A California woman overcame incredibly slim odds when she took home the $1 million prize during the "Wheel of Fortune" bonus round on Thursday night. Autumn Ernhard became only the second person in the game's history to win the grand prize, the first being Michelle Loewenstein back in 2008.
Ernhard, a 30-year-old sales rep from Laguna Nigel, Calif., managed to solve the bonus round puzzle despite having only four letters in the puzzle to work with. She proved to be a stellar player throughout the main game, solving all but one puzzle during the earlier rounds. She landed on the $1 million wedge during the fourth round of the game, then headed to the bonus round with more than $30,000 already in her pocket.
When Ernhard's chosen letters, along with the game's regular given letters, produced only four letters of the puzzle, host Pat Sajak remarked, "This looks challenging to me." The puzzle proved no problem for Ernhard, however, as was able to instantly solve it.
"I was beyond ecstatic and couldn't wait to see what I had won," Ernhard posted on the "Wheel of Fortune" contestant blog. "Pat opens the card and it read ONE MILLION. Streamers and confetti came pouring from overhead while I was standing there with my hands covering my mouth in complete and utter shock. ... I didn't remember much after that other than shaking profusely in amazement, still with my hands covering my mouth!"
It certainly isn't easy to take home $1 million prize on "Wheel of Fortune," which was added to the show in 2008. In order to do so, a contestant must first land on the $1 million wedge, solve that puzzle, manage to avoid hitting bankrupt for the remainder of the game and be the night's big winner. After heading to the bonus round, the contestant must then land on the $1 million (they have a 1 in 24 chance of doing so).
The chances of a contestant doing all of this are about 1.38 percent -- and then they still have to solve the bonus round puzzle in less than10 seconds!
Ernhard, who just turned 30, was chosen to be on the episode because she, like all of this week's contestants, was celebrating a 30-year milestone. "Wheel of Fortune" did the special "30-year-milestone" week in celebration of its 30th season on the air.
"What a crazy and adventurous couple of days," Ernhard wrote on the contestant blog. "I guess turning 30 hasn't been too bad!"
Ernhard's parents and fiance, who had accompanied her to the taping, rushed to the stage to congratulate her, while the game's announcer, Jim Thornton, declared the grand total of her winnings to be $1,030,340.