Ryan F's Blog Post
April 03, 2014
I was browsing the internet in my apartment one night when my Wheel of Fortune experience unknowingly commenced. I came across a news story on a recent contestant named Autumn who had just won $1,000,000 playing Wheel. How cool is that?! It was then I decided I needed to try to get on the show. After a few minutes of internet research I found out that there was an upcoming Wheelmobile event in Terre Haute, IN – about a 5 hour drive from Madison. So, that was it. This is my chance, I thought. After failing to persuade any of my family to make the trip to try out, I convinced a friend to make the drive with me down to Terre Haute.
At the Wheelmobile event, I was surprised at how many people showed up to take their shot at auditioning. There must have been around 800 people in attendance. Because not everyone can audition, the Wheelmobile staff randomly selects people from the crowd. I was lucky enough to get called up. In my short interview on stage, the host, Marty, learned I was from Wisconsin and asked what brought me to Terre Haute; both Marty and the crowd seemed surprised that my only reason for being in town was to audition for Wheel! If that didn’t help me stand out, I did end up solving the Before and After puzzle I played (BUMPER CAR DEALER). After over five months of anxious waiting, I got a letter inviting me to a final audition back in Terre Haute!
At the final audition, there were about 40 people in attendance. We each got a turn playing the game then took a written test with some very challenging puzzles. After the written test, about half of the contestants were asked to leave. Even though I think I did pretty poorly on the written test, I was still able to make it past the cut into the final group of people contestants are chosen from. We were sent home and told we would receive a letter within two weeks if we made it on the show. Two weeks came and went with no letter. On Day 16, still holding out hope, I opened my mailbox and found the coveted letter! I was selected as a contestant for Wheel of Fortune!
Since the time I decided to audition for the show, I had my DVR set to record Wheel every night. After I found out I was actually going to be a contestant, I started to get nervous just watching the show. I thought to myself: that could be me hitting all the Lose A Turn and Bankrupt spaces! I actually started feeling bad for anyone who went home with the minimum $1,000, knowing this was each of the contestant’s only shot at winning big.
In addition to watching the show, I prepared by doing some research on what are the most common letters in Wheel of Fortune puzzles. I also read some articles with tips for contestants – including the two written by Pat Sajak that were sent to me in my contestant information packet. Very helpful, Pat! My preparation definitely helped me feel confident during my episode.
The day of taping my episode was such a whirlwind. From meeting all the other excited contestants to practicing spinning the wheel, it was all surreal. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune and be able to meet Pat and Vanna. My friends and family in the audience told me I seemed nervous when I finally walked up to the Wheel. But when my episode started taping, I completely forgot about all the cameras and the fact that millions of people would eventually be watching me play the game. I was only nervous about introducing myself, but I’m happy with how it went. Even though I had a general idea of what I was going to say, Pat and the contestants never rehearse the introductions. That is why those interviews always feel so natural and extemporaneous – because they are!
The most important advice I can give to hopeful contestants is to be enthusiastic and have fun should you be lucky enough to audition. If you have that part mastered, prepare by figuring out logical letters to call for various puzzle categories and letter patterns. Playing the game is a lot easier if you know what letter you are going to call before you even spin the wheel. Lastly, If you do manage to make it on as a contestant, like Pat said to us after we introduced ourselves, the hard part is over, time to just have fun and play.