Tag Archives: Wheel of Fortune

Common Symbols – Main Rounds

Everyone wants to do something different sometimes – even Pat and Vanna.  Sometimes they like to throw in a curveball and give the contestants something for free, beyond just the category of the puzzle.  They don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re a great asset to a seasoned puzzle solver.

Of course, I’m talking about special characters.  You probably remember them well – punctuation marks, apostrophes, dashes, and when the puzzle programmer gets lazy and decides to use an ampersand instead of typing “and”.  As you know, these are freebies that are revealed prior the game begins, right when the puzzle is revealed.

Here are the most commonly used symbols and their frequency of use (don’t get too excited, it’s not often):

Common Symbols Exhibit

No real surprises here, but definitely worth knowing about.  Some very basic strategy that can be applied – most of which you probably already know, but is worth repeating.  As you know, ever little advantage helps you be your best on the show.  So, here’s the scoop, strictly speaking for their usage within WoF puzzles:

  • Dash “-“ – most commonly used to join an adjective/noun paring directly, think “THREE-DAY WEEKEND” or “FAST-PACED ACTION”.  Occasionally, may complete a slightly more common phrase or established word that uses a dash, like “MOTHER-OF-PEARL” or “HAPPY-GO-LUCKY”.
    • Think about the puzzle when you see these, acknowledge that you may see an uncommon adjective/noun paring or phrase.
  • Apostrophe “’” – Most commonly used to create the possessive of a noun or pronoun, something like “A HERO’S WELCOME” or “BEGINNER’S LUCK” (~65% of the time).  May be used to form a contraction, like with “I’M FROM MISSOURI” or “DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS” (~25% of the time).  And even less commonly, it may be used to shorten a word ending in –ING or shortening another word, like “BEIN’ GREEN BY KERMIT THE FROG” or “CARVING A JACK-O’-LANTERN” (~10% of the time).
    • As if you needed another reason to either guess a S or T, apostrophes scream for these letters!
  • Ampersand “&” – Used to join nouns (very seldom with other types of words), most commonly used in Before & After or Same Name puzzles.  Recently focused on people instead of things.  Some examples include, “SHAGGY & SCOOBY-DOO”, “TIM MCGRAW & FAITH HILL” and “ALGEBRA GEOMETRY & TRIGONOMETRY”.
    • Use these for additional context for solving puzzles and reminding yourself of the puzzle category.
  • Period “.” – Usually reflects one of the following words: “JR.”, “MR.”, “ST.” (Saint, as in a place), “D.C.”, “DR.”, “M.V.P.” or “U.S.A.”.  Examples include, “CAPTAIN KIRK AND MR. SPOCK” or “U.S. OLYMPIC TRAINING CENTER”.  If used with one letter, generally a middle initial of a name (“WILLIAM H. MACY & FELICITY HUFFMAN”).
    • If you have two or three letters involved with a period, start guessing the above abbreviations – they reflect over 90% of combinations.
  • Exclamation Point “!” – Used to show extra emphasis.  Wheel uses these mostly on Quotations, Phrases or Song Lyrics.  Think, “TRULY SPECTACULAR!” or “CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES COME ON!”.
    • Very little method to the madness here – just think… what phrase would I scream at the top of my lungs?
  • Colon “:” – Almost exclusively used in Title categories (books, TV or movies).  Something like, “CSI:  CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION” or “THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON”.
    • Use these for reference points in the puzzle solve.

Quite simply, you can and should use any and all reference points to be able to guess letters and more easily solve puzzles.  Use these tricks for a slight advantage over your opponents and dominate the opposition.  Every little bit helps!

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Common Letters – Main Rounds (Part II)


Sure, you can try to “game the game” all you want on Wheel of Fortune.  You can study Force Spinning, Special Prize Scenarios, Making Sure You Know the Rules (all special topics on GSS!) to give you an advantage, but the bottom line to dominating this game show is simple – solve puzzles!  There’s no doubt that being strategic and playing the game strategically is required to dominate your opponents, in fact GSS highly recommends it.  But the fundamental requirement is that you solve those puzzles!

Sure this is a lot like saying the key to winning a football game is to score more points than your opponent, but this isn’t exactly rocket science.  You have to solve puzzles to win – that’s how you distinguish yourself as a great player.  There’s good news though, you can train yourself to do that.  In fact, I’m sure most of you have already been doing this as avid WoF viewers your entire life.

The basis for being a good puzzle solver starts with understanding the frequency of letters within WoF puzzles.  Call the right letters, get the most money, solve the most puzzles…  Again, basic concepts here.

At first thought you’ll say, “Hey GSS, quit boring me, I know how to speak English. I know which letters to call!!”  And I’d say, “Ok, fine, prove it.”  And then you’d probably guess a “Q”, which would be embarrassing for everyone.  So, listen up!

