Trae Patton, NBC
'Deal or No Deal' host Howie Mandel and Orem's Mary Banford

Mary Banford is a big fan of game shows, but there's a reason she particularly wanted to be on "Deal or No Deal."

"You don't really have to be that smart," the Orem woman said with a laugh. "I didn't have to know any crazy facts. I didn't have to do anything embarrassing. I didn't have to eat anything gross. I just had to go and play a game that was about luck. And I'm a really lucky person."

Each contestant chooses one of 26 briefcases that contain some amount of money between 1 cent and $1 million. The contestant doesn't get to open it but does get to open other cases. And the "banker" offers him/her money to quit and go home.

You do have to be lucky. You have to be smart enough to take the money and go home at the right point.

Banford is a contestant on Tuesday's episode of "Deal" (7 p.m., Ch. 5) — something the 27-year-old wife and mother told her family a year ago she had to do. With their help, she put together an audition video, but didn't get a call from producers. So in March, she decided to fly to Texas to audition.

"I just told my husband, 'I think I've got to go. I've got to try out because I really want to be on this,'" Banford said.

She and her sister flew to Dallas and "slept out on the sidewalk in front of the audition site." Banford auditioned and "They really liked me! I got a call a few months ago to say they wanted me on the show!"

She taped her episode in September, and it was "amazing," she gushed. "I had so much fun."

Banford was accompanied by her husband, Chris; her 1-year-old son, Moses; and her mother, brother and sisters. And she just couldn't contain her excitement.

"I know the guy who was leading me around, it was driving him nuts because I just couldn't stop screaming," she said with a laugh.

She was particularly excited to meet "Deal" host Howie Mandel.

"He is so amazing at what he does," she said. "He was a comedian, and he could turn awkward things that I would do because I was soooo nervous to something totally normal or just funny."

Being on the show was "completely overwhelming.

"You're onstage and all the people are cheering and it's really loud," Banford said. "It happens so fast. It hit me that I'm actually playing for real money. These are big choices I'm making. And then I'm thinking, 'I hope I didn't look stupid when the camera was on my face."'

There was a surprise for Banford. A fan of musical theater, she was serenaded by Megan Hilty, who stars as Glinda in the "Wicked" touring company.

Banford can't talk about how much money she won. But she did say the experience was "much, much better than I imagined. It was the best thing I have ever done. It was more exciting than roller coasters. It was great."

And all of the members of her "huge" family (except for the ones who were there at the show taping) will find out how she did when they gather to watch "Deal or No Deal" together on Tuesday.

"We're having a huge party in Provo. We rented out this big club house," Banford said. "I have tons of people who will be coming. And nobody knows how I did, so it's really exciting."


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