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Powerball jackpot climbs to $550M on ticket sales

  • A customer, left, reaches for a Powerball ticket that he purchased in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    A customer, left, reaches for a Powerball ticket that he purchased in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Sharon Long double checks her Powerball numbers as she stands in line in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Long, a customer service representative for a plumbing company, picked numbers that her sister asked her to play with. If she wins the jackpot with her sister's numbers, "I'm not sharing," she jokingly added. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    Sharon Long double checks her Powerball numbers as she stands in line in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Long, a customer service representative for a plumbing company, picked numbers that her sister asked her to play with. If she wins the jackpot with her sister's numbers, "I'm not sharing," she jokingly added. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Powerball numbers are chosen in the drawing at the Florida Lottery on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla. The numbers drawn in the $579.9-million game were: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

    Powerball numbers are chosen in the drawing at the Florida Lottery on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla. The numbers drawn in the $579.9-million game were: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

  • A customer at the Express Way on East Main Street in El Dorado, Ark. fills in his lucky numbers on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, for a chance to win the record setting Powerball jackpot. As Americans went on a ticket-buying spree, the Powerball jackpot rose to $550 million Wednesday, enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to purchase a shot at the second-largest payout in U.S. history. (AP Photo/The El Dorado News-Times, Michael Orrell)

    A customer at the Express Way on East Main Street in El Dorado, Ark. fills in his lucky numbers on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, for a chance to win the record setting Powerball jackpot. As Americans went on a ticket-buying spree, the Powerball jackpot rose to $550 million Wednesday, enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to purchase a shot at the second-largest payout in U.S. history. (AP Photo/The El Dorado News-Times, Michael Orrell)

