Mega Millions frenzy pushes jackpot up

March 30, 2012 at 11:22 PM
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NEW YORK, March 30 (UPI) -- There were long lines at convenience stores Friday as last-minute ticket purchases across the United States pushed the Mega Millions jackpot to $640 million.

Anyone who bought a ticket with the numbers 2, 4, 23, 38, 46, and the mega number 23 will win at least a share of the record jackpot. Those were the numbers drawn at 10:59 p.m. EDT.

Many people bought multiple tickets. Basketball player Chris Singleton of the Washington Wizards sent out a tweet to let fans know he would be spending $10,000, The Washington Post reported.

The 42-state lottery jackpot has rolled over 18 times since Jan. 25, the last time someone won the big one. The buying frenzy pushed the jackpot up from a record $540 million early Friday to $640 million by early afternoon.

A lottery official told CBS News the millions of tickets sold means there is a 90 percent probability that at least one will be a winner. But the odds of any individual ticket winning remain a daunting 1 in 176 million.

CBS asked two New York University mathematicians about number-picking strategies. Sylvain Cappell said choosing numbers others think are unlucky can reduce the chances of having to share a jackpot but there is no way to pick winners, while Charles Newman said he picks numbers at random.

Cappell had one further piece of advice: "I have to say the best strategy is not to buy the lottery ticket!"

The D.C. Lottery issued a commemorative "I Played the World's Largest Jackpot" ticket this week.

A typical Mega Millions drawing sells 250,000 tickets in the nation's capital.

The previous largest payout was $390 million in 2007, claimed by two players in New Jersey and Georgia.

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