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Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune is a television game show originally devised by Merv Griffin, and which runs in local editions around the world. The game show first aired in 1975.

In early pilots, it was called Shopper's Bazaar. The current American incarnation is hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Despite the name, Wheel is not related to Soldier of Fortune or The Wheel of Time. Instead, it's a glammed-up version of Hangman. Previous hosts of the American edition have included Chuck Woolery, Rolf Benirschke and Bob Goen. When the show first aired, the money the contestants won had to be used to shop amongst prizes on the TV show, but now the game is played for cash. Eliminating shopping sped up the game, and allowed more time to plug the big prizes, such as the cars.

In 1996, the original puzzle board was replaced with a digital electronic puzzle board, touching the letter spaces instead of turning them. A fill-in-the-blank puzzle is displayed on a grid of video displays in front of the players.

In November 2003, Wheel celebrated its 4,000th episode.

The British version has been hosted by Nicky Campbell, Bradley Walsh, John Leslie and Paul Hendy with Angela Ekeate, Carol Smillie and Jenny Powell in turn having co-host's job.

In many countries, but not the US, the contestant gives a word beginning with the chosen letter along with it. Hence: "C for Charlie" and "I for indigo".

Table of contents
1 Play
2 Special Rounds
3 Final Round


Three players take turns. On a turn, a player can spin the 24-sector wheel, buy a vowel, or attempt to solve the puzzle.


If the pointer lands on a cash value, the player gives a consonant (W and Y count as consonants), and if it is in the puzzle, the co-host reveals all instances of that letter in the puzzle, and the player receives the cash value multiplied by the number of instances of that letter. If the letter in not in the puzzle, the player's turn ends.

If the pointer lands on the wheel's "Lose a Turn" space, the player's turn ends. If the pointer lands on "Bankrupt", the player loses all earned cash and prizes, and the player's turn ends.

If the pointer lands on a prize, the player gives a consonant, and if it is in the puzzle, the player picks up the prize and sets it in front of him. He must then solve the puzzle in that round to win the prize

Buy a Vowel

If a player has at least $250250 in cash, he can pay $250 to have all instances of a single vowel (A, E, I, O, or U) in the puzzle revealed. If the letter is not in the puzzle, the player's turn ends.

Vowel buying is very common on the US version, but for some reason, is much rarer in the UK.

Solve the Puzzle

Once enough letters have been revealed, a player can attempt to read the solution to the incomplete puzzle. If the solution is incorrect, the player's turn ends. Only the player who correctly solves the puzzle pockets the earnings from the round.

Special Rounds

In recent years, various special rounds have been introduced.

Toss-up Round

This was made possible with the advent of an electronic board, compared with using trilons. A puzzle is revealed one letter at a time, and a player may buzz-in to solve it for a set amount of money ($1000, $2000, or $3000 in the US version). In the present US version, two toss-ups for $1000 and $2000 start the game, with the second one determining who starts round 1. The $3000 toss-up determines who starts the fourth round, which is usually the speed-up round.

Jackpot Round (Round 2)

After each spin, the value of the spin is added to the jackpot, regardless of whether or not the letter chosen is in the puzzle. The jackpot starts at $5000. If a player spins and lands on Jackpot, and then guesses a letter in the puzzle, they may then immediately solve the puzzle to win the jackpot.

Mystery Round (Round 3)

Two $500 spaces are replaced with a black $500 space with a question mark. If a player lands on one of the mystey wedges, and guesses a letter in the puzzle, they may either take $500 per letter as normal, or turn over the mystery wedge. The mystery wedge either contains a Bankrupt or a prize (Usually smaller cars, but sometimes other prizes worth $10,000 or more). If the player reveals the prize, as with any other wheel prize, they must solve the puzzle without hitting bankrupt to win it. After one mystery wedge is revealed, the other mystery wedge acts as a regular $500 space for the remainder of the game.

Speed-Up Round

Host: "I'll give the wheel a final spin." As the wheel is spinning down: "You give me a letter, and you'll have three (previously five) seconds to solve it. Vowels worth nothing, consonants worth..." the value of the space on which the pointer lands.

In recent seasons, the value is final spin + $1000, to make the last round more meaningful.

On some versions, such as in the US, the host intentionally aims for the top dollar value with the final spin; in other versions, the host gives a random spin. If the host spins bankrupt or lose-a-turn in the final spin, he spins again. In the current version, final spins that land on bankrupt are edited out.

Puzzle Round

Some puzzles have a question that must be answered in order to win some extra money.

Final Round

The player with the most winnings is then given a chance to take a large bonus prize, usually a holiday, car, or more money. In the US, there were several prizes available that a player could choose, usually cars, trips, and jewelry; however, the contestant almost always took the car, or the $25,000 when they introduced all-cash 1987. In 1990 (?), a blind-draw system was instituted where the contestant would draw an envelope containing the bonus prize, and each one could only be won once in a week. This was used until 2001, when a mini-wheel was instituted that a player spun; whichever spot it landed on was the prize the player would play for. (By that time, the only prizes available were cars and cash, mostly $25,000, but fewer $30, $35, $40, $45, and $50K spaces, plus the single elusive $100,000 spot.)

A final puzzle is put up and the contestant nominates several consonants and a vowel. Occurrences of these letters are revealed and the contestant has a small amount of time, but as many guesses as necessary, to solve the puzzle.

In the US version before 1988, the contestants were only given the choice of five consonants and one vowel, and 15 seconds to guess the puzzle. A statistical analysis shows that R, T, S, L, N, and E are the best choices, and these were almost always selected by contestants. Since 1988, the contestant is shown the puzzle with R, S, T, L, N, and E already revealed, and then they choose 3 more consonants and one more vowel, but are only given 10 seconds to solve. Since then, the difficulty of the bonus puzzles has gone up, sometimes with only one or two instances of the automatic letters appearing in the puzzle.