Biggest Wheel of Fortune Winners & Other Records on the Show – 2024 Update

Arsenii Anderson
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Top Wheel of Fortune Winners

It’s not far off to say that Wheel of Fortune (WOF) has been one of America’s sweethearts for the last four decades. This show has become so popular that a spin-off, Celebrity WOF, even started airing in 2021 on the ABC network.

The show even has various WOF branded slots available at authorized online NJ casinos, should players wish to try their luck. However, gambling responsibly and only betting money you can afford to lose is key. However, in all the years that this game show aired, there’s only been three million-dollar winners. Join us as we discuss all of the highest Wheel of Fortune winnings.

What’s Wheel of Fortune?

WOF is an American game show that allows contestants to win massive winnings. The game lets contestants participate in tossup rounds where the first player to guess the solution wins. They can spin a wheel to get a consonant, buy a vowel for $250, or solve a puzzle.

Some prizes include cash, cars, houses, vacation trips, and the elusive $1 million prize money. Over the years, the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, and its amazing wins aren’t just restricted to the game show.

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The Hosts and History Behind It

The hosts of Wheel of Fortune

WOF Hosts, Vanna White and Pat Sajak, Image: IMDb

This show debuted in 1981 on network daytime television. Its syndicated version was released in 1983, and Pat Sajak has been its host since the start. Sajak has always been a personality fit for TV. While in the army and on tour in Vietnam as part of the Armed Forces Radio, he started his daily show yelling, “Good Morning Vietnam!”

The other iconic host is Vanna White, who joined in 1982. She’s been with the show for the last 40 years, as with Sajak, and has, incredibly, never worn the same outfit twice! All jokes aside, she has started a line of yarn named “Vanna’s Choice” and dedicates some of its proceedings to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

However, the hosts of this show don’t just stand around amazed and clapping for no reason when the biggest Wheel of Fortune winner appears. It’s also won them various records.

WOF Records

Part of the show’s success is the Wheel of Fortune records that its hosts hold. Pat Sajak holds the Guinness World Record as the longest game show host for the same show. After having the job for 35 years and 198 days, he achieved that record. By now, he’s held the job for about 43 years, cementing his record.

Meanwhile, Vanna White holds a record as the, wait for it, most frequent clapper! You heard that right, folks. She’s the holder of the Guinness World Record for clapping the most, and it’s estimated that by February 9th, 2015, she’d clapped around 3,721,446 times. Considering that it’s been almost a decade since we can be sure no one can outclap her.

Top 10 Wheel of Fortune Winners

Besides being a fun game variation of Hangman, this show boasts some high winnings. Besides the biggest winner on Wheel of Fortune, we also look at the other top nine places, which include the million-dollar winners. For clarity’s sake, we only consider the original game show, not the new Celebrities version that came out.

The Three Million-Dollar Winners

The $1 million prize has only been won three times, making each instance significant:

  • October 14th, 2008 – Michelle Loewenstein: $1,026,080;
  • May 30th, 2013 – Autumn Erhard: $1,030,340;
  • September 17th, 2014 – Sarah Manchester: $1,017,490.

Loewenstein made history as the first-ever contestant to win $1 million. She solved the “leaky faucet” puzzle with the clue “lea** *a*cet” and landed on the $1 million envelope when spinning the wheel earlier. Her husband, Donald, even joked about getting a new dog beforehand. Safe to say, they’ll be able to get that pup.

Erhard was the second person to win $1 million but is also the person with the most money won on Wheel of Fortune. This win boosted her to $1,030,340 after racking up $30,340 before the bonus puzzle. She guessed the “tough workout” solution in an incredible twist of events. After choosing her consonants and vowels and even getting an extra consonant through her wild card, her initial clue of “t**** **r***t” only got an additional “g” to help her along. Still, like she was fated for that massive prize, her first guess was right.

