‘Wheel of Fortune’: What’s the Most Money Ever Won on the Game Show?

by Emily Morgan

Contestants have been trying their luck behind the iconic wheel for decades on the beloved game show “Wheel of Fortune.” While many try to use their wit to win as much money as possible, only two lucky contestants have ever won more than a million dollars.

Since 1975, contestants have used their smarts to solve word puzzles, using a colorful spinning wheel to determine the amount of cash they can win. In the last twenty years, the show has awarded an average of $46,000 to $50,000 in cash and prizes per episode. However, there was one lucky winner who won much more.

Autumn Ernhard Wins Big During ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Run

In May of 2013, Autumn Ernhard won a whopping $1,030,340 when she guessed the phrase “tough workout.” Ernhard was able to win big with only four letters on the board. Ernhard, a 30-year-old animal pharmaceutical sales representative from California, luckily landed on the $1 million wedge and amazingly never found herself bankrupt during the episode.

“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak picked up the unopened envelope containing Ernhard’s possible prize and revealed her fate to her when he announced what puzzle category she would play. The final puzzle category was “Thing,” and of the letters she chose (M, P, G, A, C) and the ones given to her (R, S, T, L, N, E).

Before playing, Sajak offered her a word of encouragement. “This looks challenging to me … You have 10 seconds. Talk it out. You’re a good player. You never know,” Sajak told a nervous Ernhard. In the crowd, her dad Harold, mom Francine, and fiance Joey watched on in anticipation. Amazingly, in less than a second, Ernhard guessed the correct phrase, “Tough workout,” sealing her fate.

Shocked, Sjakak let out a “What?!” and Ernhard jumped around the stage in amazement, and then Sajak opened the mini-wheel envelope, which read: “$1 MILLION.”

After a brief celebration with her family, Sajak asked Ernhard, “How did you solve that puzzle?”

“I don’t know. ‘Cause I work out?” Ernhard hilariously quipped back. “It just popped into my head. I have no idea.”

The winnings didn’t stop there: she won an additional $30,000 in cash and prizes during earlier rounds. As a result, her grand total of winnings came to $1,030,340, making her the biggest winner in the show’s history.

Years earlier, on October 14, 2008, Michelle Loewenstein became the first million-dollar winner on the show when she won a total of $1,026,080.