Milledge McCassell, 72, proved that what you really need to hit it big is a dollar, a dream - and a lot of determination.
The Queens grandpa collected a giant check for a $8.7 million lump-sum payout after lottery officials verified his story with a high-tech investigation.
"I'm thrilled!" he said.
"It's been quite an experience. It was pretty ugly."
McCassell's road to riches began at the Dynasty Deli and Grocery in Jamaica, Queens, where he took a stack of lottery tickets on Aug. 26.
He scanned the tickets at a self-service station - and to his delight, one of them prompted the screen to flash "BIG WINNER."
When McCassell went to the clerk to find out how much he'd won, the guy gave him "a few dollars," said New York Lottery spokesman Carolyn Hapeman.
"Milledge said, 'What about the big winner?' The clerk said, 'You didn't give me a big winner ticket. I don't know what you're talking about.'"
McCassell knew better and vowed to return and claim his prize.
"I knew something wasn't right so the next day, I went to another retailer I trusted and together, we called the Lottery to file a complaint," he said.
Lottery officials and state police investigators went to Dynasty Deli to question the clerk and review electronic information on the store's machines.
The data "cast serious doubt that [the clerk] never received the ticket as he claimed," said Hapeman. "All of a sudden, the deli clerk miraculously was able to find the ticket and returned it." Cops forwarded the case to Queens prosecutors, who are investigating.
McCassell's granddaughter, Ebony Largo, said the family was stunned by the attempted theft, but happy with the outcome.
Dynasty Deli owner Taha Al Saidi called the ticket drama a big misunderstanding. "We're not cheats," he said. "It didn't happen the way they're saying it happened, but [the clerk] no longer works here," he said.
Lottery officials said all machines were removed from the deli, which is now banned from selling tickets.
Sheila Barnes, 34, said she's played Lotto every week at Dynasty Deli, but will never shop there again.
"I feel like they were cheating people," she said. "Even if they get Lotto back I'll never play here again."