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Texans queue up for shot at $550 million Powerball jackpot

Tonight's drawing will feature the world's second-largest lottery jackpot

11/27/2012 11:38 PM

11/29/2012 3:50 PM

ARLINGTON -- Maybe today will be Daphne Banks' lucky day.

Banks bought three tickets for tonight's record $550 million Powerball jackpot drawing -- the world's second-largest lottery jackpot ever.

"I feel lucky every day I play the lottery," Banks, a 51-year-old Arlington woman, said with a smile.

She played the same two sets of numbers she always does when buying a Powerball ticket (a combination of birthday, anniversary and other special dates) and she bought a Quick Pick to boot.

Banks is among countless hopefuls flocking to convenience stores in Texas and nationwide this week, buying tickets for tonight's Powerball drawing.

So many people are buying tickets, in fact, that officials today bumped the drawing from $500 million to $550 million. And they potentially could end up increasing the amount again before tonight's drawing.

Only one lottery jackpot ever has been larger than tonight's: the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot back in March, which was won by three different players in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.

Sales continue booming in Texas, with sales through adding up to more than $5.1 million.

Each minute, more than $22,000 in tickets are being sold. Through midnight Tuesday, more than $850,000 of Powerball tickets had been sold in Fort Worth, according to the Texas Lottery Commission.

"Powerball sales in Texas are phenomenal," said Gary Grief, executive director of the lottery commission. "Texas is long overdue for a Powerball jackpot winner and we hope a Texan claims [tonight's] jackpot."

Powerball is a multi-state lottery that began in 1992 and Texas joined in 2010.

Players win by correctly matching five numbers from a field of 59 -- as well as the Powerball number, which players choose from 35 numbers -- on a $2 ticket.

Players who match all the numbers except for the Powerball win $1 million, or $2 million if they purchase a $1 add on Power Play feature.

Tickets will be sold until 9 p.m. for the drawing that will be conducted at 9:59 p.m.

The odds of winning the jackpot are one in 175,223,510. The odds of winning any prize are one in 32, according to the lottery commission.

Lucky feeling?

If no one wins the Powerball jackpot tonight, the next drawing on Saturday could be the world's largest.

Gary Harnist knows the odds of his winning the jackpot aren't great.

But that didn't stop him from buying 10 tickets Tuesday at Chuck's Grocery, a small convenience store in central Arlington that consistently ranks among the top lottery sellers in Texas.

"I'm just trying," the 52-year-old Mansfield man said.

He has a mental list of what he would do if he won: pay off his house, give to charity, set up college funds for his children. "I would invest and live comfortably for the rest of my life," he said.

When asked if he feels lucky, he smiled.

"I hope," Harnist said. "You always have that dream."

Tonight's jackpot started as a $40 million drawing on Oct. 6 and has grown during the 15 draws it has gone without a jackpot winner.

The last winning Powerball jackpot ticket was sold in Delaware on Oct. 3. The biggest Powerball drawing jackpot ever was a $365 million prize won in Nebraska in 2006, according to the lottery commission.

Count Robert Crevier of Fort Worth is among those hoping to win tonight.

On Monday, the 61-year-old bought 20 tickets for tonight's Powerball drawing.

He knows what it feels like to have a winning ticket, even if it's not for the grand prize. Last year, he matched four of five numbers, plus the Powerball, to win $40,000.

"I was shocked the next morning when I checked the numbers on the Internet," Crevier said. "I checked them about six times and said 'It can't be.'"

But it was, and he and his wife bought a travel trailer with their winnings, which they've used for a few road trips, including one to Corpus Christi this past summer.

He still buys tickets for various lottery drawings, as he has since the Texas Lottery went into effect in 1992, and hopes to have a chance to match all the numbers.

Soaring sales

On Sunday, ticket sales were up more than 300 percent over the previous Sunday. By Monday, sales in Texas were up 577 percent over sales last Monday, according to the most recent numbers provided by the Texas Lottery Commission.

"Whenever we have these historic jackpots, we see a tremendous increase in sales, which means more revenue for public education in Texas," Grief said.

Amyn Muhammad, who works at a Shell gas station in Fort Worth, has seen at least one customer buy $100 in tickets, but typical sales are more likely to be $10, $20 or $50 a pop.

And Sadia Shahbuddia, who works at Mr. Jake's Food Mart in Fort Worth, said customers generally have been buying one, two or three tickets at a time -- although some bought in larger quantities.

After every purchase, Shahbuddia offers well wishes.

"I tell everyone good luck," she said. "If I forget to say it, they remind me."

Maybe her offerings of luck will bode well for herself.

She even bought a ticket for tonight's drawing.

"You never know," she said with a grin.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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