Wheel of Fortune has been going strong for almost 50 years. Pat Sajak, host of the show since its inception, retired this year. Ryan Seacrest will take over starting September 2024, marking a reinvigorated energy for the long-running game show. The show involves players spinning an oversized wheel, guessing letters, and solving word-based puzzles. It’s similar to the popular pen and paper game Hangman. Wheel of Fortune has been a staple of the daytime TV circuit for decades, watched by people of all ages and families, alike.

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While most players are great at the game, there have been some epic fails throughout the show’s run. Often times, they include players who, in the heat of the moment, have delivered strange answers or missed obvious ones.

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wheel of fortune

Release Date
September 19, 1983

Cast
Pat Sajak , Vanna White , Bob Goen , Chuck Woolery , Charlie O’Donnell , Don Pardo

Main Genre
Game Show

Seasons
41

Creator(s)
Merv Griffin

10 Pat Sajak Saying “Quite Frankly” (2021)

Vanna White and Pat Sajak standing together with hands out on Wheel of Fortune.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

Host Pat Sajak didn’t mean for this blunder to happen, but the words flowed so naturally. The puzzle read “***TE *RANK*L*” and the answer was “QUITE FRANKLY.” Sajak was chatting with the player in the final segment, as he always does. He looked at the seemingly difficult puzzle with so many letters still missing and commented “Yikes! Well, I’d rather be standing here than there, quite frankly.”

Thankfully (or not), the player didn’t clue in to what Sajak had unintentionally said and was not able to solve the puzzle. Following the episode, Sajak told Vanna White on air that he realized the mistake “right after I said it. It goes to show you,” he continued, “that people are concentrating, and they’re not paying any attention to me.”

9 Mispronouncing “Achilles” (2014)

Julian from Wheel of Fortune smiling wearing an Indiana sweater.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

In an episode featuring university students, Julian Batt had a rough time, mixing his words more than once. But the worst one was when the entire puzzle answer “MYTHOLOGICAL HERO ACHILLES” was on the board, and all he had to do was read it. Admittedly, “Achilles” is a tough word to pronounce (“ahh-kill-ees”). Ironically, it became, pun intended, his Achille’s Heel.

The moment was even worse given how Julian pronounced the word: he said “aye-chillis,”. “We’ll just wipe that clean from our memory bank,” Sajak joked, comforting the upset Julian after addressing the woman who ended up solving the puzzle correctly. While Julian went on to win the episode anyway, he lost out on a huge chunk of cash because of that blunder.

8 “Flamenco Vs. Flamingo” (2018)

Pat with his hand on Jonny's back as another player looks on in Wheel of Fortune.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

The Flamenco is a type of dance and a flamingo is a bird. They are two very different things. But in this episode, Jonny Knowles mixed them up. He had $7,000 and a trip to Spain on the line and the puzzle was fully revealed, right in front of him. He was visibly upset when Sajak told him he was wrong. “What we all heard was – and I know you didn’t mean to say it, but you gave us a G instead of a C,” Sajak explained to him.

What makes this one such an epic fail is that Jonny clearly knew the answer and knew how to pronounce both words. But when the words came out of his mouth, that one just happened to come out wrong. He later appeared on Good Morning America and said he was “shocked and confused” at the time. “I was trying to figure out what had just happened. I thought I said ‘Flamenco.’ I was nervous, the nerves got the best of me. I made a mistake and it happens.” He hilariously added that, after a moment, he realized he had now become “that guy,” the Wheel of Fortune fail guy.

7 “On The Spot Decision” (2014)

Pat Sajak in between Julian and another player on Wheel of Fortune.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

Sadly, the same Julian responsible for mispronouncing “Achilles” makes the list a second time for another mishap on the same episode. It was during a rapid round this time when the letters appear quickly and the players buzz in as soon as they know the answer.

The puzzle was showing “*N-TH*-SP*T D*C*S**ON” and was clearly “ON-THE-SPOT DECISION.” When Julian buzzed in, fans braced themselves, and he delivered yet another humorously wrong answer, declaring “ON-THE-SPOT-DICESPIN.” The woman beside him looked at him in disbelief, then gave the right answer. “I don’t think anyone’s ever taken a more superfluous route to victory,” Sajak joked, arm around Julian. “But the important thing is you’re here.” Ironically enough, Julian still performed well enough to win the game and make it to the final round.

6 “Where Is Venice?” (2016)

Couples smiling on Wheel of Fortune, one woman looking embarrassed.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

This failure doesn’t have to do with a puzzle solve, but rather a conversation after a win. David and Keri solved the puzzle “GONDOLA RIDE THROUGH VENICE” and were excited about winning a big trip to the Italian city. But during the post-win conversation, Sajak decided to give them a little quiz about geography and ask if they knew where Venice is. He may have thought it was all fun and games until David answered “Paris,” which is not the country in question, nor is it a country at all.

