Buy the numbers

October 19, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION and RICHARD F. BELISLE


With the Powerball jackpot at $340 million - the largest top prize ever - players streamed into convenience stores in West Virginia and Pennsylvania on Tuesday hoping to beat some hefty odds.

The drawing for the jackpot is tonight, with odds of winning 1 in 146,107,962.

The jackpot was the topic of conversation in the Eagle Mart along W.Va. 9 west of Hedgesville, W.Va., as people stood in line and joked about the odds of winning.

"You got a better chance to stand out in the middle of the road and get struck by lightning today," said Dave Zembower of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., as he stood in line at the store in Eagle Plaza.


That didn't stop people from trying to land a winning ticket.

Since the weekend, people had been stopping by the convenience store east of Hedgesville buying large numbers of tickets, store employee Melinda Cook said.

One man bought $300 in tickets and many people were buying at least $50 worth, Cook said.

Randy Blaylock bought five tickets at the store with hopes of helping his family and his fellow man if he won.

Blaylock said he would first make sure his family is financially secure, then give some of the money to charity.

"I'd like to see a complex for homeless people in this area," the Hedgesville man said.

Melissa Maclean of Hedgesville bought five tickets for the drawing, which she does about five times a year.

Maclean said she usually waits to play when the jackpot gets big.

If she wins, Maclean said she would put the money in the bank and "get out of the area."

Maclean said she and her husband work at their own business, which would be offered to one of her employees if she won.

Kathy McIntyre was feeling good about her prospects for winning.

"I know I'm going to win, I just know it," McIntyre said.

McIntyre said she would share the money with her family and some close friends.

"All the ones that come out of the woodwork, I'd have to tell them to go someplace else," McIntyre said.

In Pennsylvania, where Powerball also is played, the lines weren't as long, but the hopes ran just as high.

Missy Starliper, a clerk behind the counter at Sheetz at the intersection of Pa. 16 and U.S. 11 in Greencastle, Pa., said, "people from all over are buying Powerball tickets. I probably will, too. It's $340 million."

There were no unusually long lines in front of Starliper's counter around 1 p.m. Tuesday, but some people paying for gas or food bought lottery tickets too.

Lisa Trimmer of Harrisburg, Pa., was not among them.

"I never bother," she said. "The odds are so slim. It's a waste of money."

Doug Gearhart of Hagerstown stopped by Sheetz to fill up the tank in his white sedan. He said he was on his way to visit his mother in Chambersburg, Pa.

"I'll buy two tickets on my way back," he said.

In Waynesboro, Pa., Ben Greenawalt, a resident of that community, bought $5 worth of tickets at Waynesboro Food & Fuel at 806 S. Potomac St.

"I don't usually buy lottery tickets," he said, but he couldn't resist a prize as tempting as $340 million.

He was pessimistic about his luck.

"I'm probably a loser," he said.

Paul Jones, 80, of Waynesboro, bought three tickets after paying for gas at the Potomac Street station.

"I usually get a couple of tickets, but I've never hit. I wouldn't know what to do with it if I won," he said.

Gary Patel, owner of the station, said Maryland residents, lured by the big jackpot, have been buying tickets.

As for himself, Patel said he's not a regular ticket buyer.

"Very rarely, but it's just a dollar, so it's OK," he said.

In tonight's drawing, any player whose ticket matches all winning numbers except the Powerball could win millions because of a bonus that kicks in when the pot reaches record levels, lottery officials in West Virginia have said.

A five-number match without the Powerball usually pays $200,000, but because of the record jackpot, the Match 5 bonus pool will have an estimated $13 million for today's drawing, according to the Powerball Web site.

The previous record Powerball jackpot of $314.9 million was won on Christmas Day 2002 by Jack Whittaker of Scott Depot, W.Va.

Powerball is played in 27 states, including West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

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