Autistic Case Study – Michael Larson(?)

As a classic (and modern) game show buff, I can probably rattle off details about every major game show scandal that’s happened over the years, but this one has always intrigued me because I can’t help but wonder if this guy was autistic.

Michael Larson, in a single day, won $110,237** on a classic American game show called Press Your Luck. This was unheard of for game shows and especially on a show that relies more on pure dumb luck to amass cash as opposed to skill. Well, this guy didn’t need pure dumb luck to win. He had it all figured out.

For those who don’t remember, the game consisted of a question/answer round and a spin round, where you answered questions to earn spins on the bonus board which consisted of cash, prizes, bonus spins and the dreaded “Whammies” which if you landed on one you’d lose everything you had won up to that point. With the seemingly random operation of the game board, nobody could really beat the game right? WRONG.

Meet Michael Larson who did. People have always marveled at how he did it but I just get this feeling he was probably on the autism spectrum, just judging by his demeanor on the show, intense focus to do what he did and just the way he “came across.” Here’s his episode from PYL, if you have 40 minutes to watch it. Perhaps you can give me your opinions as well. As for how he did it, pay close attention to the board and see if you can figure it out yourself. As I watched his episode I figured it out pretty quickly myself, but none of my neurotypical friends noticed it. Pay particular attention to Michael’s 2nd and 3rd spins as well as Ed’s first spin. This is the easiest time to see what’s going on.

If you don’t have time or you didn’t see it yourself, here’s how he did it:

Takes a certain someone with an eye for pattern recognition, focus and a high attention to detail to notice these things. Wow. Again, as I watched the special on Larson’s episode I picked up on it pretty quickly but a lot of people don’t, and the producers didn’t think anyone would either. Alas, only 5 sequences was sure to be cracked sometime.

So what do you think? Does this guy come across as someone who would be on the autism spectrum or is my radar totally broken? I realize it’s speculation but I just get this feeling.

**Adjusting for inflation, in 2017 that would be the equivalent of $262,732. Quite a chunk of change. 

2 thoughts on “Autistic Case Study – Michael Larson(?)

  1. I’ve seen the documentaries on this before, and just re-watched the video special just today. The first time, something resonated with me, but I couldn’t figure out what. I considered him a tragic figure of sorts, going through his life story.

    This time, it hit me exactly why he seemed to resonate with me, and why – despite his convicted crimes (not the game show, which was perfectly legal) – I always considered him a tragic figure instead of a victim: he just struck me as autistic.

    It makes so much sense. More than the pattern recognition and focus (although that’s part of it), it’s his presentation, his demeanor (as you picked up on), and his life events (and death in anonymity).

    I know we’ll never know, but I’m with you. He strikes me as being on the spectrum. Maybe it’s intuition, and maybe I’m wrong.


    • Thank you for your input! I had an aspergian friend of mine watch it too and she also came to the same conclusion. I think most of us are in agreement.


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