Heading to Las Vegas? If there’s only one slot machine you play, make it the Megabucks slot. It costs a few bucks to play, but it turns out the payouts are crazy big. In fact, they’re so big that three of the biggest Sin City jackpot payouts happened while an average Joe or Jane was playing Megabucks.
Today, we’re going to take a quick look at when and where these jackpot hits happened, how these players’ lives have change (for the good or the worse), and where they are now (at least for those who are willing to talk about it).
Cocktail waitress wins $34.9 million—and then tragedy strikes
What would you do with almost $35 million? Buy happiness? One cocktail waitress would gladly give it all back to get her former life back.
First, the good news story. On January 26th, 2000, Cynthia Jay-Brennan, a 37-year-old cocktail waitress in Las Vegas, won $34.9 million playing the Megabucks machine at the Desert Inn in Sin City. That money was undoubtedly life-changing, but it was the events that would follow just a few weeks later that would truly change her life — and not for the better.
That brings us to the bad news story. Six weeks after the big win, in a tragic twist of fate, the unthinkable happened. Cynthia Jay Brennan was hit by a drunk driver, who was travelling 60mph and failed to brake. It was a a rear-end collision and the SUV hit her Camaro so hard that the hood of the drunk driver’s car was pretty much right up against the driver and passenger seat.
The emergency response team had to use the jaws of life to cut both Cynthia and her sister out of the vehicle. Unfortunately, Cynthia’s sister was killed. Cynthia broke her neck and today she is paralyzed from her chest to her toes. She remains in a wheelchair to this day. She no longer has use of her hands and requires others to do things for her.
The man who hit her ran from the scene. He apparently had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit. Thankfully, the drunk driver received a 92-year sentence and will likely spend the rest of his life in jail, even with the possibility of parole.
Cynthia says she would give every penny of that money back if it meant that she would no longer be confined to a wheelchair and that she could have her sister back. As it turns out, money certainly can’t buy happiness.
Lightning strikes twice as man wins millions on the same machine
Most people can only dream of hitting the jackpot. So you gotta wonder what Elmer Sherwin used to dream about. Our guess? Hitting the jackpot three times.
You see, Sherwin didn’t just win $4.6 million playing the Megabucks slot machine. He won it twice. We’re not even making this up. The Las Vegas, Nevada man won millions playing Megabucks — first at the Mirage and second at the Cannery Casino.
The first win came in 1989 when Sherwin popped a $4.6 million jackpot at The Mirage. While most people would be content winning that kind of cash, Sherwin viewed his win as a challenge. He didn’t want to rest on his laurels, so he made it his life’s mission to win twice.
Let me be clear: I don’t believe in dream boards. I don’t believe in plastering your goals and aspirations on a wall in hopes that the universe will deliver. But if Sherwin used one to win big, I’m starting my own. Because in 2005, Sherwin’s dream came true when he popped a Megabucks jackpot worth $21.1 million.
Software engineer wins the biggest jackpot in Vegas history
The biggest jackpot in Las Vegas history came back in 2003 when a 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles won $39 million after slipping $100 into a Megabucks machine at Excalibur in Las Vegas.
Now, before you get all excited that this man is sitting on a fortune, keep in mind that he didn’t opt for a lump sum. Instead, he opted for annual payouts of $1.5 million for 25 years. That means he’ll continue to get paid out for the next 13 years. Still, $1.5 million is nothing to turn your nose up at.
The winner has chosen to remain anonymous. And who could blame him? With that kind of coin, who knows how many long lost relatives would come out of the woodwork. What’s more, as a software engineer, one could very well accuse him (falsely so) of cheating the system.
Remember Ronald Dale Harris? He was the software engineer for the Nevada Gaming Commission who secretly programmed special code into more than a few dozen slot machines in Nevada. The code basically triggered an automatic payout when the player tossed money into a slot machine using a specific pattern.
For example, when a player dropped in three coins, then waited, then dropped in five coins, then waited, then dropped in one coin, then waited, and then dropped in three coins, the machine would pay out.
We know what you’re thinking. Who would drop coins in that way in such a ridiculous fashion? He would. And that’s how he made a killing until he was caught.
Jealous of these big winners? Vegas is closer than you think
If you want to try your luck in following in the footsteps of the biggest winners in Vegas history, you don’t need to find Vegas deals at Travelocity.com. Instead, start right here at Slots of Vegas. We’ve got lots of big slots with massive jackpots waiting to be popped. To get started, just create a Slots of Vegas account.
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