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My Experience as a Wheel of Fortune Contestant

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamt of being a Wheel of Fortune contestant! And that dream finally came true when my show aired on January 22, 2020 during British Landscapes Week. I’ll answer all the questions about Wheel of Fortune that my friends have asked me like how did I get on Wheel of Fortune, are Pat Sajak and Vanna White really that nice, and my best advice for future Wheel of Fortune contestants.

ETA: This was my experience pre-Covid. Now some auditions are held through Zoom interviews!

How to be a Wheel of Fortune contestant

How Can You Become a Wheel of Fortune Contestant?

The most common question I get asked is “How did you get on Wheel of Fortune?” My journey started during a Wheelmobile event. I had signed up online at Wheel of Fortune to receive their notifications of when the Wheelmobile would come to my city. Yeah, I was part of the Wheel Watchers Club.

My husband and I attended one in Washington D.C. years ago, but our names never got called. My husband won a DVD player though! After it was over, I thought that was it and didn’t think much of it again as life continued.

Then I found out the Wheelmobile was coming to my local mall via Twitter. I thought this was my chance, plus it was a week before my 40th birthday, and I was going to ride that birthday luck.

What is the Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile?

Good question. It’s a big bus that travels around the country looking for new Wheel of Fortune contestants. The Wheelmobile brings Wheel of Fortune to you! The two times I’ve been to a Wheelmobile event, they’ve been at a mall. 

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile

Inside the mall, they set up a stage area to set up a Wheel of Fortune game. There are several “shows” throughout the day. Ours was a 2-day event. You fill out a paper with your information and then they place it in a container, and you hope your name is called on stage so you can play mock Wheel of Fortune!

Wheelmobile event at Dulles Town Center mall

They’ll call up several contestants, you’ll introduce yourself, and then you play a fast-paced puzzle. Then more people will get called to the stage.

At the Wheelmobile events, you even get a “Pat and Vanna.” Marty is Pat, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with more energy. He reminds me of Ryan Seacrest a bit and is a ton of fun! He gets the crowd pumped!

Fake Pat Sajak and Vanna White

Don’t worry if you don’t solve the puzzle. I think what they’re looking for is to see if you’re energetic and whether you can keep the game moving. They’re taking notes and after the Wheelmobile event will send an email if you’ve made it to the next round of auditions.

If you don’t get called up for one “show”, you can continue to put your name in for a chance at another show, but you have to fill out a new paper. It can be a long day, and alas, my name never got called.

Apply Online

A couple of weeks after the event, I received an email saying they were looking for more contestants in the D.C. area, and to apply online. So I did! I went to the website, filled out the Contestant Application, and submitted a video. It was pretty easy and straightforward. Once again, I think they’re looking for people who are excited.

Wheel of Fortune Audition

A week after I submitted my online application, I received an email saying they wanted me to audition! 2 weeks after the email the audition would be held in a hotel in Washington D.C. 

In the email, they ask you to think about some questions before you come to the audition:

Do you think you can solve puzzles under pressure on national television? Are you able to stay focused and control your nerves under pressure? (Everyone is good at Wheel of Fortune in the comfort of his/her living room!)

Can you call out letters with a strong, clear, confident voice? (It sounds simple, but it requires focus, poise, & concentration.)

Do you have a good presence, vitality and energy?

These are all great questions, because I can answer puzzles all day at home and beat everyone. But at the audition and under the lights of the show, you get nervous. But that’s also what the auditions are for – to see how you react and handle it! So if this is your dream, go out there and do it!

When you go to the audition, there are a ton of other wheel of fortune contestants, and the contestant coordinators are running multiple sessions of the same thing in a day. You go in a hotel conference room, and there are rows of chairs. You’ll once again play a very fast-paced mock game, but you yell out letters from your chair and make quick decisions about whether you’re spinning (but you’re not actually spinning anything), buying a vowel, or solving a puzzle. 

Once everyone has a had a turn (and sometimes people get two turns), you take a timed written test to see how many puzzles you can solve. Once that’s over, they go in the hallway to look over the tests and discuss things. 

They’ll either dismiss you or have you stay to take another look, and IF you get selected for the show, you’ll receive a letter in the mail about 10 days later. 

What Are They Looking For in Potential Contestants?

I’m not a contestant coordinator, so I can’t tell you for sure what they’re looking for in a potential Wheel of Fortune contestant. However, the questions they asked above will give you a good indication. They do need people who can clearly call out letters, who have a lot of energy (oh, you’re clapping a lot in the audition), and they need good puzzle solvers. It’s a game show, after all!

During my audition, I think I called out 2 letters, bought a vowel, and then my turn was over. When I was dismissed, I thought there was no way I was getting a letter saying I made it, because I didn’t think they had a chance to see me.

I felt kind of sad, a bit disappointed thinking maybe I could have done more. I thought I did pretty well on the puzzles (they’re tough!), but I didn’t think it was enough. Imagine my surprise when I received the letter 10 days later congratulating me that I was going to be on Wheel of Fortune!!!

The Wheel of Fortune Waiting Game

Basically now you wait. You wait for an email to inform you of your Wheel of Fortune tape date. I received the letter in August and then received an email in February 2019 about a tape date. It gave about 2 weeks notice, unfortunately I was already scheduled for a work trip during that date. 

