Before a military training trip took him to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt had never been to Sin City.
But the Indian Head-based Marine coming back from his first trip nearly $2.9 million richer.
While killing time before his flight back to Washington, Degenhardt decided to put $100 in a penny slot machine at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas strip.
Before long, the corporal had hit the jackpot - a cache totaling $2,882,808.32.
"When I hit the bonus, there's a wheel that you spin, so I spun the wheel and it stopped on the dollar sign," Degenhardt said. "I looked at my friend and asked, 'What does that mean?'"
That's when his friend told him that he had hit it big. Degenhardt will receive about $100,000 per year for the next two decades after taxes.
"It still seems surreal," he says about the jackpot, which a spokesman for Bally Technologies, a slot machine and gaming company, says is the second biggest they've ever had in 80 years of gaming.
Meanwhile, there's a chance winning big was good karma for Degenhardt; just days before his trip to Vegas, he had pledged to be an anonymous bone marrow donor.
Degenhardt says he's going to use the money to help his mother, who is catching up on bills, and his sister, who is expecting a baby. He also plans on replacing his car, which he has put 250,000 miles on.
The corporal also just re-enlisted for four more years with the Marine Corps.