We’ve done you a favor.  Over the past seven seasons, we’ve logged over 99% of the puzzles played on WoF.  Really, it’s a maddening amount of data.  Without any further ado, here is the breakdown of all letters used within Main Round puzzles (i.e., not Toss Up or Bonus Round puzzles)

 Common Letters Exhibit

A quick point on the percentages – this reflects how often a letter is used versus all the letters on WoF total.  So, it’s a percentage of the total pie – Overall, 11.3% of all letters on WoF puzzles are E’s.  Got it?  Ok, good.

Quite the surprise to the person at the audition that guessed a “Z”… that’s not close to the top of the list.  For shame!

But what is surprising is the collection of non-U vowels at the top of the list.  We know that every word has a vowel, but you probably wouldn’t expect that there would be such a high concentration at the top.  To put it another way, over 37% of all letters on WoF are vowels.

Really creates a good news / bad news situation – you know they are up there, but they don’t directly make you any money.  You’ll need them to solve the puzzle in many cases, but they’ll cost you!  Also, this really shows you how much the letter U must feel like an outsider.  Well, I suppose less of an outsider than Y.

Consonant-wise, the usual suspects are all at the top – T, N, R, S, and L, all leading the way each with over 4.5% of the total instances of letters.  Quite simply, over two-thirds of all letters are from the first column up there – the standard 5 letters and 4 most-common vowels.

These nine letters are the core of all puzzles – in fact, at GSS, we refer to them as Core Letters.  They are the building blocks of all the puzzles – most common and typically most guessed.  You see people do this all the time on Wheel – the start with these common letters, and move on from there.  Not rocket science.

But when contestants get in trouble is when they deviate from a Core Letter strategy.  In almost no cases should you guess an M early in the puzzle when a T has yet to be called – unless of course you already know the puzzle, in that case kudos to you!

Here’s the basic strategy – if you don’t know the puzzle (or a word in the puzzle), focus on the Core Letters first.  Knock them off of your letter-guessing list and you’ll be fine.  Deviations from this result in random guessing of letters that have little upside.  Even if uncommon letters are in the puzzle, in many cases they are not common, resulting in a significant risk for little upside.  Build the structure for the puzzle first, and then fill in the gaps once you have context clues or the clear ability to solve the puzzle.

We will dig into the meat of Vowel Strategy and Consonant strategy directly later – this will directly address when to guess what, and why.  Trust me, you’ll like it.

Tune in next post for a summary of each of the special characters used within puzzles, what they mean and how to dominate using these.

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Common Letters – Main Rounds (Part I)


Auditioning for Wheel of Fortune is a bizarre event.  Typically, this is an event hosted by the casting agents for Wheel of Fortune, where they play simple wheel-based games to gauge your game playing skill, overall enthusiasm, on-screen “look”, and whether or not you’re a total bonehead.  They select you based on this event, and solely on this event.

There are all types of people there – clearly a broad spectrum from all walks of life, just like the contestants appearing on the show itself.  The event is strangely similar to going to jury duty, except about a million times more fun.  Both are a great social equalizer… you have young people, elderly people, employed, unemployed (otherwise known as the “professional game show contestants”), rich, poor, highly educated, high school dropouts – really the whole gamut of the social melting pot.

So with that, you have some people that are well versed in game show strategy (i.e., YOU – the avid GSS reader), and some others that may have never even watched a full show (really).

And personally, you’re totally out of your element.  Stacks of cash and prizes are conceivably on the line if you make a good impression on the casting agents for the show.  The pressure is on and it’s your time to shine.  But it’s exactly the time not to make a mistake.

During my audition, we began playing a simple, abridged game of Wheel of Fortune.  The game consisted of a basic main round game, mimicking the actual gameplay itself.  They spun a smallish wheel (think the kind you spin at a carnival), landed on a money wedge, and called someone to guess a letter.  You then kept playing for a few letters while they assessed your energy and presence.  Bottom line: it’s really hard to mess this one up.

But not for one contestant-to-be!  Eagerly pressed into action by the casting agents for a newly fresh puzzle, this faux-contestant looked at the blank puzzle, waited 5-6 seconds, exhaled deeply and yelled at the top of their lungs… “Z!”.  Really. You guessed a “Z”?

Needless to say, there wasn’t a “Z” in the puzzle.  The casting agents frantically grabbed the nearest red pen (again, really) and made some notes that sealed the contestants fate as a viewer for life (VFL!).  Even if that person made the show, they probably would’ve buckled under the pressure and made the show unwatchable for the viewers enjoying the show at home.  Moral of the story is, know your letters and guess them reasonably!

That’s why knowing the basics is so important.  Know which letters will be up there.  Mostly you already do.  Heck, the show even tells you the most common letters in the Bonus Puzzle!  Of course you should know your R-S-T-L-N-E’s, but don’t slack there.  Memorize the letters you should be guessing – treat it like a letter-based laundry list of prize-winning goodness.

