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How to Play Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune is an extremely easy game to play.  With the spin of a wheel, you could leave with thousands of dollars to your name, along with some nifty prizes.  In the 25 years that Wheel of Fortune has been on the air, there have been changes, both to the format as well as the set.  Here, you can learn about the format of the game as it currently stands.

In order to win money, just spin the wheel.  If the wheel lands on a dollar value, guess a consonant.  If it's in the puzzle, you win the amount of the spin multiplied by the number of times the letter appears in the puzzle.  For instance, if you spun $300, chose the letter L, and there were three L's in the puzzle, you would get $900.  In order to add a vowel to the puzzle, you must buy it.  Buying a vowel costs you a flat fee of $250, regardless of how many of a particular vowel there are.  However, regardless of what kind of letter you pick, if you miss, your turn is over, and control goes to the next player.

Note that picking a letter that is in the puzzle does not necessarily guarantee you winnings.  You merely have the amount credited to you, your receipt of them pending your winning the round.  These winnings must be "locked in", so to speak, by winning the round.  If you do not win the round, any money credited to you is lost.  Everyone starts fresh each round, though any money credited and then "locked in" during previous rounds is the contestant's to keep no matter what happens.

Besides money, there are also prizes on the wheel from time to time.  In the first round, with the lack of a prize, there is a "Free Spin" space.  Land on this space, guess a letter, and get a free spin, to be used at your leisure.  In subsequent rounds, prizes are added to the wheel.  Land on the spot, pick up the prize, and if you win the round, that prize is yours.

However, the game wouldn't really be any fun if there wasn't some risky business involved.  Besides being an opportunity to win some money, the wheel also involves an element of risk every show.  If you land on "Lose a Turn", your turn is immediately over, and control shifts to the next player.  Note that there is an exception to this - if you have a free spin, you can choose to use it and continue.  Another element of risk to you and your winnings for a particular round is the "Bankrupt" space.  Land on this space, and not only is your turn immediately over (except in the aforementioned free spin situation), but you lose all cash and prizes accumulated that round.  As illustrated in the picture at left, besides a considerable amount of money, the contestant also lost the $10,000 space, as well as $1,000 worth of stuff from Egghead.com.  In the picture at right, Pat can be seen taking the aforementioned prizes from the contestant at the yellow position.

However, there are thankfully more good things than bad things on the wheel.  The top dollar values are a good example of this.  In the first round, the top value is $1,000.  And if you catch a letter that is in the puzzle many times, it can get very lucrative very fast.  In the second round, the top value is $3,500, and in the third and subsequent rounds, it's $5,000.

And while we're talking money, let's not forget the biggest "dollar value" on the wheel.  This appears in the second round.  One of the bankrupts on the wheel is replaced with a special $10,000 spot, with two tiny bankrupts on either side.  However, if you land on this $10,000 spot, unlike the $1,000, $3,500, and $5,000 spots, this one is redeemed as a prize (you take it off the wheel and keep it), and is not multiplied by however many letters you get.

In the third round, the potential to score some serious cash increases with the jackpot feature.  While it's rather elusive (you have to first land on the jackpot space, and then solve the puzzle right then to win it), it can seriously increase your chances at winning.  The jackpot increases with the spins of the wheel.  Each time you land on something on the wheel (aside from "Lose a Turn" and "Bankrupt"), the dollar value you hit is added to the jackpot.  You can see the jackpot space as it passes by below...

When time begins to run short, it is time for the speed-up round to begin (this sometimes happens at the beginning of a round, and other times during a round).  Pat gives the wheel a final spin, while he explains that vowels are worth nothing, and that consonants are worth the value that he spins, plus $1,000.  If you guess a letter that's in the puzzle, you not only get the money credited to you, but you also have five seconds to solve the puzzle.  If you can't solve it, control moves to the next player.  Solve it, and you win the round, and get to keep whatever money was credited to you, as is to be expected.

Whoever has "locked in" the most money at the end of the game is the winner, thus has earned the right to play the bonus round.  Here, you have to solve another puzzle, but not before first picking a letter to determine what prize you'll get.  Pick the card in the W, H, the first E, the second E, or the L, and if you solve the puzzle, you win that prize, which ranges from cash to cars to trips, and other neat prizes.

After you pick your prize (no one knows what it is until the round is over), it's off to the puzzle board to pick some letters.  Before picking anything, you get R, S, T, L, N, and E.  Vanna reveals these, and then it's up to you to pick three more consonants and a vowel.  Vanna reveals these, and then it's up to you to determine what the puzzle is.  Talk it out, and it will come to you.

After this, there's either celebration or a what-didn't-I-win feeling.  If you win the bonus game, then you win whatever prize was chosen when you picked the letter.  Otherwise, Pat still shows you, and you have to see what you didn't win... rather painful.

And that is how Wheel of Fortune is played at the present time.  The format has changed somewhat now and again, and will likely change some more in the future.

A Salute to Game Shows 1999-2001 Ben F. Schumin, Chris-Place.com.  All rights reserved.