Record Powerball jackpot has residents hoping for green Christmas
"I only play when it gets big, and this is big," said Ray Flaherty, a retired sixth-grade teacher from Hampstead Middle School who promised to give the school some dough if he hit Wednesday night's jackpot that continued to soar as players lined up for their tickets in the hours leading up to the big drawing.
Many who bought tickets in hopes of becoming America's next multi-millionaire were like Flaherty: They play when the jackpot gets out of control.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the jackpot had swelled to $550 million, with a $360,200,000 cash payout for those who want to snatch it up in one lump sum. Ticket sales were brisk at stores across New Hampshire, including at Hampstead Center Market, where employee Beverly Pardue was preparing for an early-evening rush.
"This place will be bombing when people get out of work," she said Wednesday afternoon. Pardue, who hopes she gets lucky with just one ticket, traveled to Maine last Saturday to buy a Powerball ticket for that night's drawing.
"I wanted to change my luck," she said. But no winning numbers were picked that night, so Pardue planned to try again with a ticket purchased here.
Jacob Sampsonis, who works at Mr. Mike's Mobil in Kingston, had not bought one ticket by Wednesday afternoon, but he sold a lot of them.
"People who have never even played before are coming out to play," he said. Sampsonis may not need to play if one of his customers wins. "If I had a dollar for every person who said they would share it with me, I would have $500 million," he said.
Alicia Sales had a line of customers at the Cumberland Farms in Epping. "It's been non-stop busy," she said, trying to catch her breath. Some people had never played before and needed a lesson in filling out the form, while others hadn't played in ages stopped by.
Others took the easy approach. Bob Evans purchased five "quick pick" tickets, but the 49-year-old Hampstead man had no idea what he would do if he won. "I think the assumption is that I'm not going to win," he said. "I'll figure it out if I win."
Like others with big dreams, Flaherty did his homework before picking his numbers. He jumped online and found the numbers that showed up most often and also the ones that hadn't been picked in some time. He also went with some dates for birthdays and anniversaries.
Judi Albarano, 58, grabbed 10 tickets at Hampstead Center Market. "The first thing I would do is buy a new car," she said. She'd also give to charities and help her family with bills. "I'd also tell my husband to retire," said Albarano, who is already retired.
With the odds of winning the jackpot one in 175,223,510, Albarano wasn't too optimistic she'd wake up a millionaire Thursday morning. "If it happens, it happens, but I won't lose sleep over it," she said.