5 Rags to Riches Stories of Lottery Winners (and one more)

A "rags to riches" story tells the tale of how someone went very quickly from being quite poor to being very rich. Someone whose life changed remarkably overnight. This type of story could be told of many lottery winners, depending on how you define their earlier "quite poor" financial situation. Some winners were truly down on their luck before their luck turned around with an unexpected lottery windfall.

Identifying the most moving life-changing stories of lottery winners is a subjective task, somewhat like trying to determine who is more deserving than others to win the lottery. We've curated a few stories which will demonstrate how lottery wins can change winners' lives around overnight. For now, we won't report on horror stories of lottery winners who went from "rags to riches to rags", as gaining sudden wealth and then losing it just as quickly is a subject to be considered separately.

No matter what your financial standing might be, you have just as much chance of winning the lottery as anyone else. If the following stories encourage you to play, or if they simply entertain you, we wish you a lot of luck when you play the lottery online.


South Dakota Rancher Gets Larger Ranch

Neal Wanless, a 23-year-old rancher whose family had bought and sold scrap metal to make ends meet in one of the poorest counties in the US, claimed a $232 million Powerball jackpot in the 27 May 2009 drawing.

neal wanless powerball

Neal Wanless from South Dakota won a $232 million Powerball jackpot.

"They are all good, hardworking people," said one of the family's friends. A neighbour added: "They've been real short on finances for a long time. They are from real meagre means, I guess you'd say."

Wanless elected to take a one-time cash pay-out of the Powerball prize which came to $88.5 million after taxes. Wanless said he intended to continue ranching for his family. According to media reports, he told his horse, Eleanor: "It'd be nice if we go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own."

War Refugee from Kosovo No Longer Sweeps Streets

When the war in Kosovo broke out in 1998, Q. was living in Pejë, a city completely burned down by the Serbs. Along with his wife and children, Q. fled to Belgium while other family members made their way to Germany and Australia. After a few years, Q. was recognized as a political refugee.

kosovo euromillions jackpot

The owner of the store where the winning ticket was sold to the man from Kosovo.

Q., a 50-year-old father of four who loves football, Robert De Niro films and cooking with fish, had been working for five years as a street sweeper in Schaerbeek, Belgium in a waste management service. Q. would regularly purchase EuroMillions tickets in the Chazallaan neighborhood where he worked.

Q.'s tickets for the EuroMillions Superdraw on 30 September 2016 turned his life around. He was the sole winner of the draw's €168 million EuroMillions jackpot. According to media reports, Q. took a few months to travel and purchased a new home near Schaerbeek. Q.'s friends said that he remained humble, even after his big win.


Missouri Powerball Winner Had Just $28.96 in the Bank

Chris Shaw, a 29-year-old tattooed father of three who was raised by his grandparents in rural southern Missouri, was the sole winner of a $258 million Powerball jackpot in the draw on 21 April 2010.

"We didn't come from money. For us it's just going to be a huge relief to know I'm going to be able to pay my electric bill, my gas bill," Shaw said. "I'm just a regular guy working paycheck to paycheck ... well not any more," he said.

Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw planned to take his children to Disneyland after winning the Powerball jackpot.

Shaw had purchased his winning ticket at the Break Time convenience store where he works. In addition to replacing two missing front teeth, he planned to take his children to Disney World in Florida. "I can be with them as much as I want now," Shaw said.

Formerly Homeless Alcoholic No Longer Homeless

László Andraschek, who lived for seven years in a homeless centre in Győr, Hungary, won 636 million Hungarian forint ($2.8 million) in a local Hungarian lottery draw in September 2013. Recalling the moment he learned of his lottery win, Andraschek said he told himself: "It's over; I don't have to think about where to borrow more money to pay the debts. My life was a constant struggle of plugging holes, and I could only ever do that by creating new ones."

László Andraschek

László Andraschek vowed to use some of his good fortune to help the homeless.

At the time of his lottery win, Andraschek was a year behind on rent payments and had defaulted on several bank loans. After the win, Andraschek purchased six properties for himself and his family but he also made a large donation to the homeless hostel where he had once lived. He also planned to set up a charitable foundation for people in need.

Andraschek said he would spend his money carefully. "I have become rich, but I have not become a different person. I could buy a large-screen TV because I can afford it, but I won't buy three because I can afford it."

African Migrant Rescued from Sinking Boat and Poverty

In 2007, Ngame from Senegal was saved by the Spanish coastguard when the wooden boat in which he was trying to get to Europe along with 65 other migrants was sinking. After arriving in Spain, Ngame and his wife struggled to survive on temporary agricultural work.

ngame senegal spanish lottery

Ngame was saved from a sinking boat and went on to win in Loteria Navidad.

Eight years later, in December 2015, Ngame was one of thousands who had purchased tickets to Loteria Navidad. Having matched the winning raffle number 79140, his El Gordo jackpot prize was worth €400,000.

"I want to give thanks to Spaniards and the Spanish government for rescuing me when I was in the sea," Ngame said. Having recently been laid off by a greenhouse owner and told to fend for himself, Ngame quipped that his lottery win was a souvenir for his former employer.

From Bankruptcy to Jackpot Winner

Juan Rodriguez, a 49-year-old Colombia native who became a US citizen in 1986, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in November 2004 when he had only $0.78 in his bank account and owed $45,000 to creditors. The New York court ruled that Rodriguez, who earns about $30,000 annually in his job at a Manhattan parking lot, would not have to repay his debts.

juan rodriguez mega millions

A court approved Juan Rodriguez's bankruptcy; the next week he won Mega Millions

In addition to what he had in the bank, Rodriguez had $50 cash in hand. He spent $1 to purchase a Mega Millions lottery ticket and when his five numbers and Mega Ball matched those drawn on 19 November 2004, he was the sole winner of a $149 million jackpot.

Rodriguez elected to take the $88 million lump sum payout of the prize and at the time was the "richest man in New York Lottery history," lottery officials announced. It was not clear if the bankruptcy court would reverse its earlier decision and require Rodriguez to pay back his debts.

Will Your Win Be a Rags to Riches Story?

Playing the lottery is, and should remain, a form of entertainment and you should never consider it as a way to make money, or to improve your financial situation.

That said, if you play the lottery online now with official lottery tickets to the biggest lotteries in the world, perhaps one day you'll have your own rags to riches lottery winner story to tell!