‘Wheel of Fortune’: The Sly Way Pat Sajak Always Knows Frequency of Chosen Letters in Puzzles

by John Jamison

On “Wheel of Fortune,” Pat Sajak knows all. Or it seems like he does, at least. But how does the longtime host manage all of the puzzle answers on the show?

One would think Pat Sajak has all of the answers on the cards he carries around with him. But contrary to popular belief, the cue cards are just for information about contestants. In reality, Pat has a secret monitor that shows him all of the information he needs about the puzzle itself.

In the old days, the show would dedicate a person to signal Sajak from off-camera. They held up a number of fingers to represent how many times that letter appeared in the puzzle.

“They came to be known as ‘finger boys,’ because someone would say, ‘Are there any Bs?'” Sajak said. “And someone would have the puzzle in front of them and go [holds up two fingers], and I would say, ‘There are two Bs!'”

Thankfully, modern technology has saved the current production crew members from being referred to as “finger boys.”

Other ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Leaps in Technology

The innovation in letter frequency alerts isn’t the only progress “Wheel of Fortune” has made. Vanna White, the longtime co-host, is often referred to as a “letter-turner,” though she hasn’t physically turned a letter since 1997.

Back in the day, Vanna had to turn a panel that would reveal a letter. Between rounds, a crew went on stage and covered the board. They would quickly swap out all of the panels for the next puzzle.

But these days, the entire board is digitized. So all Vanna has to do is tap the panel, and the letter will reveal itself. Not only has this technology upgrade saved the production countless hours of work, but it has also saved Vanna from potential mistakes.

When she was still working on the old board, Vanna accidentally turned the wrong letter over.

“I was so traumatized, I don’t remember if it was a D or an M that I turned. The puzzle was either Doctor Spock or Mister Spock,” she told Time in 2014. “Whenever they called it, I just turned the — we’ll say D — I turned it and it was an M. I was mortified. They had to throw the puzzle out.”