Biggest Powerball Winners Ever
We’re surrounded with news and rumours all day, every day about the rich and famous, from politicians to the royal family to pop stars and reality TV personalities. But what about the other rich among us? What about those who came to riches through the wildest of luck—winning the Powerball lottery?
Most Powerball lotto winners choose to stay anonymous, or at least as anonymous as possible. While this might be a wise choice, it’s not very exciting for those of us standing on the sidelines. Those who do come out into the limelight, though, just go to show us that when it comes to the lottery, truly anybody can be a winner.
We’ve profiled some of the biggest US Powerball winners in history, sharing everything there is to know about who they are, how they won, how much they won, and, most importantly, how they spent their prize.
#1: The Triple Threat - $1.586 billion
The winners of the biggest Powerball jackpot in history lives changed drastically after the January 13, 2016, draw. The winning tickets belonged to Munford, Tennessee, couple John and Lisa Robinson; Chino Hills, California, couple Marvin and Mae Acosta; and Melbourne Beach, Florida, residents David Kaltschmidt and Maureen Smith.
This jackpot is so massive that we did couldn't help but wonder how many TVs, tents, laptops, houses, and sports cars it could buy. Spoiler alert: a ridiculous amount!
The Robinson couple, as well as partners Kaltschmidt and Smith, each took home a lump-sum payment of $328.8 million. It was not revealed whether the Acostas opted for the annuity or lump-sum payment of their share in the jackpot.
As they were claiming their windfall, the Robinsons told the press that they will not make any sudden or major changes in their family's lifestyle. John even said he would keep his job as a maintenance distribution worker, while Lisa stated she would continue working in a dermatologist's office. The couple added that they would continue living in their one-story house in Munford.
In 2018, however, the Robinsons must have suddenly realized how much money they were actually sitting on because they both quit their jobs and moved their family to a luxurious mansion in an undisclosed location, complete with 10 bedrooms and eight bathrooms! They also bought the neighbouring 320 acres of land, which includes a lake.
Kaltschmidt and Smith kept a more modest life than their co-winners. The Florida couple were still living in their old house in 2017, but Smith did reward herself with a gold-painted Tesla Model S amounting to $90,000.
As for the whereabouts of the Acostas after their big win, they have been kept under wraps.
#2: The Lucky Millennial: Manuel Franco - $768 million
When 24-year-old Manuel Franco of West Allis, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, walked out of a gas station in March 2019 holding $10 worth of Powerball tickets, he said he felt lucky—but who doesn't right before a draw? Little did he know that he was about to become the sole winner of what at the time was the biggest single-player jackpot that anyone has ever won. Franco won $768 million in the March 27, 2019 draw and decided to take the lump sum payout. After all, taxes were deducted, his bank account immediately became richer to the tune of $326 million—almost a third of a billion dollars.
Although Franco tried going back to his job at Target the day immediately after the win, it was almost impossible to remain focused and do his job, so he quit shortly after. Unlike many young lottery winners, however, Franco had his head on right: instead of blowing his money on luxuries right away, he hired a team of advisors to help him protect and potentially even grow his assets. Not bad for a millennial who a few days prior had been trying to save up $1,000 in his account!
#3: Mavis Wanczyk, The Single Mom - $758.7 million
Mother of two and hospital worker Mavis Wanczyk scored $758.7 million, or $336 million after taxes, in the August 23, 2017, Powerball draw, making her worth more than Kim Kardashian herself (who has a net worth of $175 million, if you were curious).
At the time of her win, it was the second-largest jackpot in United States history and the largest jackpot to ever be won by a single ticket. Talk about lucky.
“I had a pipe dream, and my pipe dream has finally come true,” 53-year-old Mavis told reporters when she came forward to claim her winnings.
Immediately after realising she was a winner, Mavis quit her job at Mercy Medical Center, a hospital in Springfield, where she had worked for over 32 years. “I’ve called, and I’ve told them, and I will not be coming back,” she said, with the same delighted grin we’d all have if we’d gotten to do the same.
“My numbers were actually kind of random,” Mavis admitted. The winning numbers—which were 6, 7, 16, 23, 26, and Powerball number 4—were based off of family’s birthdays and Mavis’s personal lucky number, 4. It just goes to show that you should never give up on your lucky number.
So what has she done with the winnings since then? That’s for Mavis to know and the rest of us to wonder about. Last we officially heard of her; she was planning on “hiding in her bed.” Well, we hope it’s at least a bed with very lush bedding, fitting for one of the richest women in America.
#4: The Two Older Winners - $687.8 million
While $687 million would undoubtedly be great to win on your own, even half of this is nothing to turn your nose up at. This great jackpot offered on October 27, 2018, was won by two different lucky ticket holders, Lerynne West from Iowa and Robert Baily from New York. Lerynne, who was a 51-year-old grandmother at the time, announced that she almost lost her lottery ticket before claiming her prize. Thankfully she did not, and soon after her win, she appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show to announce a $500,000 donation to the Travis Mills Foundation.
