Contestants selected from a contestant pool must face off in a series of duels. They are competing to win cash at the end of each game, but the ultimate objective is to win five duels and take home $500,000. Three contestants are randomly selected to have a shot at each match. The current champion then chooses his/her challenger, based only on the appearance of the challengers and small amounts of personal information given. Though contestants remain in the pool, some will never be chosen.
In each game, players are given ten chips. They then face a series of multiple-choice (four answers each) trivia questions. A screen goes up so that opponent's actions cannot be seen. Players are allowed to place a chip on just one answer, or as many as all four, assuming they have enough chips remaining. The first question is worth $1000 and the questions rise in value until the last questions, which is worth $50,000. Contestants have as much time as they like to answer, unless they are Pressed. Each contestant is provided one Press per game, and when a player uses a Press, their opponent has seven seconds to lock in their answer or answers.
If a player gets an answer wrong, they automatically lose the game. If at any time, both players get an answer wrong, they go into Sudden Death. In Sudden Death, the objective is to answer the question correctly using less chips than your opponent. Once you lose all your chips, your game is over. The winner of each match has an opportunity to double their round winnings. They have to answer one question in sixty seconds and get only one chip. They can not lose the winnings during this round. Contestants that choose to continue to duel risk their winnings, it is all or nothing. The first season of Duel aired as a six-night event on ABC. The difference was that there was a contestant pool and you competed to be in the top four. After two 90 minute episodes, the program settled into a sixty minute slot each night at 8 P.M. The program aired every night the week of 12-17 - 12-23, except Saturday. In the finale of the first season Duel on Sunday, December 23 at 8 P.M., four champions battled it out for the jackpot of nearly $1.5 million.