How Half-Beard Won Money on Wheel of Fortune



In 2004, a Wheel of Fortune came spinning my way.   I auditioned  for the gameshow on two separate days in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It was during a Wheelmobile Event/Contestant Search.  After being notified that I would be entered into the contestant pool, I knew that it would be many months until my actual taping day.  One year later I got a phone call telling me that I should head to Culver City in Los Angeles to appear on the show.

In the year between the auditions and the day that my episode was taped I developed strategies which enabled me to achieve success on the Wheel of Fortune.  Assuming that my opponents wouldn’t be preparing as I was, I reasoned that these strategies would increase my odds of winning big.  I wound up winning seven of the eight puzzles.  I believe that the steps that I took helped me win over $20,000 in cash plus a one-week trip to Aruba.

Neil takes messy notes at TBEX Europe.

Do yourself a favor and make a Wheel of Fortune contestant notebook.

Ways to Prepare for an appearance on Wheel of Fortune

Step 1: Buy a notebook and develop the mind of a puzzlemaker

I take many notes when I have a notebook, so I got a notebook specifically for the Wheel of Fortune.  As I watched episodes I recorded the puzzles and their respective categories in my notebook.  Each episode took up one page.  This gave me a chance to analyze the diversity of categories used during one individual show and to track trends over the course of that taping season.  Thanks to this method I learned that knowing the theme for that week can help you predict what a puzzle might be.  The theme for my episode’s  week was Southern Hospitality. Knowing that fact helped me guess correctly twice (Category: Food and Drink- Puzzle –A TALL GLASS OF ICED TEA- Category: TV Show- Puzzle- DESIGNING WOMEN).  

I also used one section of the notebook to create puzzles of my own based on the usual categories.   I reasoned that the writers for the show must constantly have to think of fresh puzzles and I wanted to emulate that mindset.

Our friends from Get Known English School know how to work the crowd thanks to preparation, confidence, and hours of karaoke.

Our friends from Get Known English School know how to work the crowd thanks to preparation, confidence, and hours of karaoke.

Step 2: Get in front of people 

One aspect of the Wheel of Fortune process that unnerves contestants is the fact that they have to play in front of a large studio audience.  Add this to the fact that they know that the camera sizing them up is about to broadcast their image onto millions of television screens across the USA.  This can be intimidating for many people no matter how strong their vocabulary is.  One way to counter this and turn it to your advantage is to put yourself in situations where you have to engage crowds.  I did this by starting a new career as a speaker/presenter in front of hundreds of teenaged students.  But these days you don’t need a job like that just to practice in front of people.  You can talk at local libraries on a subject you are passionate about or attend meet-up groups and address the crowd.  You can even start singing karaoke in packed bars to build your confidence and get more experience being in the spotlight.

beer and shot california

Half-Beard says that anyone who is willing to walk around with a half shaved face probably wont’t freeze up when cameras start rolling.

Step 3: Get your game face on

I’ve never been huge on playing games on computers, but my time readying for a game show appearance was an exception.  I bought and played the online version of Wheel of Fortune a few times a week.  I also became purposefully addicted to a game called Text Twist.  Melissa and I played Scrabble and I dabbled with crossword puzzles.  Again I figured my opponents wouldn’t be doing much of this.  Try to compete against people to sharpen your skills and timing and practice games with buzzers.

And don’t forget to learn the rules and categories for the current season of Wheel  of Fortune.  For example, you should familiarize the connection between a prize puzzle and the actual words in the puzzle.  The Puzzle itself gives a clue.  Most prize puzzles reward the winner with a free trip and you get the cash value of that trip added to your total.  That means that if you win the prize puzzle on any given episode of Wheel of Fortune there is a higher probability that you will make it to the bonus round.  You’d be surprised at how many contestants don’t even bother to learn the rules of the game.

Step 4: Simulate or research the game show experience

There are other ways to familiarize yourself with The Wheel if you haven’t watched it since visits to your grandmother’s house.  The show often travels on location.  If it comes near you then definitely get yourself tickets to attend.  I attended tapings at Radio City Music Hall when the show taped in New York City a season prior to my rocking the studio.  The internet is also a valuable asset.  I learned many aspects of the show and audition process by doing web searches with various target words like “how to win on Wheel of Fortune” and “former contestants Wheel of Fortune”.  I learned much from my predecessors.  Here is a link to understanding the audition process for Wheel of Fortune.

About Neil Friedman

A Wheel of Fortune winner and former motivational speaker, Neil Friedman is a freelance writer, videographer and certified teacher of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). He has journeyed to over 35 countries and 30 U.S. States and lived in various parts of New York, Japan, and South America. He is currently on a two-year trip to parts of South America, Asia, and Europe. Connect with Neil on  Google+ . Twitter: @WorldWinder and