Powerball: Got the fever yet?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 10:45am
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Gary Fowlie, of Village Variety. (Photo by Chris Wolf)

Just let a record Powerball Jackpot come around and it awakens a desire in most of us. We even begin to figure out how we will spend the money before we even buy the winning ticket. The question you ask is: Is all that money worth the one in 175,223,510 odds that you might actually pick the right numbers, or will you simply be out $2?

The chances of winning $4 on Powerball are one in 55, so the chance is believable your original investment of $2 will net you $4.

Gary Fowlie, of Village Variety in Camden, said this has been the best lotto sales he's seen in four to five years.

"A lot of people are buying Powerball tickets," he said. "Sales of other tickets are dropping and I've seen people I've never seen before coming in to buy a ticket. Ten and $20 worth seems to be the average, but it's not unusual to see $100 worth of tickets, as well. I just hope they are playing responsibly."

If you happen to win, what do you do? Sign the back of the ticket immediately and get a lawyer.

Powerball tickets are sold in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And though Lottery officials are saying the jackpot could potentially go higher by Wednesday's drawing, it probably won't approach the record $656 million paid out last April.

The cash option on this Powerball jackpot is roughly $278 million.

Bob Hall, manager of Tolman Pond Market on Route 90 in Rockport, said that ticket sales have not gone through the roof yet. He believes that: "Tuesday will see increased sales and Wednesday will be phenomenal. Not that it means anything, but today I've sold more scratch tickets than normal."

Ted Graffam echoed those sentiments.

"A few more today, but Tuesday will be higher and Wednesday higher yet," he said. "We really haven't seen a lot of new faces. People are buying five or six tickets as opposed to one. For some reason I can't keep $20 scratch tickets on the shelf."

The odds are almost 88 percent that in a given Powerball drawing, no one will win. There is an 11 percent chance that one ticket will win, 0.73 percent chance that two tickets will match and a 0.03 percent chance that three winners will emerge.

So why do people buy lottery tickets? You and the lottery form a machine that feeds on itself. It gets bigger, so more people buy tickets, so it gets bigger, so more people buy tickets, so it gets bigger... until someone eventually wins.

Do you think the Maine state government buys lotto tickets from itself?

Gretchen Leigh, of Hannaford Supermarket in Camden, said she doesn't expect to see a huge turnout until Wednesday.

"Then they'll be lined up," she said.

People are "creatures of habit," in her words. "They're going to buy what they're going to buy. It's just that this time they may buy a Powerball ticket, too."

Gretchen said she sees an average of two picks per ticket sold and those are usually quick picks.

Strategy: Many people believe buying tickets often, or in groups, will increase their chances of winning. It doesn't. The numbers you pick are either going to be an odd or even number. Past jackpot wins show that there is little chance the numbers picked were either all odd or all even, so don't do it. Playing your birthday, your anniversary, your address might bring you luck. Remember there is that one in 175 million chance. Just make sure you have an even mix of odd and even numbers to give you the best chance.

If you happen to win, what do you do? Sign the back of the ticket immediately and get a lawyer. Put the winnings away somewhere you can't get to it very easily and plan on sitting on it for at least three years before you start spending it. The world is rife with stories of big lotto winners who squander away their winnings and end up in debt.