  • Retired Dr. Paul Kruzel kisses his lottery ticket for luck after buying it at the Canterbury Country Store Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Canterbury, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Retired Dr. Paul Kruzel kisses his lottery ticket for luck after buying it at the Canterbury Country Store Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Canterbury, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Pat Powell, 30, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. "I think my odds are zero to zero," says Powell "I don't think I'm going to win but I'll just join the hype. If I did win, I'd open up my own business, an internet café in the West Indies and have a learning center here in Georgia. I'll invest and  try to be as smart with it as I can with it. I will say for the past 3 days, for whatever reason, I've been thinking about winning this money and what I'd do with it. There's no ritual but it's just been on my mind so it's like, let me just join the hype and just do it." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Pat Powell, 30, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. "I think my odds are zero to zero," says Powell "I don't think I'm going to win but I'll just join the hype. If I did win, I'd open up my own business, an internet café in the West Indies and have a learning center here in Georgia. I'll invest and try to be as smart with it as I can with it. I will say for the past 3 days, for whatever reason, I've been thinking about winning this money and what I'd do with it. There's no ritual but it's just been on my mind so it's like, let me just join the hype and just do it." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.  "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Donna Fields pays for her Powerball tickets in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Fields picked two sets of numbers off the top of her head and two easy picks in tonight's Powerball total with an estimated $550 million jackpot. Fields said, "If I won I would take care of God first, then my family and do some travelling, and oh yeah, quit my job." (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Donna Fields pays for her Powerball tickets in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Fields picked two sets of numbers off the top of her head and two easy picks in tonight's Powerball total with an estimated $550 million jackpot. Fields said, "If I won I would take care of God first, then my family and do some travelling, and oh yeah, quit my job." (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • A sign posted to a doorway of a convenience store advertises the current Powerball jackpot at $500 million, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    A sign posted to a doorway of a convenience store advertises the current Powerball jackpot at $500 million, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • A customer, who declined to give his name, looks down at his Powerball lottery ticket after buying one at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    A customer, who declined to give his name, looks down at his Powerball lottery ticket after buying one at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.  "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Ceejay Johnson, 48, of Southfield, Mich., gives her Powerball ticket numbers at Andrews Downtown in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.   Tonight's Powerball total is an estimated 500 million dollar jackpot. Johnson who normally doesn't play the lottery said, "somebodys got to win, why not me". (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Ceejay Johnson, 48, of Southfield, Mich., gives her Powerball ticket numbers at Andrews Downtown in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Tonight's Powerball total is an estimated 500 million dollar jackpot. Johnson who normally doesn't play the lottery said, "somebodys got to win, why not me". (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Store clerk Keyur Patel pulls a Powerball ticket that was dispensed from a machine in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    Store clerk Keyur Patel pulls a Powerball ticket that was dispensed from a machine in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Andre Williams, 48, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. ""I want that $500 million," says Williams. "It's my first time playing but I'm going to buy some more tickets. I got my dance I do when I do my scratch off tickets. My winning dance I do over at the barber shop with the boys. I'll get me some more when I get back to my side of town this evening. I don’t even know if I'll look at it. If I win, I might pass out." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Andre Williams, 48, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. ""I want that $500 million," says Williams. "It's my first time playing but I'm going to buy some more tickets. I got my dance I do when I do my scratch off tickets. My winning dance I do over at the barber shop with the boys. I'll get me some more when I get back to my side of town this evening. I don’t even know if I'll look at it. If I win, I might pass out." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Lamar Fallie, 52, of Chicago buys six Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Fallie who is currently unemployed say he doesn't normally play the lottery but was lured by  tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot. If he wins he says he will take care of his church first, then every child Beasley Elementary School will get a laptop, he will make a donation to Julian High School then he will retire from being unemployed. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    Lamar Fallie, 52, of Chicago buys six Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Fallie who is currently unemployed say he doesn't normally play the lottery but was lured by tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot. If he wins he says he will take care of his church first, then every child Beasley Elementary School will get a laptop, he will make a donation to Julian High School then he will retire from being unemployed. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Yvette Gavin, 51, sells dreams in the form of Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Gavin who has worked as a cashier at the station says she play lotto every once in a while, but with tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot  she is defiantly playing today. She says a lot of customers say if they will they will take care of her, but she will have to wait to see.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    Yvette Gavin, 51, sells dreams in the form of Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Gavin who has worked as a cashier at the station says she play lotto every once in a while, but with tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot she is defiantly playing today. She says a lot of customers say if they will they will take care of her, but she will have to wait to see. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • A customer, left, reaches for a Powerball ticket that he purchased in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
  • Sharon Long double checks her Powerball numbers as she stands in line in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Long, a customer service representative for a plumbing company, picked numbers that her sister asked her to play with. If she wins the jackpot with her sister's numbers, "I'm not sharing," she jokingly added. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
  • Powerball numbers are chosen in the drawing at the Florida Lottery on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla. The numbers drawn in the $579.9-million game were: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
  • A customer at the Express Way on East Main Street in El Dorado, Ark. fills in his lucky numbers on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, for a chance to win the record setting Powerball jackpot. As Americans went on a ticket-buying spree, the Powerball jackpot rose to $550 million Wednesday, enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to purchase a shot at the second-largest payout in U.S. history. (AP Photo/The El Dorado News-Times, Michael Orrell)
  • Retired Dr. Paul Kruzel kisses his lottery ticket for luck after buying it at the Canterbury Country Store Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Canterbury, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Pat Powell, 30, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. "I think my odds are zero to zero," says Powell "I don't think I'm going to win but I'll just join the hype. If I did win, I'd open up my own business, an internet café in the West Indies and have a learning center here in Georgia. I'll invest and  try to be as smart with it as I can with it. I will say for the past 3 days, for whatever reason, I've been thinking about winning this money and what I'd do with it. There's no ritual but it's just been on my mind so it's like, let me just join the hype and just do it." (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.  "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Donna Fields pays for her Powerball tickets in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Fields picked two sets of numbers off the top of her head and two easy picks in tonight's Powerball total with an estimated $550 million jackpot. Fields said, "If I won I would take care of God first, then my family and do some travelling, and oh yeah, quit my job." (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • A sign posted to a doorway of a convenience store advertises the current Powerball jackpot at $500 million, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • A customer, who declined to give his name, looks down at his Powerball lottery ticket after buying one at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown: The Musical" poses for a photo outside the Motown Museum in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.  "Motown: The Musical" begins its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14 at New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Ceejay Johnson, 48, of Southfield, Mich., gives her Powerball ticket numbers at Andrews Downtown in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.   Tonight's Powerball total is an estimated 500 million dollar jackpot. Johnson who normally doesn't play the lottery said, "somebodys got to win, why not me". (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Store clerk Keyur Patel pulls a Powerball ticket that was dispensed from a machine in a convenience store in Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. There have been no Powerball winners since Oct. 6, and the jackpot has grown into the second highest in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
  • Andre Williams, 48, of Atlanta, buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Atlanta. ""I want that $500 million," says Williams. "It's my first time playing but I'm going to buy some more tickets. I got my dance I do when I do my scratch off tickets. My winning dance I do over at the barber shop with the boys. I'll get me some more when I get back to my side of town this evening. I don’t even know if I'll look at it. If I win, I might pass out." (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Lamar Fallie, 52, of Chicago buys six Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Fallie who is currently unemployed say he doesn't normally play the lottery but was lured by  tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot. If he wins he says he will take care of his church first, then every child Beasley Elementary School will get a laptop, he will make a donation to Julian High School then he will retire from being unemployed. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
  • Yvette Gavin, 51, sells dreams in the form of Powerball tickets at a BP gas station Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 in Calumet Park, Ill. Gavin who has worked as a cashier at the station says she play lotto every once in a while, but with tonight's 500 million dollar jackpot  she is defiantly playing today. She says a lot of customers say if they will they will take care of her, but she will have to wait to see.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

