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California

Powerball frenzy: ‘It’s a waste of money, but why not dream?’

	 Powerball frenzy: ‘It’s a waste of money, but why not dream?’

People wait in a long and thick line to buy a Powerball lottery ticket from Bluebird Liquor,  hoping to win the $1.5 billion jackpot in Hawthorne.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Expect more than 500 additional guests on Wednesday = Huge sales potential,” advised a printout from corporate headquarters that’s hanging near the register at a 7-Eleven in Glendale.

Store manager Elida Linares said she has seen well in excess of that number. Linares said the store had seen about 1,000 Powerball ticket buyers lining up throughout the day Wednesday, whereas a normal day might have only brought about a dozen, certainly fewer than 100.

The influx has been great for business, Linares said, but after two weeks of long lines, rowdy customers and extra staffing, she said she’s ready for things to go back to normal.

“If nobody wins today, oh my God,” Linares said, her eyes wide. “I can’t imagine until Saturday.”

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In the hours leading up to the record $1.5-billion drawing, customers formed lines that stretched the length of the store. Almost every customer in line was buying a Powerball ticket, whether it was their main mission or an add-on with a snack.

Target security guard Michael Woods, 39, of Los Feliz, was among them, buying five tickets for his first time ever.

“I know it’s a waste of money, but why not dream a little?” Woods said.

Woods said he dreams about taking care of his family, traveling the world and starting a company. Then again, the total has gotten so high that dreaming is a nearly futile exercise.

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“That kind of money, I don’t even know if I could fathom what I would do with it,” Woods said. “It would take a while to sink in, like ‘I am this rich.’”

Manuel Villanueva, 38, of Glendale, had already bought his one Powerball ticket of the day at another store. Villanueva was back for a Big Gulp and two Super Lotto tickets.

“I’m playing it safe,” he said to the cashier.

Villanueva said with all the hype, he’s betting that he’ll have better chances with the smaller lottos.

He’s been playing for 20 years, from the day he turned 18, though he’s never cashed in a single cent. Still, his dreams of supporting his children entice him.

“It’s the ‘what if,’” he said. “What if it’s me? What if it’s my turn? You’re playing for the big what if.”

As of this afternoon, at least 14% of all possible number combinations have yet to be purchased, according to lottery officials.

Just 86% of all potential winning sequences had been selected by ticket purchasers, said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California State Lottery. As a result, it remains possible that the drawing will fail to produce a winner, just like 19 drawings that have occurred since Nov. 7.

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If nobody wins the grand prize Wednesday, Traverso said the jackpot for the next drawing is likely to reach $2 billion.

The odds of winning the jackpot are ridiculously slim — 1 in 292 million.

To win the grand prize, players must match five numbers between 1 and 69 and then a sixth number between 1 and 26. The drawings occur every Wednesday and Saturday in the 44 states and three U.S. territories that participate.

The Powerball jackpot starts at $40 million and continues to grow until the grand prize finds a winner.

taylor.goldenstein@latimes.com


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