Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Wheel of Fortune Experience and Most Asked Questions!

Hello all,

I WAS ON WHEEL OF FORTUNE. Yes, I know, crazy! For me, I've watched it my entire life. I used to sit on my Dad's lap and play it on the computer when it used to be a computer game. I remember watching this with my family every single night after dinner my entire life. I've always liked word games, and games in general, and I've watched game shows since I was a little girl.

When I heard that there was an opportunity to audition for Wheel Of Fortune, I knew that I had to do it, it truly is a bucket list experience! My experience was broken down into three phases, so here we go...

*Please keep in mind that there is more than one way to audition. You can apply online, submit videos online, any maybe even other ways. I am sharing my specific experience, which was also very similar to other contestants experiences I met on the day of my taping. Also, this will be a very long post. I wanted to round up everything in one post for everyone to have in one place.


Wheel Mobile : Tacoma, Washington

Wheel Of Fortune does a contestant event called "Wheel Mobile". It is a Winnebago, that travels around the country holding auditions for the show. I heard about this about a week before the actual event, and I had friends and family members sending me information about the Wheel Mobile event.

I work about 40 minutes away from Tacoma, and the shows were at 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00. I knew I couldn't make the 4:00 show, and the 6:00 would be a stretch. Also, the wheel mobile was a two-night event, with three shows each night. The first night, I chickened out and didn't go. The second night, I contemplated all day going, but I had nobody to go with. Something in me didn't want to go alone, but at around 5:03 after getting off of work, I took a left turn instead of a right and headed to the audition, alone.

In my mind, I honestly thought I would be the youngest person there, I thought there might be 50 people, in their 40's or 50's (no offense to anybody of that age), but oh boy was I wrong. There was hundreds of people there, hundreds! All ages, and the energy was INSANE.

You fill out a little sheet with your name, information, and a few interesting things about you, and then you put it into a big pot with hundreds of other sheets. A lot of my friends and family told me to be enthusiastic so I get called on stage, but there is no strategy to it, they just draw names out of a big bingo roller. There is no way that you can get ahead.

I went to the 6:00 show, and I never got called up on stage. That is pretty much your only shot at getting called back for a second audition. From there, I had a choice to stay for the 8:00 show, or go home. I had to work the next day and I was extremely tired, but I decided to stay. I went back and got in line, filled out another card, and put it back into the pot. I was the first person called up on stage!!! It was so exciting. 5 of us went up on stage, and played a little fake round of Wheel of Fortune. Since I was first, out of 5 people, the puzzle was solved by the 5th person. I didn't get a chance to call more than one letter, but it was still really fun. The "fake" Pat Sajak interviewed me, and I thought I did okay. From there, they said you might or might not get an email for a final call back audition....

Tips and Tricks for This Portion: 

Sine there is no strategy to getting called up on stage, truly make the best of it when you are up there. They are looking for enthusiastic people, who play the game smart and can pronounce their letters loud and clear. Be energetic, outgoing, and fun!

Final Audition : Seattle, Washington

I was so excited when I received an email inviting me to a final audition! I again, had second thoughts, I still don't know why I had those thoughts! I decided to buck up and go to the audition. It was a much more formal audition, there was about 50-60 of us maybe. We filed into our seats, and they showed us some fun Wheel of Fortune videos to loosen us up. The contestant coordinators are so great, they make you feel so comfortable, and truly make the experience fun. They started by just playing a bunch of rounds. They would call our names, we would stand up, and our turn would start. A worker would spin the wheel for us, and we would call the letters.

When my turn came, I was doing SO great. The letters I was calling were up there, and I was racking up a lot of fake money. This is what the puzzle looked like to me.

_ _ L L   LEN_TH   WALL
M_RR_R

So obviously, you all know the puzzle. Well, I thought I did to. I went to solve, and I blurted out "TALL LENGTH WALL MIRROR". It couldn't be that, because a "T" was already up on the board, but when the pressure is on, and you aren't watching from home, it is SO much different! The puzzle was actually "Full Length Wall Mirror" and the next contestant solved. 

I thought my chances were done. From here, we went to a written test (yeah, these auditions are no joke). It was a sheet of paper with about 20 puzzles I think. It would be a puzzle with a bunch of blank letters, and we just had to fill them in.

I got 7 of them, and couldn't even begin to think what the rest might be. From here, we went on a break and they said when we come back they would make a cut from 50-60 of us down to about 15-20. I thought I was officially done, I only got 7 puzzles right, and I made a fool out of myself solving the puzzle wrong. When I started talking to others, some people said they only got 1 or 2 puzzles right, so it was hard not to start thinking maybe I had a chance?!

We went back to the room, and they started calling names of people they want to stay. Before you know it, my name was called! The room quickly narrowed down to about 15 of us, and my chances just got a lot more real! 

