Semi-retired poker pro Alex Jacob has helped a “Wheel of Fortune” contestant to be awarded an Audi Q3 subcompact after the contestant hesitated during the show’s final bonus round while piecing together the correct answer. A recent episode’s winning player, Charlene Rubush, had apparently lost the Audi on a technicality despite slowly piecing together the puzzle, and Jacob, a game-show enthusiast (and prominent former “Jeopardy!” contestant) himself, mounted an ultimately successful publicity campaign on Twitter.
Jacob posted video from the episode on Tuesday, writing “Come on @WheelofFortune, the woman literally chose the right word. Give her the car.”:
The video clip showed Rubush quickly identifying the first word, “Choosing”, in the clue category “What are you doing?” But Rubush briefly struggled with the final word, first going with “card.” Then she tried again, and put together “Choosing the right… word,” but with several seconds elapsing between “right” and “word,” which Rubush said just before the 10-second buzzer.
“Fortune” host Pat Sajak, who was in constant contact with the show’s producers and judges, quickly denied Rubush’s answer. “You know, this one’s tough because you said all the right words, including the word ‘word’ but, as you know, it’s gotta be more or less continuous,” said Sajak. “We’ll allow for a little pause but not four or five seconds. I’m sorry. You did a good job in getting it, but we can’t give you the prize, and it was the Audi.”
Jacob and others apply social-media pressure
The show’s decision to deny Rubush the Audi led to immediate social-media backlash. Jacob was merely one of the most prominent posters, and his post drew over 2,100 retweets, over 1,500 quote Tweets, and nearly 20,000 likes. Other poker players were among those who joined the protest against “Wheel of Fortune”:
The long-running “Wheel of Fortune” has a reputation for being both very strict and quite arbitrary regarding the way contestants provide their answer. Worse and though few of the commenters noticed, the answer format as provided by WoF was in error; it should have been “Choosing the right words,” in the plural form.
Meanwhile, Rubush languished, and for longer than it took for the controversy to play out. The episode would have been filmed days or weeks earlier, long before its Tuesday airing. Rubush still had $16,300 in cash winnings for her performance on the show, but it still left many viewers angry and disappointed.
Audi steps in, awards Rubush SUV
In the end, it wasn’t “Wheel of Fortune” who relented, but Audi itself, which is one of the show’s sponsors and which offered the car as a prize. Just hours after the controversy erupted, Audi posted on Twitter that it would award Rubush the subcompact SUV, responding directly to Jacob’s Tweet:
The decision gives Audi positive spin from the controversy, while “Wheel of Fortune” is unlikely to issue a statement of its own, instead quietly going along with its sponsor’s wishes.
Jacob, best known in poker for his victory in the 2006 U.S. Poker Championship, has won more that $2.6 million in live poker tournaments. He was also no stranger to controversy during his own game-show run, though of a different type. During his five-episode “Jeopardy!” winning streak in 2015, he employed an aggressive strategy called the “Forrest Bounce,” in which he jumped all over the board, seeking the coveted “Daily Double” squares. Jacob also hyped up the aggression when he hit those Daily Doubles, betting large amounts while trying to put his opponents in quick, early holes.
Jacob’s strategy failed in his sixth episode, though he can back to win Jeopardy!’s 2015 Tournament of Champions for another $250,000. And his adapted “bounce” strategy was employed to even greater success by another former (online) poker pro, James Holzhauer, who appeared on the show in 2019 and became one of the show’s all-time champions. Jacob’s own “@whoisalexjacob” Twitter handle immortalizes his own game-show experiences.
Featured image source: Wheel of Fortune