Robert, who was 67 years old at the time, says that he has been playing his winning numbers (8, 12, 13, 19, 27, 4) faithfully for over 25 years after they were given to him by a family member. Robert opted to receive his $343.8 million share of the jackpot as a cash lump sum and will receive $198.1 million (or around $125.4 million after taxes). Wisely, Robert announced that he had hired a team of lawyers and advisors to ensure that his wealth is protected.
#5: The Generous Mother - $590.5 million
Winning an amount like this at the age of 84 years old may be enough to give you heart failure from the excitement of it all. Thankfully, this is not the case for Gloria Mackenzie, who was the sole winner of this massive May 18, 2013, jackpot. Gloria, who resides in Florida, soon claimed her winnings and chose to take a cash lump sum of $278 million after taxes.
Unfortunately, after purchasing a new house and donating money to a needy school, things began to go south for Gloria. Due to mismanagement of her money at the hands of her own son, she was soon left with only a portion of what her initial prize was and had to battle the son in court over the money he misused.
#6: The Couple and the Clueless - $587.5 million
This large November 28, 2012, jackpot was shared between two lucky lottery players. The first of the winners was Cindy and Mark Hill from Missouri. The couple, who have four children: Jason, Cody, and Jarod, who are all already out of the house, and 6-year-old Jaiden, who was adopted from China, opted for a cash lump sum and received $136.5 million as a prize. While the “Hillionaires” always gave to charitable efforts before their win, winning the jackpot seems to have exacerbated this quality, as they said they wanted to give as much of their winnings to charity and helping others out as possible, mostly through setting up college scholarship funds and uplifting Mark’s hometown, Camden Point.
The second winner of this fantastic prize was Matthew Good from Arizona. Matthew, who also opted to receive his prize as a cash lump sum, said that he had purchased $10 worth of lottery tickets for the draw on November 28, 2012. However, he did not even check his tickets until the next day. When checking them, he was speechless when realised that he was one of the jackpot winners.
#7: A Trio of Winners - $564.1 million
In yet another shared jackpot, this fantastic prize offered on February 11, 2015, was claimed by three different winners. The first winner was a Puerto Rican resident who chose to remain anonymous. The second winner, Andrew Weber, claimed his winnings in the name of a trust located in Texas. The third and final winner was Marie Holmes from North Carolina. Each winner received approximately $188 million as their share of the prize, which equated to around $127 million as a cash option (before tax).
#8: Good Karma Family - $559.7 million
The jackpot of $559.7 million on January 6, 2018, was one by a single lucky winner. Unfortunately, the winner decided to remain entirely anonymous, and the only information available about who won this staggering amount is that it was a woman. What we do also know, however, is that the winnings were claimed by the Good Karma Family 2018 Nominee Trust and that the winner opted to receive a cash lump sum payment of $352 million (or $264 million after taxes).
#9: New Hampshire Luck - $487 million
Like the jackpot above, the winners of this massive July 30, 2016, jackpot chose to remain anonymous. However, we do know that the jackpot was won by a family based in New Hampshire. In an effort to remain anonymous, the family tasked their lawyers with setting up a trust in order to claim their winnings. The family opted to receive a cash lump sum payment rather than annuity payments and received $256.3 million after taxes had been paid.
#10: Emerald Legacy Trust - $456.7 million
On March 17, 2018, the Emerald Legacy Trust based in Pennsylvania was the sole winner of the $456.7 million Powerball jackpot. The trust chose to take a cash lump sum payment and received around $274 million. However, after paying 24% in federal tax and a further 3.07% in state tax, the trust “only” received approximately $200 million—but let’s be real, this is no small amount. In fact, at the time, the jackpot was the eighth-largest jackpot in Powerball history, and the largest jackpot prize ever paid out by the Pennsylvania Lottery.
#11: Three Winning Tickets - $448.4 million
With a jackpot of $448.4 million, the August 8, 2013, Powerball draw was one that had plenty of players hoping to win, and three separate parties ended up doing exactly that. The first of the winners to come forward, 45-year-old father of two Paul White, had been playing the Powerball for years and boasted about how he’d one day win so often that it had become a family joke. But in August 2013, on the night of the draw that won him $149.4 million—his one-third share of a $448 million Powerball jackpot, one of the largest in history—he’d actually forgotten to buy a ticket and then remembered to buy five tickets in the nick of time. Paul, previously a project engineer, quit his job immediately after winning, telling the press: “I’m not gonna be one of those people who keeps working.”
The next party to make their win public was a group of 16 public employees from Ocean County who dubbed themselves “The Ocean’s 16”. Since each member of this lottery syndicate had contributed $6 to the pool, they had collectively purchased 48 lines. Opting for the lump sum payment, they split $86 million equally, meaning they ended up with about $3.8 million each after taxes. Darlene Riccio, one of the members, had lost the home that she and her daughter were renting in Hurricane Sandy the previous October, so the sudden windfall meant they could finally turn their life around.