We played some more in depth games, actually pretending to spin the wheel, and buy vowels depending on the money we had, and did some photos and contestant interviews. It was over before I knew it, and they said that we should hear within two weeks if we were chosen.

Well, two months went by and I didn't hear anything. Then, one random day, I got an email. I was invited to an actual taping! I again, had a lot of second thoughts, mainly because I didn't know if I wanted to be on TV. The email came to me on January 10th, and my taping would be on January 29th. I was surprised at the short notice, but after 24 hours of thinking, I decided to go for it. I knew I would never get this opportunity again, and my mom and sisters said they would go for sure! 


Show Taping : Culver City, California

Once I officially decided to go through with the process, we booked our flights and our hotel. Wheel of Fortune does not pay for your transportation to the show, but if you have watched before you see that you get $1,000 even if you don't win anything during game play.

We flew out of Washington on Wednesday, January 28th (My Mom's B-day!). We flew into LAX, and then took a taxi to our hotel in Culver City, about 10 minutes away, where the show is actually taped. We stayed at The Four Points by Sheraton, which is a recommended hotel from the show, and you do get a discounted rate for being a contestant. On Wednesday, we went to lunch and then went down to Venice Beach to walk around. I barely ate all day, I was SO nervous. I don't know if I've ever been more nervous for something. I felt sick to my stomach all day long, and kept freaking myself out.

On Thursday, the day of taping, I woke up bright and early to get ready. I did my own hair and makeup. They have people there that will touch you up to make sure you are ready for TV, but you are supposed to come with your hair and makeup fully done. They offer a shuttle from two of their recommended hotels, which picked me up at 7:15am. If you stay at a different hotel, or even live nearby, you are responsible for getting to the studio by 7:45am. Once I started meeting other contestants in the shuttle, my nerves started to settle and I switched to excited mode.

We went to a contestant dressing room, where they had a wide spread of snacks and drinks for us, which was really nice. We had to fill out a lot of paperwork, and read through a bunch of rules and regulations. We filled out a publicity release form as well, with some questions on it in case our local newspaper wanted to write an article, or in case the show wanted to feature our personal story if we won big or something.

From here we were briefed on more rules, compliance regulations, and ways that they make the show fair for everyone. The employees that work for this show are AMAZING. They make everything so fun, and comfortable for you and help ease the nerves. We got to go out on set which is nice, because I was totally shocked when I walked out I'm so glad we got to go out there before the actual taping. We took some photos up at the wheel for us to keep, and then we filmed some "Hometown Howdies". These are small clips that they send to our local station that airs Wheel, and they can choose to air them if they want. For mine, they had me say "Hi, I'm Jaimie from Elma, watch me play Wheel of Fortune on KOMO 4". They had us practice spinning the wheel, which was always helpful. It is much smaller than it looks on TV, but it is also a lot heavier than you would guess. They taught us how to spin it efficiently, and correctly.

After we rehearsed on stage for a while we went back to the dressing rooms. They slowly pulled two people at a time to touch up hair and makeup, and during that time we all got briefed on more show rules, and special themes or wedges that might be on the wheel this week. They go through each prize on the wheel, what it means, how you use it, and how you can lose it. The greatest thing about this experience, is that they truly WANT you to win! A lot of people asked me questions like that, and yes, they WANT you to go home with a lot of money! They give you so many tips and tricks, suggestions for letters to call regarding certain categories, and so forth.

After more briefing, we finally got to figure out who we film with. They tape 6 shows in one day, so there was 20 of us in a room. 18 of us would be contestants, and 2 pre-chosen individuals were the alternates for the day in case anything happened. The show predetermines the groups of three. They read off our groups, and then determined a "ball picker" for each group. That person picked a golf ball out of a bucket that had a number 1-6 on it. That number determined the number of the show which you taped that day. My group picked number 2. I couldn't be happier. I wanted to get my show over with early, and this gave me 1 show to watch and ease my nerves, and then get it over it. If you are a future contestant, keep in mind that you might be at the studio until 6pm, if you are chosen for the 5th or 6th show.

After some more rehearsing, they guided us up to the audience to watch the shows for the day. I got to watch the first show, which was so much cooler to watch in studio, and especially when I know the people playing personally from spending all morning with them. The show finishes taping in about 20 minutes, and then it was my turn. They touched up my makeup a little more, got my microphone hooked up, and guided us out to the stage.

This part was SO surreal. Watching Pat and Vanna walk out, looking and waving to ME was the coolest thing. I have watched the show since I was young, so I was so star struck. The show starts right away with the first toss up, interviews, and then a second toss up. I was most nervous about the interview, but it went by so quick. I honestly don't remember what I said, it was an out of body experience! We then went into puzzle one, commercial break (which are only about 2 minutes long in studio) puzzle 2, puzzle 3, toss up, puzzle 4(final puzzle) and then the bonus round.

