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What happens if you get the big spin?

The big spin is the top prize on the Wheel of Fortune game show. Hitting the big spin allows a contestant to spin the wheel one final time for a chance to win $1 million. Getting the big spin is very rare, but contestants who do hit it are thrust into the national spotlight. Winning the big spin comes with fame, fortune, and some major life changes.

What are the odds of getting the big spin?

The odds of hitting the big spin are incredibly small. There is only one big spin wedge on the entire wheel, among 54 total spaces. That means a contestant has about a 1 in 54 chance, or less than 2% odds, of landing on the big spin in any given spin. Considering contestants get very few spins in a typical episode, only a tiny fraction ever reach this top prize spot.

Out of the thousands of episodes and tens of thousands of contestants over the decades, only about a dozen people have ever hit the big spin. So it is an incredibly rare and special event when someone does land on it. The low odds make it all the more dramatic and exciting when it happens.

What happens when a contestant hits the big spin?

Hitting the big spin for the first time brings huge excitement and celebrations on stage. The audience cheers wildly and the hosts make a big commotion. Winning the big spin also comes with a $100,000 minimum prize, so the contestant is guaranteed a huge payout.

After things settle down, the contestant gets one final spin at the big wheel. If it lands on the $1 million spot, they instantly become a millionaire in one of the most dramatic moments in television history. This has only happened once, in 2008, when Michelle Loewenstein hit the jackpot.

Even if the final spin doesn’t land on $1 million, the contestant still wins at least $100,000. So either way, their life is changed in an instant.

What happens if you win $1 million on the big spin?

For the very few who have won the $1 million top prize, it is truly life changing. Most winners report being in a state of disbelief and shock after spinning $1 million. Some have collapsed to the floor or needed to sit down to regain composure. It is an incredibly emotional moment.

Once the initial shock wears off, winners have to start thinking about what to do with the money. The $1 million is paid out over 20 years, with a first installment of around $37,000. Winners get to choose between taking annual payments or a lump sum.

After taxes, the lump sum payout is around $330,000. While not quite as amazing as $1 million, this is still a fortune for most people. Winners use the money to pay off bills, invest, make home improvements, travel, and donate to charity. It allows them to live comfortably, take time off work, and enjoy financial security.

Of course, winning $1 million also brings a whirlwind of attention. Winners get bombarded by media requests for interviews, profiles, and follow-ups on how they spend the money. They also have to be cautious about all the requests that come from friends and strangers looking for handouts.

What happens if you win $100,000 on the big spin?

For those who win the guaranteed $100,000 consolation prize, it is still an amazing experience. While not multi-millionaires, these contestants walk away with an incredible cash prize that has a significant impact.

The $100,000 is paid out over 20 annual installments. After taxes, the first payment is around $18,500. Winners commonly use this windfall to pay off debt, renovate their homes, or make investments. Some donate a portion to charity or their churches as a way of giving back.

While winning $100,000 doesn’t change your life as drastically as $1 million, it still provides a great financial boost. All your normal expenses and bills are covered for a year or two. You can take a nice vacation and have more freedom over career choices and lifestyle. It allows dreams and plans that may have been out of reach previously.

These winners also get media attention, though not to the extent of $1 million victors. Local news and talk shows will want interviews to hear how they felt winning and what they plan to do with the money. But national outlets likely won’t follow their story over the long haul.

How does winning the big spin change someone’s life?

Winning the Wheel of Fortune’s big spin has the power to completely change the trajectory of someone’s life. Even the minimum $100,000 prize is ten times greater than the average annual household income in the U.S. This kind of money can dramatically reduce or eliminate financial stress for most people.

Winners often use the funds to pay off mortgages, student loans, medical debts, and other obligations that have been hanging over their head. They may quit jobs they dislike and take time to decide their next step. Big purchases like cars and homes become affordable. College funds can be set up for children. Charities become beneficiaries.

Family dynamics and friendships sometimes shift after a big spin win. Jealousy over sudden wealth and requests for money can strain relations. Winners have to set boundaries and learn to manage expectations.

But for most, hitting the big spin allows dreams to come true and provides freedom to pursue passions and interests. Financial security removes limitations and daily worries. The rest of their life is lived with more comfort and flexibility, thanks to a single momentous spin.

What taxes and fees come with winning the big spin?

Winning the big spin comes with significant tax obligations. Both the $1 million and $100,000 prizes are subject to federal taxes, which are withheld from the initial payment and reduce the lump sum payouts. State taxes also apply in most states. Combined federal and state taxes typically claim 30-40% of Wheel of Fortune prizes.

Winners don’t have to pay taxes on the entire $1 million or $100,000 up front. Taxes are deducted annually from each installment payment. But the withholding on just the first payment still reduces the take-home amount substantially.

Winners are responsible for paying ongoing taxes on all installment payments. Form 1099-MISC has to be filled out for tax purposes. Some accountants advise winners to set aside a portion of each payment for taxes rather than face a big bill the next April.

There are no specific fees charged by the show or network when someone hits the big spin. But winners may choose to hire financial planners and accountants to manage the windfall responsibly. Most experts recommend this step.

What notifications and paperwork are required after winning?

In the excitement of winning the big spin, there are some important notifications and paperwork that have to be promptly handled:

– Contacting the IRS within 30 days to report substantial gambling winnings. This is done by filing Form W-2G certifying the amount won.