It killed me, because I had to turn them down, but in the email, it says if you can’t make it, then they’ll try to get you another date, so all hope was not lost. The same thing happens if you can’t afford the trip right then.

No, Wheel of Fortune does not pay for your travel expenses to California to tape the show. Most shows are taped in Culver City, California at Sony Studios unless they’re on location taping the show somewhere. 

You do get $1000 minimum for prize money, but you won’t get that until months after your show airs, so just be aware there is an expense.

I finally got another email for a tape date in November 2019 Disney Secret Santa week, but I was friends with too many Disney people due to my background. I was super bummed, but I understood. They just want to make sure everything is legit.

Always be truthful on your applications, people! Finally, my time came in December for British Landscapes Week! 

Taping Wheel of Fortune

My husband and I decided to make a mini vacation out of it and headed to L.A. for a few days! The whole time I was so nervous thinking about the show. I was watching every Wheel of Fortune episode on my DVR. I was playing Wheel of Fortune on my Nintendo Switch and on the app. It was a bit ridiculous, but I didn’t know what else to do to calm the nerves.

Plus I was freaking out about the show topic. What does British Landscapes even mean? So I tried to study about British Landscapes and locations. 

If you stay at a recommended hotel, then they have a shuttle to pick you up early in the morning around 7 a.m. My husband and I just rented an Airbnb in the general area, and I drove to Sony Studios. The directions they gave are pretty self-explanatory, and it was easy to get there. Just leave plenty of time, because traffic can get crazy, even that early.

You meet the other contestants that are there to tape that day, too. They tape 6 episodes of Wheel of Fortune in one day, and you don’t know what show you’re on ahead of time, so you can be there all day long. 

Everyone was super nice and friendly. The other contestants, the contestant coordinators, the lawyers, the hair and makeup team, the camera crew, every single person. That really helped put me at ease. 

You lock up your phones when you get there, so no pictures, and no looking things up on your phone. You can’t contact friends and family until your show is over. 

We got to meet Vanna in the morning, and she’s so friendly and beautiful! Then after filling out paperwork and listening to rules, we were able to take a couple of practice spins on the wheel. That wheel is heavy!!

Contestant Experience on Wheel of Fortune

Then it was time for the shows to begin! You randomly draw your show number and your position at the wheel. I was show #3 of the day and in the blue spot. 

When you’re practicing on set, your friends and family start to come in, but you can’t acknowledge them or look at them. And they aren’t allowed to wave at you. But it all starts to sink in when they come in, and there’s now an audience. 

I was able to watch the first 2 shows from a different section in the audience and cheer on the friends I had just made that day. The taping of my actual show was a blur. I had forgotten half the things that happened. 

I understood how contestants would make mistakes or call out letters already called. You do have a board you can look at that shows you what letters are left, but sometimes your brain just doesn’t work and other times things click instantly. 

Wheel of Fortune Contestant Tips

After it was all said and done, the one thing I regret was worrying about it so much. All I wanted was to solve one puzzle. That was my goal. 

Just live in the moment. There are so many things they tell you to do. Spin the wheel this way, if you win something, don’t hold the card in your face, don’t clap into the microphone, look excited, use a loud voice, etc. 

Those are all important things, because you’re also worried about making a fool of yourself on National TV. But the whole experience really was so fun! I wish I had just focused on the fun I was having, because some of the other things would have come naturally. 

I could tell how much I relaxed after my first solve. Sure, it didn’t hurt that I won a trip to England, Scotland, and Wales. But after that, my puzzle solving was better. I let my nerves and the pressure I put on myself block my game playing in the first few puzzles. 

How to Win at Wheel of Fortune

Yes, there’s strategy involved. Buy vowels when you can. Take notice of certain letter patterns. Pay attention to the amount of money the other contestants have and all of that. But nobody has the secret.

The difference between Pat (the player on my show who won) and I was about one letter’s worth of money. However, I wasn’t going to spin again when I made my first solve, because I really wanted that trip, and I didn’t want to risk bankrupt.

How to get on Wheel of Fortune

A lot of what happens on Wheel of Fortune is luck and out of your control, too. You can’t control the wheel; you can’t control what the other players are going to land on or guess. So just enjoy yourself.

You never know how you’re going to react once you’re out on that set. Maybe I didn’t set my goals high enough, but I wasn’t there to take it all. My favorite shows are when everyone wins something. And that’s exactly what happened on my episode. I was so happy for Pat and Shanell. 

Wheel of Fortune is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Once you’re on the show, you can never be on it again. I hope that my daughters will one day make it on the show as I’ve passed on my love for America’s Game to them. 

Pat Sajak is the nicest guy, and I told him about how my family and I had seen him as a Candlelight Processional narrator at Epcot the year before. 

Once my show aired, I had a watch party with family and friends and laughed at some of the faces I made or things I did, but it was so surreal to finally see myself on an episode. If you’ve ever dreamt of being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, apply! Apply online or attend a Wheelmobile event! 

If you don’t make it the first time, keep trying. Some dreams are worth waiting for.

How can you be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune?