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Powerball players try for richest prize

May 21, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. - Kiesha Barrett hopes the names of her pet pigs add up to a $175 million jackpot.

She converted the letters in the names Punky, Dozer, Betsy, Thelma and Louise into the numbers she played for Wednesday night's world-record-shattering Powerball lottery drawing. She assigned each letter a number based on its spot in the alphabet - for example, "P" would be 16, since it's the 16th letter in the alphabet.

Barrett, 39, of Middleway, thought her pot-bellied pigs would prove to be lucky for her as she bought her tickets at the Country Roads General Store on W.Va. 51 in Middleway.

Parking lots were packed throughout the day Wednesday at convenience stores, general stores, liquor shops and other places where the multi-state Powerball lottery tickets could be drawn.

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Players try to match numbers on five white balls picked from a pool of 49 and one red Powerball number chosen from a pool of 42.

Those buying Powerball tickets can indicate on their stub whether they want the jackpot in one lump sum estimated at $61.6 million after taxes or $4.6 million per year spread out over 25 years.

Traffic on W.Va. 9 was forced to slow down near a food store on the West Virginia-Virginia line because so many people were parking on the shoulder and going inside to buy tickets.

A line of 50 people snaked through the Texaco Food Store in Marlowe, W.Va., the northernmost exit off Interstate 81 in West Virginia.

The Powerball lottery was last hit in April. Since then, the prize money for the twice-weekly drawing has grown as more and more people have been tantalized by the chance of winning the huge sum.

Last Saturday's Powerball jackpot was $119 million. It topped the mark of $118.8 million in the California Lottery on April 17, 1991. That jackpot was split 10 ways.

The largest lottery in the world was last year's Christmas drawing for Spain's lottery for a $270 million purse involving 130 grand prizes of about $2 million apiece.

Powerball is played in 20 states, including West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Most of the vehicles parked at the Texaco Food Mart bore Pennsylvania and Maryland tags.

Many of those buying lottery tickets said they were letting the computer generate numbers for them.

"I hear a lot of people hit off random numbers," said Tina Yates, 42, of Hagerstown.

She held a handful of lottery tickets as she sat in her car with her twin sister, Candy Mason, also of Hagerstown.

"If we hit, we're going to find two good-looking guys and float on the water somewhere for the next 10 years," Mason said with a laugh.

Others were selecting numbers that had special meaning to them.

Robert Isaacs, 43, of Hedgesville, W.Va., said he always plays the same numbers.

"I had a dream a long time ago about these numbers. I dreamt I hit the lottery in three different states with these numbers," Isaacs said.

"I closed my eyes and asked the big man in the sky to do the rest," said Mary Jane Virts, 58, as she stood in the Middleway store owned by her son.

Natalie Long, 29, of Frederick, Md., said she picked her lottery numbers using the birthdays and ages of family members.

Long said she was not surprised by the size of the crowd waiting to buy tickets.

"You have to have something to get excited about," Long said.

Her friend, Lynne Heroux, 34, of Frederick, stood next to her, busily filling in the numbers for her lottery tickets.

"I'm just winging it. I don't have any scientific method," Heroux said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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