It is over before you even register the fact that you've started! After the show, they lead you up to a room where they print off a summary of your show detailing what you won. This will include the $1,000 if you didn't win anything during game play, or any prizes or money you won during the show. You sign a waiver saying you agree to the prizes you won, and some tax information, and then you are free to go.

Questions:
So many of my friends and family asked me so many questions about the experience, so I figured I would include it all here in one place.

Q: Why can't you tell people what you won?
A: Why would I want to? I am so excited for people to watch me, and that would completely take away the excitement of it all! Their main rule is that it can't end up on social media. I have decided to play it safe 100% and wait until the show airs to talk about anything I did or didn't win. I had to wait to tape the show, so you have to wait to see how I did ;) In the more departmental side of things though, if The Bachelor always told you who won before the season started, you probably wouldn't waste the time watching it. Wheel of Fortune is on its 32nd season, so I'm sure they have so many reasons behind this policy.

Q: If you get 2nd or 3rd place, what do you get? 
A: You get what you won during game play. Which is so amazing. For example, if the first place winner had $20k, 2nd place had $15k, and 3rd place had $10k, they would all go home with that amount of money. So if you play smart, you can still walk away with a large chunk of money even if you aren't the big winner. If you don't win any money during game play, the show gives you $1,000 for being a contestant.

Q: When do you get your winnings, if you won anything?
A: Up to four months after your AIRING date. For example, if a show airs on March 1st, the contestants will receive their cash and prizes by July 1st. Again, the show has been on for 32 years and I'm sure there are plenty of reasons behind the waiting period. It seems so far away, but I'm sure it will come up soon!

Q: If you win money, do you actually get it? What about taxes? 
A: I am not tax savvy, so I am writing exactly what they gave me in my paperwork before the show.
"Unless forfeited, all winnings are considered taxable income and will be reported to the IRS. You will receive a "1099" in whichever year you actually receive your cash. You will receive a "1099" for both your cash and prize(s) at the same time, regardless of when you take receipt of each"
So yes, you actually get the cash you win, a check for the exact dollar amount. You then have to claim it as income on your taxes.

Q: If you win a car or a trip, can you get the cash value instead?
A: For trips, no. They are non-transferable and cannot be substituted, exchanged or redeemed for cash.  For cars, that is also no. Contestants can't receive cash in exchange for a car they won. It will become yours so if you choose to sell it once you receive it then that is your personal choice.

Q: Are Pat and Vanna nice?
YES. Vanna came into the studio while we were rehearsing. She was in her sweatpants, no makeup, and hair up in a bun. I was so star struck. She is such a natural beauty, and she came right into our rehearsal and told us all good luck and that we are so lucky to be one of the few people chosen per year to be contestants. That was my only interaction with Vanna since she is so far away over at the board. As far as Pat goes, he is so nice. They say that he is a genius on the show, he has seen/hosted every single show for over 30 years. During commercial breaks he would tell us tips and tricks such as to really pay attention to the category, or buy our vowels. During the first commercial break, he told us that we are past the hard part, and the rest is just playing the game. He was great!

Q: Why does everybody yell on the show? *This was a question that a cab driver asked me in Cali
A: A lot of letters in the alphabet sound similar. B D P are examples, or M and N. They don't ever want there to be a discrepancy about letter calling, so they want to be sure we are yelling letters loud and clear. The audience is almost constantly clapping so you have to speak loud enough so Pat, and the judges can determine what letter you are meaning to call. They also want you to be enthusiastic, so this helps!

Q: What happens during commercial breaks?
A: Commercial breaks in studio are only about 2 minutes long. The employees bring you water, fan you off (its so hot when you are filming, the studio runs cold, but I was sweating during my show from nerves), and the makeup team will come powder you and make sure that everything is still looking great. By the time you take a drink of water and get touched up, you are back up at the wheel coming back from commercial.

Q: Is the show live?
A: No. I filmed my show on January 29th, and it will air on March 10th. As far as the taping goes, if there is any major discrepancies in game play, such as somebody trying to slur their letters, or cheat, then they can stop the taping and start a new round, but nothing like that happened during my taping. We taped straight through with no stops, which is what happens the majority of the time they said.

Q: Is the wheel heavy?
A: Holy Crap, yes. It is heavy!! My arm is extremely sore today, which sounds so lame. It isn't something that you can fluently spin, if that makes sense. You have to reach really far to the right, pull it toward you, and then push it away. That is how they teach you to spin the wheel, and that makes it a lot easier. If you pay attention on the show you will notice that is how everyone spins, by pulling it to them, and then pushing it away. My ring finger is also really bruised from grabbing the spokes on the wheel to spin.

