August 21st, 2009
11:01 AM ET

The chance to be a 'Millionaire'

Ken Basin’s going to make a few bucks on Sunday. How much, he can’t say.

Ken Basin goes for a big payoff on Sunday's "Millionaire."

No, he really can’t say.

Basin, 24, is the man who will be going for $1 million on the final night of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” Sunday. (That he’s facing the million-dollar question is no secret; ABC offered a hint of what’s coming on Thursday’s episode.) The self-described “trivia nerd” taped the show August 5 and has been keeping mum on the results ever since. By making it to the million-dollar question, he’s guaranteed at least $25,000, the last fail-safe level of the show.

In a phone interview, the Los Angeles lawyer said he “didn’t have any expectations” of how he’d do.

“I think a couple of us in our contestant group admitted aloud that there was a small portion of our beings … that didn’t want to make it into the Hot Seat. Because if you didn’t make it into the Hot Seat you can blame it on the Fastest Finger - you can say it was bad luck, there was too much randomness,” he said.

But once he made it, he had the training to do well. He played quiz bowl in high school and is a regular at a bar trivia game in Santa Monica, where his teammates occasionally include “Jeopardy!” champions. Moreover, his girlfriend, Pam Mueller, won the 2000 “College Jeopardy!” tournament.

In fact, Basin's had a shot at big money before. He appeared on “College Jeopardy!” in 2003, making it as far as the semi-finals. He tried out for the syndicated version of “Millionaire” and actually received a call to go on, but was in - of all places - Croatia and missed the call. His second chance came with the phone game for the current prime-time run, and he made the most of it.

Though Basin has to be deliberately closed-mouthed when it comes to the final results, he was willing to answer some other queries. He said he had a bevy of authorities on his side; not only was the show expert Bill Nye the Science Guy, but Basin’s three phone-a-friends - Jerome Vered, Alan Bailey and Dan Pawson - compiled a combined 39 “Jeopardy!” appearances. (Pawson was “Jeopardy’s” most recent Tournament of Champions winner.)

“It’s a dream team,” he said.

As for his strategy, Basin said he was going to go as long as he could.

“As long as questions kept coming that I knew, I was going to keep rolling,” he said. “I had some pressure on myself to at least make it to 25 [thousand]. That’s really the threshold. That’s the level that you can leave with your head held high - at least I felt, going in.”

How far did he make it? We’ll all just have to tune in Sunday to find out.

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soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Victor is my name.And how can I also be a millionaire like Basin?

    I which to be partaker of this beloved team.Thanks.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Leo

    Right... Game shows are not fixed. He's indeed super human and knows all the the found mega-nerd-for-hire... and this article is biased and just advertising to this fake show. Lame.

    August 24, 2009 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jason

    Aaron August 22nd, 2009 2:23 pm ET

    Shouldn’t this article say “advertisement” above it?

    What, you are not used to stuff like this on CNN?

    August 24, 2009 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. David

    It does not matter how intelligent and bright you are, when it comes to being a complete idiot!!

    $500,000 is 20 years of income for some people, and he threw it all away because of greed and pure lack of common sense.

    I could just see him looking at Howie Mandel and slamming the box down saying "NO DEAL!!!" to a $500K bank offer.

    I doubt he'll ever be able to walk past a soda aisle again.

    August 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. viewer

    What a bunch of whiners here. Doesn't anybody enjoy anything anymore? For crying out loud, what is the problem with you?
    Why is reporting on a television program an advertisement now? And if it were, what's it to you? Jealous they aren't talking about you?
    If the world turned into paradise over night there would be stupid complaints about that too...
    Genius posters: AJL did not say this contestant was going to pay, just that it was an idea for contestants.
    Oh, and if someone gifted me 250,000 because I was smart enough, that would be okay by me– and I can wait and pay the tax on the rest of the million for the next 20 years.

    August 23, 2009 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom Bruce

    Boy, I watched the show and it smells. A number of questions were in this guy's field of expertise. Many were fairly simple considering the money at stake. I agree, it looks like the fix was in on this one. Poor Regis. He probably wasn't even aware that the game was rigged.

    August 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eric

    OMG he lost $475,000 on a guess !!

    August 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tomatolady

    With only 30 seconds to answer the question (including the time it takes to ask), I'm sure there isn't enough time for the "phone-a-friend" to google the answer. I'm sure it's been tried. You can tell by the pregnant pause on the phone.

    August 23, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. March

    Their friends are in the house??? Not at home googling for answers.

    August 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Aaron

    Shouldn't this article say "advertisement" above it?

    August 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. john

    Yeah the funny part is that if he wins a million, he gets 250,000 and then the 750,000 is spread over TWENTY years, they don't talk about that when they advertise the show,. but it is in the rules.

    August 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Anonur

    Why do you need experts? Just have your highschool buddy sitting at a computer. Google answers all.

    August 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joseph davidovic

    This is getting exciting. When I was younger, we played a variation of this game all the time.

    joseph davidovic

    August 22, 2009 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    AJL, gee, don't you think the producers already thought of that and have specific rules pertaining to the list of people on the phone a friend list? It is non thinking morons like you that are allowed to vote.

    August 22, 2009 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. AssieMcGee

    Now, he can afford health care insurance, but it's too bad it won't pay off, if he ever really needs it. Some murderer-for-hire in the health insurance company will find a way too deny coverage if he ever gets cancer, or some other expensive disease. Then, this person will get paid a bonus for it. Ah, living the high life on the corporate death panel.

    August 22, 2009 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  16. Joshua Rogers

    Did ABC pay for this advertisement?

    August 21, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  17. John

    All Millionaire contestants should have their Phone-A-Friend on Wikipedia already.

    August 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  18. kiki

    Oh, what a coincidence (not), that on the very last day of its run, this show either has, or comes the closest yet in the past few weeks to having, a millionaire. Repeat after me, game shows are not fixed, game shows are not fixed, game shows are not fixed........

    August 21, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Gordon

    Sorry, but I do not read anywhere in this article that he had offered to share the wealth? So your comment about "his approach" does not make sense.

    August 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  20. AJL

    Now that I think about his approach, I wonder why other such game show contestants (those that provide a "call a friend" option) have not done this. With a million dollars as the final prize, if you promise a piece to your "experts on call", that could be a lucrative side job for jeopardy champions, history channel or science channel experts or contributors, etc.

    August 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |

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