‘Wheel of Fortune’: How Many Times Has a Contestant Won a Million Dollars?

by Keeli Parkey

“Wheel of Fortune” has been entertaining television audiences for more than four decades. The show’s popularity is undeniable and it has become part of American pop culture. And during its run, the game show has awarded countless dollars in prizes.

But, do you know how many of the numerous contestants who have appeared on “Wheel of Fortune’ have walked away with the major prize of $1 million? Given how long the show has been on the air, that number if fewer than you might think.

According to an article on Radio.com, there have been on three – count it three – contestants who have won $1 million on “Wheel of Fortune.”

The first to win such a significant amount of money was Michelle Loewenstein. She reportedly won $1,026,080 during 2008. Loewenstein appeared on the show not long following her return from her honeymoon. It’s safe to bet that she found good use for that money during her married life. According to the article, “leaky faucet” was the solution to the last puzzle of her episode.

Loewenstein held the record for the most money won by a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” until 2013. That year, according to Radio.com, contestant Autumn Ernhard won $1,030,340. She won the money by solving a puzzle with the phrase “tough workout.” She had also won $30,000 in other prizes during her episode.

The third and final $1 million winner was Sarah Manchester. She won her $1,017,490 earnings during 2014. Manchester, who was a math teacher at the time, won her money while appearing on “Teacher’s Week” on “Wheel of Fortune.” The solution to her puzzle was “loud laughter,” according to the article.

When another contestant will join the $1 million club remains to be seen.

First Episode of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Was Very Different Than the Show Today

The current format of “Wheel of Fortune” is very familiar to its fans. You have the wheel, host Pat Sajak, the lovely Vanna White, and there are phrases such as, “I’d like to solve the puzzle.” However, the show as we know it today is very different from how it appeared in its very first episode.

What current fans of the game show might not know is that when the show we now know as “Wheel of Fortune” debuted in 1975 it was not called “Wheel of Fortune.” According to an article on Looper.com, the show was first known as “Shopper’s Bazaar.”

The format of the show was also different in when it debuted in 1975. Contestants chose what prizes they would buy with the money they won at the start of the episodes. Also, the wheel was vertical and players didn’t spin it. In fact, the players didn’t stand next to the wheel. Instead, they stood near the prizes they said they wanted.

Also, the board that showed the words wasn’t as big or as fancy as it would become as the years went on. There was also no one doing Vanna White’s job. The letters were turned by an individual who did not appear on camera.

Maybe most noticeably, neither Pat Sajak nor Vanna White were in the first episode of the game show. “Shopper’s Bazaar” was hosted by Chuck Woolery, according to the article.