Check the next post for a complete list of the most frequently used letters created from actual WoF puzzles over the past 7 years.  GSS has done the homework for you.  Our catalog of puzzles is one of the most robust outside of Sony Pictures Studios.  We’ll profile each letter and show you how often it is used within actual wheel puzzles!  Stay tuned!

Watch for the complete list later this week in Part II – includes the letter frequency of each letter of the alphabet for Main Round puzzles!

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Force Spinning – Wheel Spin Strategy to Win (Part 2)


This is a continuation of an earlier post found here.

Here’s the difficult part: finding your average spin speed.  First the bad news – the good people at Wheel of Fortune know this strategy.  They do not let you have many spins before the real action begins so they can keep you in the dark.  In fact, on the day of filming, there is only one “practice round” with all of the contestants in the morning of the filming.  This occurs after everyone has been in Sony Studios all morning, and generally occurs around 9-10am.  During the practice round, you play a mock puzzle – ensuring your “height” is correct for the camera shot, your microphone is correctly tuned and to make sure you’re comfortable on stage.  But now for the good news – this is your opportunity to get two free wheel spins – use them very wisely.

You’ll be surprised about the wheel – it’s significantly heavier than you’d imagine, especially because you’ll also be surprised to see that the wheel is significantly smaller in diameter than you’d imagine.  I suppose the old cliché is true, “the TV adds 10 pounds” – even to a wheel!  Also, the metal posts used for spinning are not easy to grasp when spinning, so there isn’t a natural way to spin the wheel.  It feels somewhat awkward.

But fear not!  As an avid reader of Game Show Strategy, you’re prepared for victory!  So, you know that this is your time to learn your average spin speed and location.  A few recommendations to maintain consistency:

  • Stay balanced, spinning the wheel is an awkward motion – since you’re reaching down and twisting, and balancing and firm footing can help.
  • Grab the metal post as far as it is comfortable for you, this will give you a consistent benchmark for a starting point.
  • Give a firm confident spin; feel like you’re tossing a bucket of water.  Don’t over spin or under spin, since you’ll need this to adjust your spins.
  •  Follow through.  Just like your little league coach told you, a good throw includes a solid follow through.

This will give you a solid and consistent spinning motion!  Make a mental note of the ending location – relative to where your pointer was first located.  This is your relative spin location, and a huge advantage over your opponents!

Implementing the Force Spinning strategy is the most difficult part of the equation.  First off, you’re in front of millions of people, trying to keep cool and not make a YouTube-worthy, all-time boneheaded mistake (like… here, here or here), all the while trying to take home significant cash and prizes.  Secondarily, who has time to pay attention to the wheel position when you’re trying to focus on the puzzle at hand!  You have to solve it to win it!

All points are absolutely true.  Between the nerves, adrenaline and rush of meeting Pat and Vanna, the wheel strategy is difficult to implement.  My only advice is that you should calm down, remember to breathe and use every strategy you can to dominate the game.  You can win – it’s been done before!

Using the Force Spinning strategy, this author landed 7 of 12 spins on “plus” wedges (good for an 58% clip), ranging from two prizes, three $2,500+ wedges, one mystery space and the granddaddy of them all – the Jackpot wedge right before a solve.  All the while, avoiding the two Bankrupt wedges and the pesky Lose a Turn wedge!  Force Spinning does work – it worked for me, and it can work for you too!

If that doesn’t convince you, the Force Spin has been a mainstay of the show for over 10 years.  How you ask?  Ever since Pat has been preceding the final round with “one final spin”, he’s been secretly aiming for high dollar wedges to build the drama.  Ever wonder why he seemingly hits the $5,000 wedge so frequently?  Well, he’s Force Spinning!  He’s just a pro at it.

Just remember that Force Spinning isn’t an exact science – it is difficult to practice, implementing on game day is difficult and mastering the art is left exclusively for Pat Sajak.  A key point – 3 of my 5 spins that did not hit a “plus” wedge were right next to the $5,000 wedge.  Sometimes, the best you can do is 1) avoid losing your turn through the luck of the wheel and 2) give yourself a shot at hitting a great wedge.  Do your best to implement the strategy and remember that this is only one element of the game!

So, use these strategies to Force Spin your way to greatness – this author has done it, Pat shows off by doing it, and you can win with it too!  Don’t let your fate be sealed by the luck of the wheel.  Save your luck for getting a good puzzle for the bonus round!

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Force Spinning – Wheel Spin Strategy to Win!


Millions of people are going to be watching you.  Tens of thousands of dollars are potentially on the line.  You’ve prepared countless hours, maybe even your entire life for this moment – your moment on Wheel of Fortune.  Pressure is building, but you remind yourself of one amazing thing – you’re in total control.

