Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Winning the lottery is already a difficult way to beat the odds, but some players end up needing an extra dose of luck when their winning tickets end up misplaced, misread or thrown in the trash.
Lottery expert Brett Jacobson said billions of dollars in lottery winnings go unclaimed each year, with a total $2.89 billion in prizes unclaimed in the 12-month period ending in June 2017. He said tickets are often misread, and players often don't completely understand the rules of the games they are playing.
Here are five stories of lottery players who narrowly evaded becoming part of a similar statistic:
A 70-year-old Baltimore, Md., woman told Maryland Lottery officials she bought a ticket for virtual horse racing game Racetrax at the Ravenwood Shopping Center in Towson and ended up winning $12,327 on her two-draw Superfecta wager. The woman said she excitedly took her ticket to the clerk to confirm her prize.
The winner said it wasn't until she was driving away from the shopping center and telling her partner about her win that she realized the ticket had been left behind at the counter. Her partner pulled a U-turn in the road and they returned to the store, where the clerk reunited the woman with her missing ticket.
Tennessee Lottery player Sean Winn of Greenville, Ky., tossed a Gigantic Jumbo Bucks scratch-off ticket into the back of his truck when he determined it wasn't a winner.
Winn had intended to throw the ticket away with the trash, but decided to enter it in a second-chance promotion. The decision turned out to be fortuitous, as the second chance game informed him that his ticket wasn't eligible for the promotion -- it was a $4 million winner.
Jeff Heinig of Harrison, Mich., said he tossed his Michigan Lottery Lucky For Life ticket in the trash when he checked the numbers and saw they didn't match, but he suspected he had made a mistake the following day when he checked the numbers again and saw some familiar digits.
Heinig fished the ticket out of the trash and rechecked it, realizing he had looked at the wrong result and tossed it away before the numbers had even been drawn. The ticket matched all five white balls drawn, 03-04-08-16-27, earning him a prize of $25,000 a year for life.
A 33-year-old Laurel, Md., woman told Maryland Lottery officials she had purchased a Powerball ticket for Sept. 7 drawing at True Convenience Store in Bryans Road, but the ticket ended up forgotten in a stack of papers.
The woman, who is only an occasional lottery player, said she was preparing to move weeks later when her mother went through the stack of papers and decided to check the ticket, which turned out to be a $50,000 winner.
A 67-year-old Baltimore woman told Maryland Lottery officials her Powerball tickets for the Feb. 23 drawing had been placed on her nightstand for safe keeping, but some of them ended up lost for two months.
The woman said she found the missing tickets when she was doing some cleaning and discovered her cat had stashed them behind her bed. She checked the tickets and discovered one was a $50,000 winner.