Host makes the most of "America's Greatest Game Shows" audience enthusiasm, and has plenty of fun along the way.
When Erik Estrada was 18, he abandoned his dreams of becoming a New York City police officer and followed a girl into an acting class.
“I realized if I wanted to get the girl, I needed to join the club she was in,” he said during a recent phone call.
After growing up on the streets of Spanish Harlem, Estrada says he figured he could handle anything. So he auditioned, got in, and before he knew it he was bitten by the acting bug.
“There is a bug that bites you baby, and it bit me,” he says with a laugh.
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Of course, years later Estrada would fulfill his dream of being a police officer by playing one on the popular television show “CHiPs,” in the role that he’s possibly best known for — officer Frank “Ponch” Poncharello.
And although he still makes appearances as Ponch and he’s an actual deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Virginia, when Estrada comes to Snoqualmie Casino, Sunday, March 24 he’ll be leaving the badge at home.
Instead, he’ll be acting as host for “America’s Greatest Game Shows,” a gig he says is “wonderful.”
“It’s like going to someone’s house and spending the afternoon playing games, except you’re playing onstage with real money. You can’t beat it. Everyone wins on my show.”
Indeed, the show has Estrada interacting with people to play games like “Shake Your Booty” and “Name That Song,” where everyone walks away either winning the game or winning a consolation prize.
He’s been hosting for four years and says there was one thing that surprised him when he first started.
“What’s surprising to me is how much fun I have by having interactions with people; all kinds of people from all over the country. It’s instant gratification, you’re communicating with people, you’re giving them money and they like you for that.”
Hosting a game show isn’t too far fetched for him; for years he made regular appearances on “Hollywood Squares,” and previously hosted live iterations of “Wheel of Fortune” in Branson, Missouri.
He says that while some game show hosts poke fun with sarcasm or jokes, he’s all about being friendly and often won’t leave until everyone gets an autograph after the show.
“I’m the ringmaster and it’s a lot of fun.”
Estrada is a jovial guy, who laughs often as he describes the games he oversees on stage. He can instantly slip into his game show host voice as he gives his spiel for a sample $25,000 question he asks wives during his “Not so Newlywed Game”:
“In the hamburger world of romance, would you say your husband is a Big Mac, a Quarter Pounder, or Where’s the Beef?” he says with a laugh.
“And the responses when the husbands come out, it’s really, really funny.”
To Estrada, a good contestant is someone who is excited, loud, fun and ready to win.
“It’s all about enthusiasm!”
In addition to hosting “America’s Greatest Game Show” and his work in law enforcement, Estrada spends time doing appearances at various trade shows, working as a spokesperson for companies like the California Highway Patrol Credit Union, and reading scripts for potential film and television work.
“But if it interferes with my personal life or this [game show] life, I’ll turn it down. This is just fun and at my age, this is something I can do for another 10 years real easy.”
Snoqualmie Casino, Seattle’s closest casino, sits in the picturesque Snoqualmie Valley just 30 minutes from Seattle. With breathtaking views of Mount Si and award-winning dining at its signature restaurants, Snoqualmie Casino offers something for everyone.