Lastly, Manchester was the third person to win the elusive million-dollar prize. She’s a Maryland math teacher who schooled the competition during the show’s Teacher’s Week. Her initial clue was “l*** l****ter,” but with her smart consonant and vowel choices, she got the clue to “lo*d l**ghter,” which any school kid can solve. With her kids running onto the stage and her husband not far behind, confetti came down on them as they celebrated the winnings.

Other Significant Wins

While there were only three million-dollar winners, there have been various other exceptional winners. Below, we look at the fourth through tenth place winners and what they won:

  • April 2021 – Laura Trammel: A house worth $375k, with $23k in previous winnings;
  • December 2012 – Cindy Kling: $147,000;
  • March 2021 – Scott Kolbrenner: $145,000;
  • May 2022 – Jinger Lough: $131,000;
  • February 2022 – Mark Baer: $126,550 and a vacation in the Dominican Republic;
  • May 2022 – Mike Halpern: $122,903 and a trip to Aruba;
  • February 2022 – Bree Yokouchi: $121,638 and a trip to St. Lucia.

Further history was made when three winners won the $100k prize for three consecutive nights. During the show’s 39th season, three contestants won the $100k envelope in February 2022. It was the first time this happened, and two of those winners are in the top 10 Wheel of Fortune winners.

Most Money Won Without the Bonus Round

Many players have won a significant amount before the bonus round even began. However, most of these wins range between $26k and $48k, rarely getting higher than that. A representative for Sony Pictures Entertainment even stated that it’s unlikely for prize money to exceed $90k before the bonus round.

However, one exception to this rule will go down in history as the highest Wheel of Fortune winner before bonus round when winnings were calculated. Matt Desanto made a record-breaking guess for the solution of “The Lone Ranger” with only the hint “*** ***e ******,” which seems impossible if you didn’t see it happen. Having been on a winning streak before this, it pushed his winnings up to an impressive $91,000.

Three Controversial Non-Wins in the Game Show

We answered, “What is the most money won on Wheel of Fortune? Are there times when contestants missed out on it? We look at three controversial non-wins where many viewers believed the contestant should have won their prize.

Just Winging It

A Texas Woman’s University student, Alexa, lost out on a $100k prize after failing to guess the solution “Just winging it.” However, many viewers stated that Sajak sabotaged her, as you can hear her guessing something similar to the phrase. Listening to the video, it sounds like she says, “Just winning it,” which we further believe might be the case as she didn’t contest her loss once the phrase was revealed.

Choosing the Right Word

Nobody likes it when a technicality determines your win or loss, but that’s exactly what happened here. Charlene Rubush had to guess the phrase “Choosing the right word” to win an Audi Q3. However, when she eventually got to the right phrase, she said the words with pauses of four to five seconds in between. As the words have to be continuous, she was denied her prize. Luckily, Audi stepped in to save the day and awarded her the car she originally would have won.

Pink Orchid

High school choir director Megan was recently on the show and sparked outrage in viewers over her losing a $40k prize they believed she was entitled to. The clue was “p*n* *rc**d,” her first guess sounded quite like “pink orchid,” which is the correct answer. However, Sajak clearly didn’t think so, as she didn’t win the prize and left with the $14,007 she won before the bonus round.

Who’s the Next Big Winner?

WOF continues to be a much-loved American game show, even in 2024. While this year will see some changes, such as a new host, it doesn’t detract from the incredible prospective winnings. With 2022 showing three back-to-back $100k winners and the Celebrity version boasting $1 million winnings for families and children with Melissa Joan Hart’s bonus round, we can safely say that WOF will continue to bring big winners to the floor.

FAQ

Who’s the latest big Wheel of Fortune winner?

As of 2024, one of the latest big winners in this game show is Jill Swanson Prince. While her episode was recorded in December, it aired now in February 2024. It showed her winning around $121,996 in prizes, including a trip to Superbowl 58, a tour of Alaska, and a 16-day trip to Spain and Portugal.

Will the hosts for this game show remain the same?

No, Pat Sajak announced his retirement in 2023, stating that the 41st season will be his last. In his place, Ryan Seacrest will take over and work with Vanna White, who’ll continue on the show.

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