By Mike Strasser, Fort Lee Public Affairs OfficeApril 30, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (May 1, 2008) -- Support from friends, fiancAfAe and Family, a free trip to Los Angeles, a personal message from the commander-in-chief and $78,000 in winnings... Not a bad day for Capt. Joseph Kobes, a student at the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course at Fort Lee, who recently returned after appearing on the NBC game show "Deal or No Deal."
Joe stood to win $3 million for appearing on the popular show where contestants play and deal in a game of odds and chance. Confronted with 26 briefcases full of varying amounts of cash ranging from a penny to $1 million, the contestant is tasked with eliminating cases or accepting a payout from the banker.
The Washington State native knows a little about pressure, having deployed to Iraq three times and recently having popped the question to his longtime girlfriend.
Joe said his opening tactic was to go opposite of his gut feeling when choosing the cases. But as the pressure built, he received assistance from his support group. Laura Johnson, his fiancAfAe, Capt. Garrett Slaughter, friend and classmate at the CLC 3 course, and his brother Brett, all voiced opinions and offered encouragement throughout the show.
"That was good timing too, because after the first two rounds I was cotton-mouthed nervous," said Joe. "But then Howie went over and began talking to them, and they became part of the game, it released a bit of the burden. I realized that I wasn't up there alone anymore and there were people there to help me and think things through with."
But it was his parents in the audience who directed some of the action. Kobes announced at the show's opening that he wanted to pay for his parents' home with the prize money. This declaration put Susan and Ken Kobes in the spotlight throughout the show.
A critical moment on the show came when the shadowy banker offered Joe a deal to walk away with $110,000 and the chance to triple it with a spin of the wheel. His support team might have been more suggestive towards the 'walk away rich' option, but it was his frugal father who told him to reject the deal. Joe told host Howie Mandel that this advice was coming from an ultra-conservative spender, which shocked Laura and Garrett as well.
"I was telling him to deal, and then when he hit $144,000 we all wanted him to deal," said Garrett. "But I saw the look on his face, and knew he was just going to keep going."
Joe said he was surprised his dad wanted him to keep playing.
"The stuff I had in mind for the prize money, that minimal balance I had in my head - we weren't quite there yet, so having that reinforcement from someone so frugal as my dad made me want to keep playing," said Joe. "It was pretty obvious anyway that I would've kept going. I like to play the odds, and the odds were in my favor."
At the time, Laura was amazed that Joe kept taking the risks, but looking back, she said it was the right thing to do.
"I remember talking to Garrett and saying, 'He's not listening to us anymore,' but now I think it was really cool that he was going with the advice of his parents," said Laura."
With potentially $432,000 at stake, it was unlucky case number 18 that sealed the deal. Or perhaps it was an earlier wisecrack at the mysterious banker that put him in ill favor.
"I told the banker he looked kind of like Donald Trump, what with the profile and the hair and all," said Joe. "It's NBC, the guy is dealing with money and figures, who better than the Donald to be making the offer. It kept things fun."
It wasn't Trump offering him the deals, but after Joe eliminated the $750,000 case, it was time to settle with the banker. The banker offered $26,000 and Joe took the deal. Joe said it was his brother that approached him and gave him a dose of reality.
"Brett was the one that gave me the wake-up call I needed," said Joe. "Basically he said, 'You don't want to be that guy who walks away from here with one dollar. Take the deal.' That's what I needed to hear."
At the end of the show, Joe tripled his winnings with the wheel spin for a grand total of $78,000 in winnings.
But more so than the money, and the plans he has for it, Joe said the biggest thrill from the show was having President Bush thank him for his service and wishing him luck.
"For him to recognize one Soldier in particular and then all Soldiers throughout the military was an honor of a lifetime. For him to select this show to honor his Soldiers, that alone is worth more than the money," said Joe. "Knowing that support is coming all the way through the chain of command right to the very top is amazing."