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Secrets of the Wheel: Local Contestants share tips, tricks on how to win big on popular game show

If you are a regular "Wheel of Fortune" viewer, you may have noticed that Wisconsin is on a bit of a hot streak.

Since the start of the year, local contestants have walked away with close to a half-million dollars - and that's not even counting all the trips they won.

Recently CBS 58 News spoke with four recent contestants: Kelsi Gard from Mequon, Brent Maynard from Franklin, and Megan Horne and Sarah Sterling - both from Milwaukee.

In fact, Sarah's episode aired on Monday night.

They represent only 1/5 of the Wisconsin contestants who have been on the show so far this year. They've been cleaning up, and coming home to share some of the secrets of 'The Wheel'.

For a bunch of local contestants, the trip to the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City California started at auditions like the recent ones at the Oak Creek Steinhafels.

"I tried out for the Wheelmobile. I was not picked so I was kind of surprised when I got a letter that said congratulations you've been selected," Kelsi Gard said.

WHEEL CONTESTANTS FOR WEB from CBS 58 News on Vimeo.

"I got the bug through my fiance who was on before me. So I decided, if she can do it, I can do it," Brent Maynard said.

The group of contestants all had varying levels of success on the show but their experiences had some surprising similarities.

"I can remember the details of the entire day leading up to when they said camera rolling. And then I just put on a smile and hoped for the best," Megan Horne said.

"Fastest 23 minutes of my life. I'm telling you I don't remember a minute of it," Horne said.

"It's just 100 miles an hour all day long," Maynard said.

"It just went by in the blink of an eye. I think there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes that you don't see at home," Sarah Sterling said.

For Sarah, she started learning the unknowns before ever getting to set. Number 1: contestants have to pay their own way (travel, hotel) to be on the show. Number 2: the production shoots six episodes on a single day (at least in the experience of the four contestants). And Megan Horne explains Number 3:

"Was anyone else surprised at how heavy that wheel was? I never once made it more than 2/3rds of the way around. I think I almost broke a finger at one point," Horne said.

"They actually yelled at me to try to spin it harder because my spins were so...," Sterling said.

"...Sad?" Horne added.

"So if you're spinning 3/4 of the way around or you said 2/3, and if all of a sudden you go a whole circle around - they know that's not how you spin. So there's a crew of 5 or 6 people around watching," Maynard said.

The crew is not just looking for cheating either.

"They tell you from where you're standing to project your voice all the way across the studio to Vanna at the letterboard," Horne said.

"That puzzle board fills your entire periphery. That puzzle board is large and it fills your entire frame of vision. So when you're looking at it you kind of have to move your head in order to read the whole thing," Gard said.

"It's almost uncomfortable how loud you gotta scream," Maynard said.

He also says he had a particularly rough moment.

"I misread a word. I dropped an 's' on 'bananas' and it was 'banana'. So of course when I got back to work and everybody saw it, there was a lot of bananas at my job site," Maynard said.

But all of them walked away with money. In fact, every contestant gets a least a thousand bucks.

"I won $17,400," Horne said.

"I totaled about $19,400," Sterling said.

"I ended up with $5,600," Maynard said.

"I won just shy of $70,000 all cash with the exception of a trip to Europe," Gard said.

Gard - even as the big winner - she says the experience wasn't without stress.

"I almost called a letter out when I spun bankrupt on my very first spin because I had no idea what I spun," Gard said.

The group also discussed some of the better-known, open secrets of the show.

"[Vanna] never wears the same dress twice. And all her shoes are hers," Horne said.

...but they say the biggest surprise was the machinery and the speed of it all. Producers expect you choose a letter within three seconds.

"There are no retakes. When there's a commercial, you step off of the wheel for a makeup touch-up, a drink of water, a pep talk, then you get out and go," Maynard said.

"You'll never look at bananas the same again," Horne said.

"Nope, and actually I'm having banana cake at my wedding," Maynard said to laughs.

Another interesting aspect of this is there are typically three people - alternates - who live in the area and come to the show just in case a contestant gets sick or backs out at the last moment which apparently does happen occasionally.

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