Updated at 12:06 a.m., Nov. 29, 2012
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — You could be a multimillionaire right now and not even know it.
The Powerball jackpot jumped to $550 million on Wednesday, and then reached $580 million just before the 11 p.m. drawing.
The winning numbers are: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, and Powerball number 6
Before the drawing, the jackpot set off a ticket-buying frenzy. An estimated 130,000 tickets were being sold every minute, officials said.
But as CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, while entertaining caviar dreams of winning sound thrilling, the chances of winning are, of course, discouragingly slim.
“The chance of winning if you don’t play is zero, and if you do play it’s about the same — zero,” said Aaron Tenenbein, a professor of statistics at New York University.
Tenenbein emphasized that there are zeros after the decimal point for the winning percentage. An average golfer has a better chance of getting two straight holes in one.
But the fact that the odds are long — each ticket has a 1 in 175 million chance of winning — did not deter many in the Tri-State Area from dreaming big dreams.
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“People are buying like crazy,” Sarth Shah, who was selling tickets at a 7-Eleven in Saddle Brook, N.J., told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.
The store does have a history of printing winners. In July, a Cash 5 ticket worth more than $100,000 was sold there. Eight years ago, Ken Mamazzo said he was a lucky winner.
“I won $5,000 on a ticket I bought here,” he said. “I haven’t won since.”
The largest jackpot in Powerball’s history has rolled over 16 times without a winner. A surge in ticket sales pushed the top prize up from $425 million to $500 million on Tuesday, to $550 million during the day on Wednesday, and to $580 million on Wednesday night.
Winning the jackpot represents a potential life-changing fortune.
“This is my last two dollars, but I’m going to be a rich man when I win,” said Glenn Gibson, of Hackensack.
The single cash payment option is a jaw-dropping $380 million and after taxes, it’s closer to $251 million. That’s a boatload of cold, hard cash to do a whole lot of good with.
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“All those people who got hit because of Sandy, I’m going to help them out,” said Moe Aarabi, of Saddle Brook. “Try to make everyone happy.”
The prize is the second highest in lottery history. Eight months ago, a trio of ticket buyers split a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot to set a world lottery record. If no one wins on Wednesday night, Saturday’s drawing will challenge the world record.
“Powerball, just like Mega Millions, is a sales-driven game,” New York Lottery spokesperson Yolanda Vega told 1010 WINS. “So the more people that purchase, the higher the jackpot gets and so many people are buying right now that sales are so brisk.”
However, Vega pointed out that the odds of winning any amount are 1 in 32.
“You can win something and the second prize for just getting the five numbers without Powerball, that’s a million dollar payout,” Vega said. “It takes only $2 and a dream. You gotta be in it to win it because hey, you never know.”
Chuck Strutt, executive director of Multi-State Lottery Association, predicted a 60 percent chance of someone winning on Wednesday — maybe better if there’s a flurry of last-minute ticket purchasers picking unique numbers.
Strutt puts the odds at around 5 percent there would be no winner in the entire run through Wednesday.
Astrologer Z Starman predicted there wouldn’t be a winner this week.
“I think we’ll extend it one more week and next week’s lottery — it will be won by a group of people,” Starman told CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano.
Manhattan-based tax expert David Selig offered those looking to cash in on the huge prize one key piece of advice.
“Don’t buy the ticket in New York State,” where 9 percent goes to the state. And if you buy in New York City, add an additional 4 percent in taxes, he told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports
If you happen to be the one holding the winning ticket after the drawing, Selig recommended going for the more conservative annuity, instead of opting for the lump sum payment.
“We represented two multi-million lottery winners, one of which had rendered themselves entirely indigent. They were borrowing money against their projected earnings,” Selig told Diamond. “If you take the lump sum, you’re looking at approximately one-third of the face amount, slightly less.”
Selig said the first step for the eventual Powerball winner or winners is to hire a lawyer and an accountant before spending a dime.
On the Upper West Side, resident Bruce Horowitz said he dropped $100 on tickets.
“I’m hoping to change my life today,” Horowitz said.
Residents in Little Ferry, N.J., who were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, said winning the jackpot would help their town rebuild.
“I would make a donation of at least 25 percent of my winnings to the town,” Phil Dittmar said.
Lotto players have been buying tickets from a lucky store that sold a $10,000 scratch-off ticket on Thanksgiving.
“If you were to spend over $300 million, you might win a ticket,” said Jared Lander, a statistician and adjunct professor at Columbia University. “There is no real good way to win this thing.”
What would you do with the money if you won? Let us know below!
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