As Americans went on a ticket-buying spree, the Powerball jackpot rose to $550 million yesterday, enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to purchase a shot at the second-largest payout in U.S. history.

Among them was Lamar Fallie, a jobless Chicago man who said his six tickets conjured a pleasant daydream: If he wins, he plans to take care of his church, make big donations to schools and then “retire from being unemployed.”

Tickets were selling at a rate of 130,000 a minute nationwide – about six times the volume from a week ago. That meant the jackpot could climb even higher before the Wednesday night drawing, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.

The jackpot has already rolled over 16 consecutive times without a winner, but Powerball officials say they now believe there is a 75 percent chance the winning combination will be drawn this time.

If one ticket hits the right numbers, chances are good that multiple ones will, according to some experts. That happened in the Mega Millions drawing in March, when three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot. That remains the largest lottery payout of all time.

Yvette Gavin, who sold the tickets to Fallie, is only an occasional lottery player herself, but the huge jackpot means she’ll definitely play this time. As for the promises she often gets from ticket purchasers, Gavin isn’t holding her breath.

“A lot of customers say if they win they will take care of me, but I will have to wait and see,” she said.

In the hours before Wednesday’s drawing, Associated Press photographers fanned out across the nation to meet ticket buyers and ask about their lottery fantasies. Here’s a look at what they found:

Atlanta

When Atlanta barber Andre Williams buys scratch-off tickets, he typically does a dance in his shop for good luck. As a first-time Powerball player, he plans to reprise the dance – and buy a few extra tickets to enhance his chances.

I don’t even know if I’ll look at it,” said Williams, who bought his ticket at a newsstand. “If I win, I might pass out.”

Paralegal Pat Powell was buying her first Powerball ticket at another store in Atlanta, even though she acknowledged her odds were probably “zero to zero.”

Still, Powell has specific plans should she win: start an Internet cafe in the West Indies and a learning center in Georgia.

“I’ve been thinking about winning this money and what I’d do with it,” Powell said. “There’s no ritual, but it’s just been on my mind. So it’s like, let me just join the hype and just do it.”

Canterbury

Powerball purchases at the Canterbury Country Store in Canterbury, N.H., have been so steady that the manager has been working extra evening hours to keep up.

Horticulturist Kevin Brags buys tickets at the store two to three times a month. He says he usually picks numbers higher than 32 because so many people use numbers 31 and lower, largely because of birthdays.

The birthday theory didn’t scare off Paul Kruzel, a retired doctor who chooses the days his children were born.

Both, however, have the same plans for winning: “make a lot of people happy.”

John Olson has a more elaborate idea: He’d like to buy an island.

Detroit

At a downtown Detroit convenience store, Ceejay Johnson purchased five Powerball tickets. If she strikes it rich, the analyst from Southfield, Mich., said she would buy a home for her sister in Florida. Then she would “go into hiding” and take care of her family.

“And the IRS,” she added.

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