My numbers


At what point does the lottery jackpot begin to interest you?

Is it from the very beginning and smallest amounts? Are you picking up a ticket for each and every drawing, twice a week, regardless of the prize value? Are you one of those people that purchase extended play tickets good for several drawings?

How about when it clears $100 million? Do you sort of pay attention to the numbers, but only buy a ticket when the jackpot clears nine figures?

Maybe the trigger for you is $150 million?

$200 million?

I figure there are basically three types of lottery players when it comes to games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

First, you have the devotees… playing virtually every drawing. It’s a part of their week to walk into a store once or twice to play. They might even buy a ticket that plays for multiple drawings. And, there are even workplace pools that take collections every week for every drawing.

Third… yes, third… are the people that play only when the rush is on, everyone is talking about it, when the game hits roughly $200 million or more.

And second, in the middle but offered up last, are the people like me that sort of pay attention and jump before the rush.

I’ve also found that the media tends to heat up around the $200 million mark. It’s not an exact science, but that does seem to be when you start seeing the articles all over the place. News stations are broadcasting reports live from a corner convenience store on the last minute rush for tickets… newspapers are discussing how the taxes created by a big winner will help the state… online sources are interviewing people that tell you the top ten things to do with your winnings (or the top ten mistakes to avoid)… and everyone is attempting to find special angles for the stories of joys and horrors, while continuously asking what members of the audience might do if one of them won.

Me? I’m not an every-drawing player. I’m right there in the middle. It’s not my routine to stop in each week and pick up a ticket. I don’t use one purchase to play the same ticket for multiple drawings. Once things cross about $100 million though, I’m paying attention, and likely buying a ticket. That also means once the media machine begins winding up, it’s usually a week or two after I’ve noticed, and I start rolling my eyes and wondering what suddenly got them interested. (Because… you know… it’s my $200 million jackpot, so I’d appreciate a little quiet so all these other people don’t find out and buy their tickets before I can win it.)

The thing is… whether a regular player or chasing the stars for only the highest values player or something else entirely… I do have a specific set of numbers I like to pick. I do have superstitions. And that is at the heart of this particular essay.

You may have heard that Powerball will be drawn this weekend for a jackpot that is around $270 million right now. About a week ago I bought a ticket. Or, should I say, my first ticket on this particular jackpot run.

I do have my quirks as well. My general practice when I play is actually to pick up two tickets. One of those will be my collection of personal numbers. The second will be a quick pick. And if I make a mistake filling out the card, I ALWAYS buy that mistake in addition to my normal purchase. (I mean really… can you possibly imagine regularly picking 1 – 3 – 4 – 6 – 7 and 9 as the Powerball, then one day you fill out a card and darken in 1 – and (oh crap) 2 – and then how you would react when the drawing comes out 1 – 2 – 4 – 6 – 7 and 9? Of course you can. You have that same fear. You buy that ticket too. Anyway…)

I was at a store, picked up my Powerball numbers and an additional quick pick ticket, and went shopping for a few groceries. I got outside and pushed the cart to the car, placed the bags in the passenger side, and returned the cart to that corral thing.

When I got home, I brought in the bags, started to unload them, and remembered the Powerball tickets. I couldn’t find them. Suddenly I could vividly picture them in my mind… sitting in that little raised area kiddie seat section of the cart! I had left them behind.

Back into the car… ice cream left on the counter… off to the store.

(In case you care it was two pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and Terry put them in the freezer. I’m happy to report that no harm came to the Coffee Heath Bar Crunch or Chubby Hubby during the production of this story.)

Lots of searching. No finding.

Now… here’s where things get nutty.

Of course I went out later and bought new tickets. But in the back of my head, I was worried that someone else had taken the tickets (not found… taken), my personal numbers would win, and then I would have to share the jackpot with someone that won half of it off of my stupidity.

In a way I was actually relieved when there wasn’t a winner for that drawing. Reset everything… buy new tickets… and go again without having to worry about someone else cashing in on my winners. Sounds good to me… and I slept better that night because of it.

As a side note… Mega Millions didn’t have a winner yesterday, so I’ll be buying those tickets again in the next few days too. (By the way, that jackpot is nearing $170 million… which means it’s nearing that media-frenzy tipping point as well. Which will only be enhanced by “for those of you that didn’t win, Mega Millions is at” stories that kick off if someone doesn’t win Mega Millions before someone connects on Powerball. Anyway… you heard it here first.)

The next drawing is tonight. In addition to our own tickets, Terry and I have chipped in money with some friends at work. And Terry keeps asking me if the drawing has been held yet.

In general, I will almost forget about the drawing and never watch it on television. Instead… well… Molly will come to the rescue.

I do remember that the drawing is taking place on a given night. Molly almost always likes to get up at least once and go outside for a few minutes. So somewhere around 2am, I’m likely to hear some panting from the end of the bed. Molly knows how to sneak around the little blockades we have in place, and if I don’t get up within three or four minutes she decides enough is enough and moves from the foot of the bed into position to dive on top of me. (She has even worked out exactly how to pounce perfectly on top of my side of the bed without waking Terry. Gus isn’t quite as stealth-like in his approach. To avoid the pounce, I regularly respond after two minutes of panting.)

Once outside, while admiring the sky, it will occur to me that the numbers have been drawn. And I’ll never get back to sleep without checking them.

(I suppose I’ll wish you the best, but let’s face facts… it wouldn’t be genuine. Instead I’ll just promise that if I win, I’ll back off and stay out of your way the next time. How’s that?)

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