Two winning jackpot tickets were sold in Friday’s $190 million Mega Millions drawing, but even if you aren’t holding those magic numbers in your hand, you have a chance at an even bigger prize Saturday night.
By Saturday afternoon, the Powerball jackpot was hovering at $600 million — the biggest pot ever. Last-minute ticket purchases could push the jackpot even higher.
Mike Dunlap, of Asheville, N.C., said he knew exactly what he would do with his windfall.
“I’ll assure you if I win the lottery I’ll quit selling crackers,” said Dunlap, a businessman who sells for snack food maker Snyder’s-Lance.
Dunlap joined millions of other people nationwide who bought tickets in the run up to the drawing and plotted what to do with the winnings.
Iznaud Rakiem, 61, a retired forklift operator from Des Moines, said he would take a more altruistic route: he’d donate to the less fortunate.
“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I would like to help others. I would like to forward education, do things for the underprivileged.”
The winning tickets in the Mega Millions drawing were bought in New Jersey and Virginia, according to a news release on the lottery’s website. The winning numbers were: 11, 15, 35, 43, 49 and a Mega Ball of 41.
The largest lottery prize ever was doled out in March 2012 to winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland for a $656 million Mega Millions top prize. But even if Saturday’s drawing doesn’t top that jackpot, it’s already the highest in Powerball history, surpassing that game’s $587.5 million record set in November 2012.
Although the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175 million, Powerball is still drawing plenty of dreamers.
“This is beyond water cooler talk,” says Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer. “Everyone wants a shot at it. When jackpots get to this level, we see sales three to four times normal. The universe of players expands to occasional players and a lot of first-timers jumping in.”
While buying a Powerball ticket in New Castle, Del., on Friday, Alice Thielemann, 69, said she plays both Powerball drawings every week.
“I have the same numbers all the time, but I’ve never ever been a winner on Powerball. Maybe today will change my luck,” she said.
Amy Farrell, 32, of Des Moines, said she would also donate some of her winnings, but would also buy a house and have a “heyday” blowing it.
“Four-wheelers, ATVs; lots of fast ATVs,” Farrell said. “I’d have the best camper — ever.”
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to win the top prize Saturday, you could get another chance soon: Large jackpots are increasingly common.
“Powerball was redesigned to have larger jackpots more often, but it was also redesigned to create lots of millionaires, and it’s succeeding on both levels,” says Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.
That redesign helped to increase the odds of winning any single prize and lowered the possible number of combinations to win the Powerball.
“(People) are interested in a big jackpot and a big number, and when it can get to that number very fast, the interest continues to grow,” said Andi Brancato, director of public relations for the Michigan Lottery.
Players should check their tickets to see if they’ve won one of the lesser prizes — which could be as high as $1 million or $2 million, Strutt says.
“Even if you don’t win the jackpot, you may have a winning ticket,” says Brancato.
Contributing: Mike Chalmers, Jon Ostendorff and Jens Manuel Krogstad, USA TODAY; the Associated Press