Ferndale 'Jeopardy' winner takes encore prize on 'Wheel of Fortune'
Jason Idalski already has plans for the $68,416 in cash and prizes he won on "Wheel of Fortune" on an episode that aired Tuesday.
He wants to pay off the house he bought in Ferndale after earning $37,998 in second-place winnings from a three-episode appearance on "Jeopardy!" in 2013.
"That'll be most of it," Idalski said Wednesday. "And then my car is still at about 160,000-some miles, so I've been saving up to buy a new one, and then the rest will probably be taxes."
In the "Wheel of Fortune" episode that was filmed Oct. 11, Idalski won an initial $23,750 and a trip to Hawaii valued at $7,666 after solving several puzzles, then added another $37,000 in a bonus round, for a total of $68,416.
The 36-year-old credits his success to an unusual mix of interests and a lifelong love of game shows, which honed his skill at solving puzzles.
He's also had a bit of luck, starting with both shows visiting Detroit, where he auditioned. He took an online test required to compete on "Jeopardy!" in 2013, the same year the show came to Detroit to recruit contestants. After passing the quiz, he was invited for an audition at the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel.
Then, earlier this year, he learned on social media that the "Wheel of Fortune" Wheelmobile was in town on a recruiting tour.
"The Wheelmobile event was held over the weekend in late May, and that Tuesday I got an email saying, 'Hey, you've been selected for an in-person audition,' " he said, adding the audition also was in Detroit.
"I think there were about a hundred people there; it took most of the morning."
Idalski found "Jeopardy!" a lot more difficult than "Wheel of Fortune," he said.
"You can do well on word puzzles and nothing else, and still do well on 'Wheel of Fortune,' " he said. "But if you're on Jeopardy! and you have a narrow skill set you're not going to do very well."
Idalski grew up in Warren and graduated from Center Line High School in 2001.
Then he graduated from Eastern Michigan University, where he majored in journalism, mathematics and economics, in a mix of interests in arts and sciences.
"I think its one of the reasons I'm good at solving puzzles," he said. "My job is very analytical, as is 'Wheel and Jeopardy!,' so I think there is some overlap there, but I don't know how much."