Valerie Lau, born and raised in Sunnyvale, was the main winner on Wheel of Fortune’s April 30 show. During the bonus round, Lau solved the puzzle by calling out the winning phrase “Lavish Banquet” in the events category.
The show, featuring Pat Sajak and Vanna White, recognized the San Francisco Bay Area as one of the “Great American Cities” and spotlighted puzzle-solving Bay Area contestants during the week of April 27 through May 1.
The show Lau competed in was taped on March 12 in Culver City at the Sony Pictures Studios, shortly before California was put on shelter in place.
“The shelter in place order wasn’t put in place until the following Monday,” Lau said. “Prior to the filming, I received a call from the contestant coordinator. She let me know that we would not be filming in front of a studio audience. But each contestant can bring up to four people — family and friends — to watch the taping. I brought my husband, son and parents.”
“They had us sign some paperwork to attest that we haven’t been out of the country and we haven’t been ill prior to the taping,” Lau continued. “They also said that we would not have physical contact with Pat or Vanna. Usually, after a player wins a round, Pat would come over to shake their hand. But this time, Pat would not be shaking hands.”
During the game, Lau remained optimistic in spite of setbacks.
“I had three bankrupts spinning the wheel, one in each of the first three rounds,” Lau said. “I knew that I had won the first two rounds. So I was feeling pretty good. The third bankrupt was a heart breaker because I had over $9,000 in that round. I didn’t let it get me down. I was grateful to be on the show in the first place.”
At the beginning of the game, Lau solved one of the toss-ups, where contestants can hit their buzzers to solve a puzzle as letters appear in front of them. She went on to solve a number of other puzzles too. The money that Lau won by solving the puzzle with the winning phrase “Sharing Photos Online” secured her place as the show’s main winner with a total of $17,200 in winnings.
Lau had 10 seconds to solve her final puzzle in the bonus round. After she called out the winning phrase, Sajak announced that she had won $37,000 in cash.
“My family ran on stage to hug me,” Lau said. “I won a grand total of $54,200 in cash for that night.”
“Because of the pandemic, my family and I know that a lot of families are struggling,” Lau continued. “After my win, we already made a donation to one of my favorite charities, Sunnyvale Community Services. I am not due to receive my check for another three to four months. I don’t have big plans for the rest of the money yet.”