When you see “__cke_,” it’s “Hockey,” not “Bucket.”

Remember a month or so ago when I attended a tryout for Wheel of Fortune at the Saratoga Casino Hotel?

Yeah.  I tried out.  I didn’t get picked to play the game on stage, and that was fine.  It’s not like they were going to send me an e-mail and ask me to try out again, with the possibility of actually making the television show.

Well … that happened.

Sure enough, I received an e-mail – I was randomly chosen from all the entries to try out one more time at the Casino, and this time the tryouts would lead to an opportunity to appear on the big game show.


Okay, let’s get back in “game show tryout mode.”  As you know from reading my blog for any considerable amount of time, I’ve tried out for Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and a couple of other game shows.  I’ve gotten close – but never close enough to appear on the broadcast.  That being said, I figured I’d give this Wheel of Fortune thing one more try.  Even though glorified Hangman is not my forte, I’d at least try it one more time.

At the tryouts, I ran into an old trivia opponent – Rich Vehlow.  Here’s the thing.  Rich and I go back a long, long way.  We started out as fierce competitors – when I first played competitive team trivia a decade ago at the old Crossgates Mall Hooters, he once wanted me to join his trivia team.  I was happy as a one-man squad at the time (and a plate of 60 wings for first place can really fill a man up), so, I wasn’t interested in joining another team.  He decided to clown me by renaming his team the “Street Sweepers,” as a dig at my Street Academy trivia name.  We battled off and on for a few months, then he went to play other trivia matches.  We remained cordial throughout the years, and it was nice to see him at the tryouts yesterday.

We talked about getting prepared for a show like this.  It was then that I noticed – he was missing something.

All the attendees – including myself – had a pre-printed formal application and a photographed headshot.

Rich did not.

“Where’s your application?”  I asked him.

“What do you mean?”

“Right here,” I showed him mine.  “You have to give this to the staffer when you check into the room.”

He quickly checked his cell phone for the acceptance e-mail that he – and all of us – received.  On that e-mail was a link to print out the contestant questionnaire.


Okay, Chuck, there’s no time to gloat.  You can’t hold the “Street Sweepers” slight from twelve years ago against him at this point in time.  “Dude,” I said, “go over to the hotel lobby, they have a business computer station there.  Get the form printed out and fill in the info and get back here before they bring us into the conference room.”

Fifteen minutes later, he returned to the group, printed white sheets of paper in his hand.  He was able to get an application printed out, as well as a printout of a quickly-captured cell-phone headshot.

Yeah.  It wouldn’t be right to bounce someone on a technicality like that.

We were led into the conference room.  Our names were taken, and we played simulated Wheel of Fortune games.  Everyone had at least two chances to play a traditional Wheel of Fortune game, complete with spins.

One game involved a crossword puzzle-style game, with all four words referencing “ice.”  Three of the words were revealed, all that was left was __CKE_.

Finally, my name was called.  I immediately said “B”.


Yep, I did the cardinal sin of Wheel of Fortune.  I called a letter that was already used.  Sit down and shut up, Miller.

A few minutes later, Rich was called.  He asked for a “Y”.

“Y” was there.

He solved the puzzle and won a souvenir prize.

Good for him.

Eventually, I received one more chance to play the game.  There was a phrase that had the last word of _OO-O__  I quickly checked the board.  “T” was still an available letter.  “T” is the most common consonant in the English language.

I thought that might be “COOK-OUT.”

So I said “T”.


Someone else figured out the word was “COOK-OFF.”  Sit down and shut up, Miller.

We then were handed a test – several unfinished puzzles, and we had to fill in as many of the puzzle answers as we could.

And can I say this … the puzzle was hard.  HARD.  H__D.

Eventually the Wheel of Fortune staff finished grading the papers, and came back to let us know which people they wanted for a second interview.

They did not pick me.  And I’m not surprised.  I really wasn’t that good at the game, I played it wrong, and I would have been a very bad fit for the show.

But they did select Rich for a second interview.

And if I know Rich, he’ll make it to the show eventually.

So good on him, congratulations, and I hope he makes a lot of money.

And even if I didn’t make the show … at least I did a “nice” by making sure Rich didn’t get blocked from the program on a technicality.

Trust me, you take your wins where they come.