– Filling out tax forms and providing a Social Security number to Wheel of Fortune to facilitate tax reporting on installments.

– Providing identification documents and signing contestant agreements to officially claim the prize money.

– Supplying bank account information to have installment payments directly deposited.

– Insurance: Purchasing adequate homeowners/renters and auto insurance to protect major assets.

– Estate attorney: Creating or updating your will to reflect major financial changes.

– Financial planner: Meeting with a certified professional to manage investing and tax strategy.

– Accountant: Hiring an accountant to assist with filing taxes on the winnings.

While burdensome during an exciting time, these steps protect winners and ensure they comply with all requirements.

How does winning the big spin affect eligibility for aid programs?

The sudden influx of cash from winning the big spin can impact eligibility for needs-based government aid programs. Income thresholds determine qualification for things like Medicaid, CHIP, food stamps, SSI, and TANF. Exceeding certain limits because of a game show prize could result in losing benefits.

For example, Medicaid eligibility in most states is barred at monthly incomes over $1,437 for a single person or $2,938 for a family of four. Just a single annual installment from a $100,000 big spin win may surpass those levels, risking disqualification.

Winners need to consider all their current aid programs and determine if their new income will lead to reductions or forfeiture of benefits. This may impact their decisions on taking lump sums or spreading out payments.

Consulting with social workers and benefit program administrators can provide guidance on how prize winnings will integrate with existing assistance. Reporting winnings and income changes will be required to comply with eligibility rules.

Do game show winnings impact federal student loan eligibility?

Winning large cash prizes can also affect eligibility for federal student aid, including loans, grants and work study. The FAFSA application takes into account income, so a big spin winner could lose some or all aid.

The impact depends on factors like the tax status of winnings, number of remaining school years, and payment timeframe. Lump sum payouts count more heavily towards the current year’s income calculation than installment plans.

Winners who are still in school or have dependents in college need to understand the implications before claiming prize money. Consulting university financial aid officers and completing the FAFSA with new income data is key. Reduced aid may necessitate tapping winnings for college costs.

But for those who have finished education, student aid eligibility is not a concern. Winners no longer pursuing a degree do not risk losing federal grants or loans due to game show income.

How does winning the big spin impact Medicare or Social Security?

For retired contestants or those receiving Social Security and Medicare already, the taxable income from winning the Wheel of Fortune big spin does not negatively impact overall benefits or eligibility.

These programs operate on different qualifications than needs-based aid. Higher incomes due to gambling winnings, investments, or other windfalls don’t reduce Social Security payments or make someone ineligible for Medicare coverage.

In fact, the added income allows winners to pay for Medicare copayments, deductibles, and Part B premiums without hardship. Many use their big spin winnings to cover costly dental work, hearing aids, or other medical expenses not included in Medicare. It provides a financial cushion.

The extra money may cause a portion of Social Security benefits to be taxed at a winner’s regular income rate. But the net payment amounts remain unchanged.

Overall, big spin winnings provide retirement security and flexibility without interrupting Social Security or Medicare benefits that winners already qualify for.

Do game shows help pay for prize taxes?

Game shows like Wheel of Fortune are not required to cover taxes on prizes for winners. The advertised top prize amounts are pre-tax. Windfall taxes are solely the responsibility of contestants once they agree to claim winnings.

However, Wheel of Fortune’s parent company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, provides an annual “tax assistance” bonus to winners. This is currently $2,000 and helps defray tax costs. While not a full reimbursement, it is a goodwill gesture acknowledging winners’ hefty tax obligations.

A few game shows do pay taxes directly on big prizes or special promotions. Notably, the Oprah Winfrey Show offered to cover state and federal taxes when giving away cars and other prizes. But shows generally avoid being on the hook for taxes.

This situation makes it crucial for winners to set aside a portion of each installment for taxes or pre-pay estimated taxes. Otherwise they face consequences from the IRS for underpayment. Interest, fees and penalties apply.

Do state lotteries pay prize taxes?

Unlike game shows, state lottery commissions withhold taxes directly from top scratch, pull-tab, and jackpot prizes. Major lotteries automatically deduct between 24-30% for federal taxes before winners receive any money.

Some states, like California, also withhold an additional percentage for state income taxes. This enables lottery winners to directly receive prize money minus taxes owed.

Lotteries apply withholding and issue W2-G forms for reporting any prize over $600. This becomes part of a winner’s taxable income for the year. Appropriate taxes are then reconciled when filing returns and claiming any other income.

This automatic taxation makes financial management of lottery winnings easier. Winners face fewer surprises compared to game shows that pay advertise pre-tax amounts. Knowing the after-tax amount helps better plan usage of newfound wealth.


Hitting the coveted big spin on Wheel of Fortune delivers life-changing winnings of either $100,000 or $1 million. While the odds of landing this top prize are incredibly slim, contestants who achieve it join an exclusive club of game show legends. Their new wealth alters their life path in dramatic fashion.

Big spin winners gain financial security and flexibility to pursue dreams. But the fame and money also bring major obligations for taxes, paperwork, and decisions on usage. For multimillion dollar recipients especially, managing expectations and relationships is key. Even for $100,000 winners, the windfall provides opportunity while creating new responsibilities.

While wheeling one’s way to instant fortune is rare, the hope and anticipation of the big spin will continue to energize contestants and viewers alike as the iconic game show continues on. The glorious prize keeps fortune seekers happily shouting “Big Money!” for spins to come.