Sure you can study the alphabet, prefixes and suffixes, common Wheel words (covered in a future blog topic) which I absolutely suggest you do – as we know, preparation is the key to victory on Game Shows, but when it all comes down to the big day, you’ll just be reacting.  But, one thing you can control while you’re on Wheel of Fortune, surprisingly enough, is the wheel itself!

Really, it’s true.  The wheel is a magnificent device – consisting of 73 intimidating stainless steel pins, 24 wedges of glory, and three contestant flippers.  Surprisingly, it is a short and sturdy little wheel – it weighs over 2,400 pounds, but is rumored to only be about 8 feet in diameter.  But the kicker is that the wheel itself can be beaten.  Always respect the wheel, but never overlook it!

Many believe the wheel exists as an entirely random device, similar to a roulette wheel, allowing fortune to smile on contestants as it pleases.  For unlearned contestants, this is partially true.  Aimlessly spinning the wheel may succumb the contestant to an element of pure luck, fingers crossed as the wedges oscillate between Bankrupt, Jackpot and the like.  But what most contestants do not realize is that luck is only a minor portion of the wheel spinning strategy.

In order to make the wheel work in your economic interest, you must master the art of Force Spinning.  Often overlooked, never regretted, this strategy allows you to dictate to the wheel where you would like it to land.

Force Spinning is based purely on a consistent spin speed and a running knowledge of your wheel position.  Providing the same spin speed will result in the same relative landing spot for your spin each time.  Awareness of this control can lead to a dominant performance on Wheel of Fortune.

For instance, a contestant spins the wheel, and each spin results in the marker resting 6-8 “notches” to the left of the starting flipper position (each metal post on the wheel; full wedges consist of 3 notches).  This is effectively 2-3 full wedges behind the starting spot of the contestant’s flipper.  Knowing that their average spin speed results in this position, you can use that to your advantage in the game.

Adjusting your spin speed – either spinning slightly harder or softer to control the landing wedge – can result in avoiding a Bankrupt wedge, or potentially push you toward a Jackpot or $5,000 wedge.  You can be in control of the wheel and your fate within the game, while having a significant advantage over those that do not use this strategy.

Here’s a visual to keep it simple.  Assume that we have a red contestant that has a spin speed noted above – a spin resulting in 6 to 8 notches behind their starting flipper position.  If the flipper starts on the contestant’s right notch of the Bankrupt wedge, we can project that the second spin will generally be within the $5,000 wedge range, as illustrated below.

FS P1 Ex1

Great news!  This contestant has a great chance to land on the $5,000 space without altering their spin speed at all.  So, let’s assume our hypothetical contestant nailed the middle of the $5,000 wedge, guesses a correct letter and is ready to spin again… now for some potential trouble though for their next spin.

FS P1 Ex2

For the contestant’s second spin, we see that there is a slight chance to land on the Lose a Turn (LaT) wedge.  Oh no!  Most contestants would spin the wheel as normal – potentially hitting the LaT wedge without paying attention to wheel position.  We definitely can’t risk losing our turn using the Force Spinning strategy!  Fear not, Force Spinning will keep their turn alive – savvy Game Show Strategy readers would know that we need to alter the spin speed to avoid a potential LaT pitfall.

So, it is in the contestant’s best interest to spin slightly stronger than their average spin speed to avoid the LaT wedge and place their flipper safely near the $600 or $5,000 cash wedges.  That’s right, using Force Spinning can not only keep your turn alive, but also give you another shot at landing on a big money wedge.  Alternatively, the contestant could simply reduce their spin speed to avoid the LaT wedge – eliminating the chance for a $5,000 wedge hit, but safely avoiding an accidental LaT or Bankrupt hit.

FS P1 Ex3

Applying the same principles for aiming at a prize or high money wedge is definitely more glamorous and fun than pure failure avoidance (after all this is a Game Show!).  However, simply keeping control of the board (one of our favorite Jeopardy! terms), or puzzle in this case, is one of the most critical aspects to a dominant appearance on Wheel (we will have a future entry on the value of wheel control, but in the meantime, just trust us – it’s important!).  Avoiding those spaces where you may lose control will allow for the player to do what they have been practicing the best – guess letters and solve puzzles.  After all, that’s what you’ve been training your whole life to do!

Next time you watch Wheel of Fortune, note how each contestant spins for your own personal practice – you’ll be able to predict where their next spin will land, based on their average spin results.  And since most contestants just “spin the wheel” aimlessly, their spin speed generally is consistent.  Think about what you would do with this knowledge – how would you spin differently to avoid certain bad wedges, or aim for high dollar or special prize wedges.  And most of all, think about how you could win using this strategy.

Come back soon for our Force Spinning Part II on finding your average spin speed and the day of taping experience! 

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