Biggest Lottery Losers: William “Bud” Post III

Lottery Loser William Bud Post IIIWhen William “Bud” Post III won the $16.2 million Pennsylvania State lottery jackpot in 1988, he thought he was headed for the high life—but he couldn’t have been more wrong. As he discovered, lotto winners who are lax with their money are more likely to be sued, threatened, and targeted by scammers than anyone else. Bud Post’s journey to becoming one of history’s biggest lottery losers was tragic and all too swift. His story is a warning to all lotto winners who do not make solid financial plans for their major prizes.

This is how Bud Post III won the jackpot—and how he lost every last penny.


William “Bud” Post III had a hard life before he won the lottery. Abandoned at an orphanage as a child, he grew up to have serious financial troubles. Post worked temporary jobs, such as driving trucks for carnivals, cooking, and painting, until he suffered an injury that forced him to stop working. His desperation for cash led to issuing bad cheques, which earned him 28 days of jail time.

By 1988, Post was barely surviving on his disability checks. He saw the Pennsylvania State lottery all over the news: the jackpot had reached a staggering $32 million (worth more than $69.5 million today), the second biggest jackpot in the state’s history at the time. With just $2.46 in his bank account, he needed to get in on this draw.

He sold a precious ring for $40 and gave most of it to his landlady and occasional girlfriend, Ann Karpik, to purchase 40 tickets for the big draw on his behalf. She bought an additional 20 tickets at the same time. Against all odds, one of those 60 last-resort tickets held the winning numbers! On February 24, 1988, Bud Post rocketed from poverty to a $16.2 million fortune literally overnight. A lucky workplace lottery pool from Pittsburgh took home the other half of the jackpot.

Post quickly collected his prize, the first of 26 yearly payments of $497,953.47, which would be worth over $1 million today. Unfortunately, trouble was just around the corner.


William Bud Post Debt BurdenUnlike winners who hire legal and financial help to manage their winnings, Post decided to handle the prize money on his own. Considering he is one of the dumbest lottery winners we've ever heard of, this turned out to be a terrible move.

In the first two weeks after collecting his first instalment, Post spent more than $300,000 on presents, a liquor license, a restaurant lease for two of his siblings, an airplane he did not know how to fly, and a used auto business along with its entire complement of cars for another of his brothers. Just three months after picking up his prize, Post was already deep in debt to the tune of $500,000. The lotto winner’s spending was off the rails—and he was just getting started.

A year later, he bought a decrepit mansion in Oil City, Pennsylvania, for $395,000 with his second lottery instalment. He had plans to renovate the place, but money was running out. Instead of completing his house, Post continued spending wildly and getting deeper into debt, eventually buying a boat worth $260,000.

Within a year of winning, he began having serious personal and legal troubles that would strip him of the rest of his money for good and make him join the ranks of lottery winners who lost everything.


Bud Post had plenty of personal estrangements in his life, and after he won the lottery, things only got worse.

In 1988, Post was already on his sixth marriage, and the domestic bliss barely lasted a year after his big win. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the lotto winner fired a rifle into his wife’s car during a disagreement. The county court set a restraining order against him, and he was soon divorced for the sixth time.

William Bud Post Legal IssuesBy 1989, just one year after winning the jackpot, Bud Post was no longer talking to one of his brothers, Jeffrey. He was determined to get more cash out of Bud, but the winner’s reckless spending meant that there was no more to give. In an attempt to inherit the money, Jeffrey hired a man to murder Bud and his wife. Jeffrey promised the would-be-assassin Bud’s fancy boat in exchange for the hit. Luckily for Post, the attempt went awry, and his brother went to jail.

That same year, Post’s former landlady, who had bought the winning lottery ticket on his behalf, sued him for a portion of the prize. Ann Karpik stated that Bud had agreed to share the winnings with her. Post argued the matter in court for three years, racking up another $129,000 in legal fees in just one year. He finally lost the case in 1992, and the judge ordered him to hand over a third of his winnings—a hefty $5.3 million sum—to the claimant. By this time, Post was too deep in debt to comply with the ruling. When he refused to hand over the payment, the judge froze all of his future lottery instalments until the matter was settled.

In 1992, Post also faced the last of his appeals regarding an assault conviction. Some years before, Post had fired a gun at a man who had come to his house to collect a debt. With no more appeals, Bud Post ran for the hills—or more accurately, to a Mississippi fishing camp.


With a mountain of debt to deal with, Post decided to sell his mansion for $65,000 and auction off his remaining 17 lottery instalments. This left him with $2.65 million to pay off debt—but the notorious spendthrift didn’t stop there. He also bought two more houses, several cars and motorcycles, a new truck, a deluxe camper, and a slew of high-end electronics.

When the law finally caught up with Post’s boat, he was handed a six- to 24-month sentence for the assault conviction. Unfortunately, he had nothing left of his winnings when he got out of prison. For the final years of his life, Post was reduced to living on $450 per month from disability checks. When he passed away from respiratory failure in January 2006 at the age of 66, he left behind $1 million in debt. Post is survived by his seventh wife, Debra Wice, and nine children from a previous marriage.


Bud Post III’s destructive post-win experiences are tragic—especially because many of the terrible outcomes were entirely preventable. Handling a large windfall is no easy task, and hiring legal and financial assistance is essential for lottery winners who take home a major jackpot. In the case of multiple winners, creating a lottery trust can help divide up the winnings equitably and avoid expensive legal entanglements.

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