Robert Santoli is one of the most masterful contestants “Wheel of Fortune” has ever seen. Some say he’s still out there, studying blank word puzzles and going over past phrases used on the show. Pat Sajak himself was taken aback by Robert’s performance.
In 2016, the 23-year old Yorktown, New York native finally made it on to “Wheel of Fortune.” He had been trying to get on the show for years and spent that time preparing himself for absolute word dominance.
According to TapInto.net, the contestants were told that their episode was going to be affiliated with Carnival Cruise Lines. And it would be themed as such.
“The instant I got my theme, I immediately came up with an ever-growing list of puzzles themed towards cruises, sailing, fish, boats—anything on or in the water,” Robert told the news outlet in 2016.
His research was not in vain. Robert won everything in the first round. And he was so prepared that he solved a puzzle with only a single letter showing.
This ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Contestant Doesn’t Need Letters to Solve Puzzles
Robert deciphered the nearly blank puzzle immediately, stunning Pat Sajak, who thought he had buzzed in a little too early.
“As soon as I saw that ‘Places’ was the category, I had a hunch and then I saw four blanks, an ampersand (&) and nine blanks, and my face just lit up,” Robert said in 2016.
Port & Starboard was the answer. And yes, it was on his list of nautically themed phrases. Robert went on to win every single puzzle but one. His performance was so dominant that it prompted Pat Sajak to pull him aside during a commercial break and tell him to let the other contestants play.
By the time the regular game finished, Robert had racked up $31,000. But he wasn’t done yet. With another fast guess, Robert solved the bonus round puzzle and raked in a haul of $76,000, including two cruises, cementing his legendary “Wheel of Fortune” status.
“I know I look like a bit of a dork on the show with my high-pitched ‘Yeahs!’ and my childish jumping up and down after winning the Bonus Round, but I was really, to quote the Round 4 puzzle, ‘Living in the Moment,’” I was so anxious when on the stage,” he told TapInto in 2016. “I was shaking the whole time, first out of nervousness, then out of excitement once I kept solving puzzles. I got those same feelings when I finally watched the episode on TV.”