‘Wheel of Fortune’: Why Contestants Rarely Ask for the Same Letter Twice

There are very few television game shows that have managed to stand the test of time. Wheel of Fortune is one of those TV shows that has stuck around for decades and has somehow managed to become even more popular as the years have gone on.

Wheel of Fortune follows a simple formula, but one that is very effective. Fans are endlessly curious about the show and love learning behind the scenes secrets — including the intriguing reason why contestants on the show rarely choose the same letter more than once. 

‘Wheel of Fortune’ is a television standard

'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak
‘Wheel of Fortune’ host Pat Sajak | Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Wheel of Fortune first debuted on television in 1975. Created by the television giant Merv Griffin (who also created TV shows like Jeopardy!) the show went through a series of format changes over the years, all the way up until the early nineties when it settled into the format that most viewers today are familiar with.

From the beginning, the show has been very popular with viewers. These days, generations of fans have grown up with the show, and thousands of people have grown up watching it during lazy afternoons on the couch — or screamed with excitement from the studio audience on set. 

Wheel of Fortune is known as one of the best game shows of all time and has won numerous awards and honors. Still, the fact that so many people still keep up with the show is arguably its greatest contribution to the world of television. 

Why do fans love ‘Wheel of Fortune’?

RELATED: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Fans Couldn’t Handle This NSFW Phrase

In 1981, Wheel of Fortune added Pat Sajak as the host, which boosted the show to the next level of popularity. Sajak, a former weatherman and broadcast reporter, was perfectly suited to hosting the show, and has been at the helm ever since, along with his co-host, Vanna White. In 2019, Sajak was honored by being named the longest-running game show host for the same show. 

Along with Pat Sajak, fans love the colorful elements of Wheel of Fortune, including the always-exciting prize wheel and the simple, yet innovative format that manages to keep viewers hooked from beginning to end.

With over seven thousand episodes of Wheel of Fortune that have been filmed, and no end in sight, it seems as though countless other generations will continue to grow up knowing and loving the iconic theme music. 

Why do contestants on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ rarely ask for the same letter twice?

In spite of the controversy that inevitably follows any successful game show or game of chance, Wheel of Fortune has remained relatively unscathed over the years, with its reputation firmly intact.

The show employs several ways to keep things fair as well as interesting for contestants, says Screen Rant, including the use of a “dummy screen.” In fact, in order to keep contestants from asking for the same letter twice, showrunners place a dummy screen in front of each contestant when they are playing.

 The dummy screen shows the current category and blanks out all the letters that have been guessed already, including vowels and consonants. Contestants aren’t the only ones with a dummy screen, however — Pat Sajak has his own dummy screen, which tells him how many of each letter is on the board.

This helps him to announce things more smoothly and keeps him from having to count the lit-up squares. It seems as though Wheel of Fortune is the best of both worlds, a well-oiled machine behind the scenes and an unpredictable romp for viewers both at home and in the studio.