David doubled down, however, when he confidently corrected his mistake by saying France. At least that time he named an actual country, but still didn’t get the right one. His poor wife Keri looked like she wanted to crawl away in a hole, jokingly asking Sajak if they still won the trip despite her husband’s awful knowledge of geography.

5 “Can’t Get Regis And Kelly” (2010)

A player in military wear on Wheel of Fortune.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

It was a special episode featuring military veterans. Fans were rooting for those who fought for the country to perform well, and they did. But they clearly don’t watch a lot of TV because not only one, not only two, but all three players failed to solve a puzzle. It read “REG*S P**L**N & *ELL* R*P*” which is, to anyone familiar with Live With Regis & Kelly is “REGIS PHILBIN & KELLY RIPA.”

The first contestant clearly knew who they were, but he didn’t quite get Philbin’s name right and called him “Regis Philburn.” Sajak moved to the next player, who seemingly had no idea what the answer was, despite the hint the previous player gave. He spun and guessed a “Y” which wasn’t on the board. The third player, also stumped, spent money to buy an “I” and an “A” as if to secure his guess, only to then say “Regis Philmin and Kelly Ree-pa.” It was facepalm moment for all three.

4 “Fresh Tropical Fruit” (2023)

Khushi from Wheel of Fortune looking confused.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

This moment proved that players are under tremendous pressure when the camera is on them and large sums of money are on the line. Khusi Talluru had what could only be described as a “brain fart” moment when she failed to solve what was seemingly the most obvious puzzle ever. The high schooler appeared to have it easy. The puzzle was completely solved but for one missing letter: the board showed “FRE*H TROPICAL FRUIT.” She stared what seemed like endlessly at the puzzle, unable to figure it out.

Talluru took a risk and spun again, and questioned her choice by saying “I’ll go with a G?” The audience was aghast, but Sajak came to her defense, saying “sometimes, it’s just a word that doesn’t want to come into focus.” Twitter blew up following the airing of the episode with fans asking what a “fregh” is.

3 “Puentin Tarantino” (2023)

A Wheel of Fortune puzzle reading "riving to Reno with Quentin Tarantino" with a circle inset image of a player smiling.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most revered movie directors and screenwriters around, responsible for such iconic films as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, the Kill Bill movies, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and more. Despite this, it seems there might still be people who don’t know his name.

On this episode, Rashad Jennings, a former NFL running back, was trying to solve a “Rhyme Time” puzzle. The answer was “DRIVING TO RENO WITH QUENTIN TARANTINO,” but instead of guessing a “Q’ for the missing letter, he guessed a “P.” The Internet lit up with jokes about the mysterious director known as “Puentin Tarantino.” Maybe that’s Quentin’s alter-ego from an alternate universe.

2 “Self-Potato” (2009)

Three Wheel of Fortune players with the woman on the left buzzing in to answer.
Sony Pictures Television 

The puzzle showed “S*LF-PO*T***T” and Lolita McAuley seemed completely stuck. In her defense, it was during a speed round so letters were appearing randomly and quickly, making it easy to mix them up and their positioning. But when she buzzed in and answered “self-potato,” she immediately realized that what she said made no sense. She even apologized for the blunder while grimacing.

What makes the moment even more hilarious is that McAuley was a teacher. She jokingly asked Sajak if she could “walk off now,” to which he denied her request. McAuley later blamed the vocal blunder on stage fright, according to The New York Times. She said she didn’t think she had buzzed in first, and when she was called on, her mind went blank. “Even after it fell out of my mouth, I wish I could just go and hide.” However, McAuley has taken the mistake in stride, noting that she would show the clip to her students for a good laugh. If nothing else, it’s a great lesson that everyone makes mistakes.

1 “Right In The Butt” (2024)

Three Wheel of Fortune players with the man on the left buzzing in.
Image via Sony Pictures Television 

A recent fail has become the funniest in the show’s history. Tavaris was a very enthusiastic player, but one of his quick answers showed a bit too much enthusiasm. The puzzle displayed “**** I* T*E B**T!” and the answer was “THIS IS THE BEST.” Usually, Wheel of Fortune is a kid-friendly game show, but Tavaris was so confident when he answered “RIGHT IN THE BUTT.” Sajak wasn’t sure how to reply, quietly collecting himself after declaring that answer was wrong. He joked that the team behind-the-scenes would “figure out a way to handle that tastefully” in the editing process.

Twitter was calling for Tavaris to be added to the game show’s Hall of Fame for the hilarious moment. He later appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where he told the late-night talk show host that he was “spreading a lot of smiles around the world.” He even said he goes up to random people and shows them the video to help make their day. “They just break out laughing; it is great.”

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