player calling one card from those remaining on the board and the contestant that started round 3 getting first pick; whichever player drew the higher card won the game, plus an additional $50).

Bonus Round:
The bonus round was comprised of three levels.

Level 1: The champion was shown four cards on the gameboard for four seconds; Mary Lou held the same four cards in her hand, which the contestant would pick one of, then try to remember where it was located on the board. If successful, s/he recieved $50.

Level 2: Same as above, only the champion was shown eight cards for eight seconds, and successfully matching the one chosen from Mary Lou's hand was worth $500.

Level 3: Twelve cards for twelve seconds; matching the card here won $5,000.

If a contestant failed to match his/her chosen card on either of the first two levels, s/he lost the chance at $5K, but was given a second chance to complete that level with a new set of cards. While no second chance was offered on the final level if the contestant was unsuccessful, s/he still got to keep the $500 already earned.


This show was a revival of Nicholson-Muir's 1968-69 game show "Pay Cards!", which was also hosted by Art James; a 1973-75 revival was later produced in Montreal for Canadian TV, and hosted by Paul Hanover.

The theme song for this show was also used as the theme for N-M's short-lived 1975 game show "Spin-Off." The SPC theme, however, used a different arrangement: while Spin-Off's theme was all-synthesizers, the SPC arrangement used trumpets and trombones.

Midway through each episode (before the start of the third round) was the "audience participation game." An audience member studied eight cards on the SPC gameboard for eight seconds and then picked a card from Mary Lou's hand (much like in the bonus round). If s/he successfuly found the chosen card on the gameboard, s/he won a small prize. These included:
  • Popcorn poppers
  • A fire escape ladder(!)
  • Crockpots
    (the latter made infamous from an episode where MLB offered one to a less-than-enthused audience member)
    It should be noted that the "audience participation game" segment was seen only on the Canadian airings; since Canadian televison has less commercial time than the U.S. does, it was used as a "filler" to close the time gap.

    For over 10 years after SPC was cancelled, Hamilton, Ontario independent station CHCH (Ch. 11) aired reruns of the show, while sister station CFAC (Ch. 7) in Lethbridge, Alberta also did so through 1985, and CHEX in Peterborough, ON likewise ran it for about the same time.

    After SPC ended in 1982, Mary Lou Basaraba starred in two short films for the National Film Board of Canada: "The Last Right" (1984) and "The Concert Stages of Europe" (1985). Don't worry, though; neither movie featured crockpots!

    But what else did MLB do after SPC? You can find out here when you read colleague Tom Hornikel's "Letter from Mary Lou"!