The board automatically reveals letters one by one until a player rings in with the correct solution. The tossups tend to reward better puzzle solvers, not clever strategists.
Each consonant is worth the cash value of the wedge the wheel lands on. These rules imply that you should focus on maintaining control over the wheel and mostly ignore your opponents.
The category “Star & Role” is uncommon but always features AS, as in “DANIEL DAY-LEWIS AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.” Start with the S then buy the A. Lastly, “Song & Artist” and “Title & Author” has BY in it, as in “THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY.” This gives you two consonants to grab before dipping into the vowels.
If a contestant lands on the Million Dollar Wedge, and then successfully calls a consonant, solves the puzzle for the round, never spins Bankrupt for the rest of the game, has the most money at the end of the game, lands on the million dollar envelope on the bonus wheel, and solves the bonus round puzzle, he wins a million dollars. While the Million Dollar wedge makes for exciting television, it is not exceptionally valuable.
The number of hurdles that a player has to jump through to actually win the million dollars plus the fact that it is an annuity drops the wedge’s expected value to $5,000 or so, though it becomes more valuable later in the game since you will have fewer spins remaining to hit a Bankrupt. Imagine you had $2,000, hit the Mystery wedge, and called a letter that appeared three times in the puzzle.
New to the current season, the Express allows contestants to call consonants (worth $1,000 each) and buy vowels without having to spin the wheel. You might wind up Bankrupt, but it is unlikely you will solve the puzzle if you forfeit control over the round anyway.
Also, don’t solve the puzzle if you haven’t called all the consonants in it: Otherwise, you’ll be leaving free money on the table. For some unfathomable reason, three contestants have abruptly stopped to solve prematurely.
The Free Play wedge allows a player to choose any letter without losing his turn if that letter is not in the puzzle; vowels are free and consonants reward the player with $500 apiece. You will maintain your turn even if you are wrong, and the more common letters will still be around when you must take a risk.
The Wild Card allows players to replicate the value of their previous spin or spend it during the bonus round to call an extra consonant. Wild cardholders win the bonus round 7.35% more frequently than non-holders.
With the bonus round paying out roughly $37,000 on average, the Wild Card’s added value is about $2,700. Thus, even the overall leader should often use the Wild Card to match a big value spin like $5,000 rather than save it for the bonus round.
Perhaps they are worried that spinning again could result in Bankrupt or Lose a Turn, depriving them of guaranteed money. Indeed, Wheel of Fortune “’s house minimum ensures you will receive $1,000 even if you solve without any money.
So a person who solves a puzzle for $1,000 and does not accumulate any other money on the show wins the same amount as people who hit Bankrupt every time they spin the wheel. Many games are won by the player who solved Round 3’s prize puzzle simply because the prize adds an extra $7,000 or more to the player’s overall score, which smokes opponents who are consistently solving for the $1,000 pittance.
Solving with a minimal amount of money protects your lead and keeps you on track for the bonus round. Although the producers want the players to win some time, they have a vested interest in keeping costs down.
Second, the producers know historically which letters players tend to select more often. Wheel of Fortune is very generous in how much time you take to call the letters.
And given that the “free” letters in the bonus round are RST LNE, you’d assume these are the most common. Depending on the source, the most common letters in the English language, in order, are ETAOINSRHL or EARIOTNSLC.
And to solve the puzzle, filling in the blanks with correct vowels is infinitely helpful. You might also notice that even though the dollar values on the wheel have gone up over the years, the cost for buying a vowel has remained the same: $250.
Naturally, one of the keys to winning Scrabble is getting a good handle on the rules and the bonuses. The same is true with Wheel of Fortune rules and winning on the game show.
It is absolutely worth the risk, because you get to control the board without passing your turn onto your opponents. Just like calling out common letters first, adhering to this rule sounds obvious enough.
However, there was at least one well-known instance in 2019 where a contestant lost out because she mistakenly added an extra word. The puzzle was a crossword consisting of four words: right, football, left, Sally.
The Wheel of Fortune rules state that contestants get $1,000 if they have less than that in the current round. Instead, it’s worth giving the wheel a spin for the opportunity to grow your winnings.
If you have the overall lead, but one of your opponents is sitting on a lot of cash in round 3, you should solve so toucan win the overall game. Even if you never get to experience the thrill of appearing on national television, toucan still enjoy the rush of competition.
Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and Wi-Fi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.
Pat Speak and Anna White have been household names since they debuted on Wheel of Fortune in the early 1980s. Decades later, the iconic game show is as popular as ever with fans tuning in from across the country.
Contestants spin the wheel in order to establish a monetary value for every correctly guessed letter. A puzzle is displayed with a category, and the most commonly guessed letters are revealed as a head start.