Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
It's rare to leave Las Vegas with more money than you brought with you, much less go home a millionaire. But some do. The Florida man who recently walked away with $1 million from the Three Card Poker table at the Flamingo is the second such winner this year on the Las Vegas Strip. The game's producer said to only expect about three big winners a year.
A few have done it, however. From a Marine who won nearly $3 million to a software engineer who hit for $39.7 million, the lure of riches keeps machines blinking, buzzing and spinning along the Las Vegas Strip. Some winners wish to remain anonymous, making sure what happens in Vegas stays here. Others don't mind sharing their good fortunes.
Here's a look at some of the most notable jackpots in Vegas:
The biggest (so far)
March 21, 2003: A 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles won $39.7 million after putting in $100 in the Megabucks slot machine at the Excalibur to win the largest jackpot in Las Vegas history. He beat odds at the time of one in 16.7 million. Total: $39,710,826.36
A record at the Desert Inn
Jan. 26, 2000: Las Vegas cocktail waitress Cynthia Jay-Brennan, 37, won $34.9 million on a Megabucks machine at the Desert Inn. Six weeks later, a habitually drunk driver rear-ended her car, killing her sister and leaving her paralyzed. Her tragedy fueled a myth that bad things happen to those who win the big jackpots, becoming one of Las Vegas' most notorious urban legends. Total: $34,955,489.56
$300 in, $27.5 million out
Nov. 15, 1998: A 67-year-old retired flight attendant from Las Vegas had only intended to put $100 at the slot machine in Palace Station. She ended up putting in $300, but the Megabucks machine rewarded her with $27.5 million. She'd won big money before: hitting a $680,000 jackpot on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine, also at the Palace Station. It marked the first time Megabucks had surpassed $20 million. Total: $27,580,879.60
A quick play before breakfast
March 27, 2002: Johanna Huendl, 74, of Covina, Calif., was on her way to breakfast at Bally's when she decided to play the Megabucks machine. She put in about $170 and won $22.6 million. She said she had initially misread the meter and thought she'd won $2 million. She would have been happy with that. Total: $22,618,156.67
Another Palace hit, this time at Caesars
One player, two mega jackpots
Sept 15, 2005: In an improbable display of beating the odds, Elmer Sherwin, 92, of Las Vegas won his second Megabucks jackpot by hitting $21.1 million at the Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas. Sherwin had previously won a $4.6 million in 1989 at the Mirage. He said it had been his "lifelong dream" to win it twice. Total: $21,147,947
Megabucks at the Aria
Jan. 21, 2011: A woman on her way to her room at the Aria, decided to plunk $6 into a Megabucks machine and hit a $12.7 million jackpot. She thought the machine had malfunctioned until her niece pointed out that, no, it was really a winner.
The Aria on a roll
April 22, 2011: Jackpot lightning struck the Aria twice in three months when another gambler took home $10.6 million from a Megabucks machine, a product launched by International Game Technology (IGT) in 1986. It took more than eight years and 38 jackpots to hit $10 million for the first time in 1995 at the Gold Coast.
Marine hits $2.9 million
Feb. 19, 2012: Alexander Degenhardt, a 26-year-old U.S. Marine, won nearly $2.9 million on the Money Vault Millionaires Seven slot at the Bellagio. Degnhardt had been in training at Nellis Air Force base and went to the casino with some buddies on their last night in the city. He slipped in $100 and said he'd never won more than $200 before hitting the biggest Las Vegas jackpot from a Bally Technologies game in recent memory. Total: $2,882,808.32.