Majority of number combos picked for Powerball pot
By BARBARA RODRIGUEZ
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- It's all about the odds.
With the majority of possible combinations of Powerball numbers in play, someone is almost sure to win the lottery game's highest jackpot on Saturday night, a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars -- and that's after taxes.
Of course, the chances of winning the $600 million prize remain astronomically high: 1 in 175.2 million. And lottery officials said Saturday that 80 percent of the possible combinations have been purchased.
"This would be the roll to get in on," said Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich. "Of course there's no guarantee, and that's the randomness of it, and the fun of it."
That hasn't deterred people across Powerball-playing states -- 43 plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- from lining up at gas stations and convenience stores Saturday for their chance at striking it filthy rich.
At a mini market in the heart of Los Angeles' Chinatown, employees broke the steady stream of customers into two lines: One for Powerball ticket buyers and one for everybody else. Some people appeared to be looking for a little karma.
"We've had two winners over $10 million here over the years, so people in the neighborhood think this is the lucky store," employee Gordon Chan said as he replenished a stack of lottery tickets on a counter.
Workers at one suburban Columbia, South Carolina, convenience store were so busy with ticket buyers that they hadn't updated their sign with the current jackpot figure, which was released Friday. Customer Armous Peterson was reluctant to share his system for playing the Powerball. The 56-year-old was well aware of the long odds, but he also knows the mantra of just about every person buying tickets.
"Somebody is going to win," he said. "Lots of people are going to lose, too. But if you buy a ticket, that winner might be you."
The Powerball jackpot winner must have a ticket matching the numbers of five white balls picked out of a drum of 59 and one red one out of a drum of 35.
The latest jackpot is the world's second largest overall, just behind a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot in March 2012. The $600 million jackpot, which could grow before the numbers are drawn at 10:59 EDT Saturday (0259 GMT Sunday), currently includes a $376.9 million cash option .
A major reason for the sales surge is that last month, Powerball landed the nation's most populous state as California joined the others that offer the game. California lottery director Robert O'Neill said the state had brought "sunshine and good fortune" to Powerball.
Clyde Barrow, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, specializes in the gaming industry. He said one of the key factors behind the ticket-buying frenzy is the size of the jackpot -- people are interested in the easy investment.
"Even though the odds are very low, the investment is very small," he said. "Two dollars gets you a chance."
The Multi-State Lottery Association conducts the drawing live Saturday night from Tallahassee, Florida. The balls are weighed and X-rayed, and there are practice runs before the official televised version.
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