The final winner to step forward was Mario Scarnici of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. Mario had taken his time—almost 3 weeks—before coming forward to claim his winnings, as he wanted to be certain of all the steps involved and to have a chance to consult with financial advisors beforehand. Considering how many winners blow through their winnings recklessly, we definitely believe Mario made the right choice. He’s kept a low profile ever since.
#12: Jeff Lindsay - $447.8 million
You may not believe that winning $447.8 million is the result of purchasing a ticket on a whim. However, this was precisely the case with Jeff Lindsay—the sole winner of the June 10, 2017, Powerball jackpot. Jeff, who had purchased some scratch tickets earlier in the day, was returning to the store to claim a small prize on one of the scratchers when he decided to buy some Powerball tickets. These tickets were left untouched until he heard on the news that the winning ticket was purchased in Sun City, California—the same place he bought his ticket.
Jeff soon came forward to claim his prize but refused to allow any media to photograph him receiving his winnings. In a statement shortly after his win, Jeff pleaded with the media to leave him and his family to live their lives in private. He also stated that he was engaged with various advisors on how best to invest and protect his massive jackpot win.
#13: Graduate Turned Winner - $435.3 million
Can you imagine graduating and then winning over $400 million? Well, that is precisely what happened to one lucky Purdue graduate on February 22, 2017. The winner, who chose to remain anonymous, soon contacted lawyers and founded Bohemian Financial LLC. Using this company, he claimed his winnings while making sure that his identity remained hidden. The only information that we have on the winner is that at the time of his win he was working at a Lafayette manufacturing plant and that after seeing he had won the jackpot, he was unable to sleep. The following day he called his father who joked about the fact that he must be calling to say he had won the lottery—only to discover that his son had in fact done so.
The winner chose to receive his prize as a cash lump sum of $263.5 million and netted about $189.1 million after all taxes were paid.
#14: Smith Family Lottery - $429.6 million
Believed to be inspired by divine intervention, Pearlie Mae Smith—a pastor at a church in Trenton, New Jersey—purchased a single line of numbers for the Powerball draw on May 7, 2016. Unbelievably, the numbers were spot on, and the Smith Family Lottery group became the sole winners of a $429.6 million jackpot.
The syndicate, which consists of six members of the Smith family and two friends, chose to receive their winnings in a cash lump sum and received $284 million before taxes. The family quickly consulted with advisors, life coaches, and even previous lottery winners to learn how to handle their substantial new fortune.
#15: Retiree B. Raymond Buxton - $425.3 million
55-year-old B. Raymond Buxton pulled the ultimate dad joke when he claimed his massive Powerball winnings on April Fool’s Day, wearing a shirt that sported a framed picture of Yoda above the words, “Luck of the Jedi I have”. Corny, maybe, but who are we to judge?
Raymond kept as low a profile as possible by concealing his first name and covering his face with the oversized spoof cheque in all photographs. The newly minted millionaire-jokester took home $425 million in the February 2014 Powerball jackpot.
“I sat in front of the computer for hours in disbelief, frequently checking and rechecking the numbers across multiple sources,” said B. Raymond, who estimates he has been trying his luck at the lottery for over 20 years. “Once the initial shock passed, I couldn’t sleep for days.”
Raymond has his appetite to thank for his new riches: He’d already bought one ticket for the draw but decided to purchase a second one—the winning ticket—during a lunch-break for a sandwich at a Chevron gas station.
Since he was already retired from his job in the electronics industry, B. Raymond couldn’t dramatically quit his job. Instead, he said that he planned on using the money to travel and go on a road trip with his family, and set up a charity foundation focused on paediatric health, child hunger, and education.
Brothers James and Bob Stocklas - $291 million ... and $7
Although this win isn’t quite as big as the others in this list, the story is so good we couldn’t help but include it too. In March 2016, Bob and James Stocklas, two brothers from Pennsylvania, decided to take a fishing trip together down to the Florida Keys. Noticing how big the Powerball jackpot had grown, they each bought a few lines each while picking up some ice at a supermarket and continued on their trip.
Imagine their surprise upon learning that they had both won prizes—but of very different values. While James was grappling with the incredible news that he had won $291 million, Bob was grappling with proportionately disappointing news: the fact that he had won just $7! When the news of their drastically different wins emerged, it made its way into headlines around the world.
Luckily for Bob, the brothers were close, and James promised his brother he'd never have to worry about money again. As their remarkable story shows, sometimes it pays to be nice to your siblings!
The lottery is the great equaliser: Whoever you are and whatever your story, we all stand an equal chance at scoring big. As the lucky lottery winners above show us, anyone can have their life turned upside down in the blink of an eye. So, it pays to be prepared—and to never stop dreaming. After all, the only way to know what it really feels like to win the lottery is to, well, win the lottery.