Q: How is the experience for your family in studio?
A: My mom, and both of my sisters made the trip with me. The day of taping, they are responsible for getting to the studio by themselves, transportation is not provided. They come to the studio around 11, and I had been picked up at 7:15. They get briefed by the employees, and they are told they can't take photos with their phones or cameras, and they have to be quiet during filming and not answer out loud or whisper anything to the person sitting next to them. Also, the contestants CAN'T interact with their families. When the families walk in, you have to completely ignore them. Your family will be briefed on this, so they know you aren't trying to be mean, but I wish I could have told my family that myself ahead of time because I felt bad not even looking at them when I knew exactly where they were at! They said it was fun to watch and be an audience member, but it was a lot of clapping!

Q: Is it a competitive atmosphere?
Not really! All of the employees truly want you to win a lot of money. As do all of the contestants. During my taping, all three of us were very supportive of one another. Of course it's a bummer when somebody solves right before you, but you want the best for everyone you play with. I am an extremely competitive person, but in this environment I just wanted all of us to have fun, and I hoped all three of us would win some money. During every commercial break we would all tell each other how well we are doing, or give a pat on the back if a round didn't go to well. I loved the two people I played with, they were awesome!



If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask and I will answer what I can. I am so glad I went through with this process, I mean how many people can say they've been on Wheel of Fortune!? Watch me spin the wheel on March 10th!

As always, thanks for reading.

17 comments:

  1. Great job honey, it was a good read. Love you, Auntie Pammy....I'll be watching!

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  2. Thanks for this post! I am hopefully getting a letter in two weeks!!

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    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful. When I was preparing to go down I couldn't find a good "experience" post online, so I'm glad I can provide that!

      I never received "the letter" in two weeks, so if you don't, just keep checking your email!! Mine was about 3 months later in the form of an email.

      Good luck!!! :)

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  4. This was an AWESOME synopsis!! Thank you for sharing it! Now that March 10th has passed, how did you do? I was working evenings last year, so I missed a lot of episodes. I hope you did great!! Take care!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. You can watch my episode on YouTube, but I won around $2k in cash and then I won the prize puzzle, which resulted in a paid vacation to Aruba! I took the vacation last August and there is a post on my blog all about my vacation. It was so fun!

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  5. Just found out wheelmobile is coming through my town this weekend, so excited!!! Really enjoyed reading your post!

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  6. Did you know that you can create short urls with Shortest and get $$$ for every visit to your shortened links.

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  7. Hi Jaimie!!!

    My name is Amy and I have an audition tomorrow morning at 10!
    Please please give me advise! I have read your entire story. I am sure you have included everything, Do you have examples of the written test?

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  9. Hi, what an awesome experience! do you remember how long the audition day was? Just a few hours or the whole day?

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  10. Oh hey! We had our taping on the same day! I was just looking around for tips because as it happens, I have some distant family that are auditioning next week. I'll be sure to pass this on to them, thanks for posting your story!

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  11. Thanks for your interesting story.

    I went through the final audition last week and made it to the end. I'm waiting for my letter (or not, but I feel good about it). One note . . . I went to the Wheel Mobile event in my town and put my name in the hopper for two of the sessions. My name wasn't called to go on stage for either of the sessions, but I did receive an invitation to the final audition. So the lesson learned is that you don't necessarily have to be called on stage at the Wheel Mobile event to get an invitation to the final audition. I'm not sure whether I was picked randomly (as they said they were going to do for the people who weren't called on stage) or whether I was perhaps picked because I live in the town where the Wheel Mobile event was held and where the final audition was going to be. I live in Palm Springs, which is only about 45,000 people, and I'm sure many of the people who were called on stage were tourists who probably wouldn't come back for final auditions. It may help if you live in the city where the final auditions will be held.

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  12. Hey there!! This is a great, awesomely detailed account of your experience! Congratulations! I recently attended my local Wheel Mobile event, and today received my email for the second audition! I'm curious, how long was your second audition? Was it a couple of hours? All day?

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  13. Hi Jaimie! Thank you so much for the detailed info! What an incredible, once in a lifetime experience! This is on my bucket list too and I've been watching for 30+ years :) My name was drawn at Wheel Mobile event in Houston almost 2 weeks- I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. I was so excited!! And I solved the puzzle in my group :) I am prayerfully and anxiously awaiting letter/email to see if I make it to the final audition. I've never checked my email/mail this frequently LOL! Do you recall how long it was from the Wheel Mobile Event to when you were notified to come to the your local 2nd audition?

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  14. This is wonderful info, Jaimie! I have second audition in Seattle next week! Couldn't be more excited to play America's game!

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  15. I had a friend who got called to the final audition, but wasn’t asked to stay until the end. She said she felt they asked people to stay who didn’t really get a great chance to shine in previous rounds.

    Do you think she has a shot?

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