In October 2019, Leewood K-8 teacher and Palmetto Bay resident Jessie Rebhan was serving as caregiver to her grandmother.
“We were watching games shows from 9 a.m. to 9 at night and a commercial came on Wheel of Fortune asking for people to audition to be contestants,” explained Jessie.
A few days later, Jessie and her father found themselves driving to the Miccosukee Resort and met the Wheelmobile with 500 other people to try-out.
“Neither one of our names was picked out of the ‘golden drum’ and I thought, oh well, it’s not meant to be…but man I couldn’t have been more wrong!”
Three days later, Jessie had a feeling she should check her email for junk. In there, she found a deleted email from Wheel of Fortune asking her to come back for an audition. She arrived to join 50 other would-be candidates and got to play a mock Wheel game and took a 5-minute written test.
“It was funny because I asked what we should do if we finished early,” explained Jessie. ”They laughed [because no one ever does] and said I could drink some tea.”
In the end, Jessie did finish early. She was the only one to do so.
Even so, the Wheel staff came back after grading the papers and only kept a handful of people. Jessie wasn’t one of them.
“I’m a very superstitious person, and I just kept telling myself it was still going to happen for me! So, for the next week I would tell myself the weirdest things, like if you leave the radio on a particular station all day, you’re going to get picked for the show, or if you throw this crumpled-up piece of paper across the classroom and make it, you’re going to get picked.”
A week later, while in a school staff meeting, Jessie got a Wheel of Fortune email congratulating her for being selected as a contestant. “I think I screamed and then ran outside like a crazy woman to quickly call and let them know I definitely could make the December 12th taping date.”
Jessie and her husband Gator flew out to Culver City, leaving their three kids behind with family and friends. “Looking back at it I’m so glad we didn’t bring the kids. There was NO WAY they would have all kept their mouths shut about the outcome!”
On Jessie’s flight to California, she studied special puzzle books. Final Puzzles from America’s Game helped her learn different letter combinations and she also watched as many episodes of Wheel as possible. She noticed how the writers were using rare letters like J, X, and Z in recent weeks. Ultimately, that would set her up for her big win.
Upon arrival, Jessie’s superstition luck continued.
“They gave us lockers to put our belongings in, and they handed me a key with the #23 on it – my lucky number. Then we chose our positions (or colors) and I was selected to be in the middle, the yellow spot, and guess what my favorite color is? You guessed it. Yellow!”
Yes, from retrieving a deleted email to getting her favorite color and number, this was going to be Jessie’s day.
After winning the game against the other contestants, it was on to the Bonus Round where only 4 of the 13 letters appeared in the 3-word puzzle answer to ‘What are you doing?’
Host Pat Sajak knew it was nearly impossible to solve and said, “It looks daunting to me, but you know, you have 10 seconds. Good luck!”
Only _ _ _ _ N_ / _ / _ _ _CER faced Jessie when she answered: BUYING A JUICER!! She did it in just 5 seconds. Everyone was stunned. Her answer will go down in Wheel of Fortune history and Sajak memorialized the moment by saying, “I don’t understand this game! It makes no sense at all.” (see it at https://youtu.be/a__6HSJ4_Kg)
Having won $52,328 and a trip to Barbados, Jessie’s next challenge was to hide the news from everyone until the show aired on February 6th.
“We held a watch party at the Hole in the Wall at King’s Creek with family, my fellow Leewood staffers and many of the families from the Miami Stingrays softball organization (she and her husband own the Stingrays). I feel like a celebrity!” explained Jessie. “They played my win on Good Morning America and with YouTube, people have seen my puzzle solve all over the world and are calling it the greatest solve ever. Pretty cool!”
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