Struck Rich! Winning the California Lottery Print E-mail

LotteryPostcard1_preview(San Diego Reader June 26, 2003)

"You won how much?" I asked again.

"Ten million," he repeated, as though it were the time of day. Then, just as flatly, he asked that his name not be used, though he would "throw" a few facts my way, careful to conceal his identity behind cryptic remarks. In 2001 the former San Diegan had won $10 million on the SuperLotto Plus (matching six of six numbers), after buying an "Instant Millionaire" winning ticket in 1994. "I’m really blessed," he said, "basically because I’m a really good person. To somebody who never had money, the first time I won was a nightmare. You get under a lot of stress when you make investments. I like to gamble—I’ve been gambling since I was 21—[so I] walk into these Indian casinos and right away, just because of my past, they think I’m doing something. My past is my past; it’s over with. Now I live a simple, humble life. I’m married and I have a beautiful dog. That’s the way life is. I still work for a corporation in San Diego," though now he’s moved to a high desert community, where he continues to bet on the Lotto.

"When you know a lot of people like I do," in the low-wage manual labor industry where he works, he said, "I get a lot of crap. We don’t get the cream of the crop in that industry. There’s a lot of young guys," he said, his tone dismissive. They assume, he went on, that a millionaire and a laborer are a laughable paradox, and that he must be nuts. "The reason why I’m working? To stay peaceful," he said. "For the next couple of years, anyway. I plan on doing a little bit of relaxation. Me and my wife want to start enjoying life because she’s almost—well, she’s getting up there, and I’m getting up there. But hey, when you’re born and raised in San Diego, it’s kind of nice. It’s been a blessing. I like to go to San Diego to cash in my tickets," he said, describing himself, in the next breath, as "kind of a smart ass." He told me he had to get going, but we’d hook up again—"shoot a little bit more information to you, what it’s like to win, what it’s like to be singled-out, that sort of thing"—but he never called back nor did he respond to my calls. Maybe he felt singled out, yet again.


The California Lottery began in 1984, when voters approved the initiative by a 58 to 42 percent. The Lottery is overseen by a Gray Davis-appointed commission of a non-practicing lawyer, a county supervisor, a former Deputy Sheriff, and a man who was once President of Daytime Entertainment for ABC Television. Based in Sacramento, these four commissioners manage what is essentially a gargantuan casino business. The casino is the state (in the form of Mom-and-Pop corner stores as "lottery retailers") and the business is selling chances (more than $2.89 billion during fiscal 2001-2002) on a set of games with randy-sounding names like SuperLotto Plus, Fantasy 5, Hot Spot, and, for a while, Elvis Scratchers, promising, along with money, trips to Graceland and "cool Elvis gear." Those who buy the traditional Scratchers tickets (scratch the gray film to reveal, "TV Show, TV Show, TV Show") are flown to Sacramento for the Big Spin, a half-hour program shown live every Saturday at 7:30 throughout California (locally on XUPN / Channel 13). A pair of chattering hosts exhorts players to spin the glitzy monster wheel or play the Fantasy 5 Dream Machine, a vertical pinball machine whose gears whir and route the ball’s fall into one of five money-earning slots. But beware: two balls in one slot, and you lose what you’ve just won.

Before the players play, the host asks what they will do with the winnings. Amid "woo-woo"s and arm-pumping hurrahs from camera-panned relatives in the audience, the contestants typically reply, "I’m gonna buy a car and take the kids to Disneyland." When they win less than they hope for—which is nearly always—the host doesn’t ask for a revised plan: instead, he or she screams at the players, in a syllable-parsing carnival-barking voice, "Are you rea-dy to go a-gain? You’ve-won-sev-en-ty-five-THOU-sand-dol-lars!" Everyone cheers and everyone wants to go again. (The few, the brave, take 75 or 100 grand once they get there.) With Fantasy 5, most players rise and fall in earnings, and, with whooped-out expressions, are kindly pushed off the stage. Spinning the big wheel, very few win the million-dollar prize. Millionaires are made not on TV but at 7-11 counters by matching the weekly-changing numbers of SuperLotto Plus.

On the gold lamé highway, one can find thousands of lottery winners who pull in $200, $20,000, $200,000, fewer and fewer the higher you go. Since 1985, when payouts began, the California Lottery has proudly birthed more than 1000 millionaires, though one study found that 33 percent of lottery millionaires nationwide had filed for bankruptcy. Also, since 1985, the game has contributed $14 billion to public schools, 81 percent of which is earmarked for grades K through 12. But that $14 billion is "only" 34 percent of the total revenue; 52 percent of all lottery proceeds go to the winners.

Are local winners eager to share their stories? Hardly. Though two people in San Diego and four in the county per year win big, most of them do not answer the phone or return calls because they are hounded by investment advisors. The terse comment of one elderly San Diego woman, who with her husband won a $10.2 million jackpot a decade ago, no doubt stands for the feelings of the lottery nouveau riche. In a (phone) voice shaking with anger, she told me that no, she didn’t want to talk because "we’ve been harassed, we want to live our lives, and we don’t want any publicity."

Of the winners who did talk, I wanted to know their stories and what, if any, wisdom they could attach, after a few years’ distance, to having won. How did the money transform their lives? Did any of them lose or spend their jackpots? Did any of their attitudes toward money and happiness actually change?


Meredith (her name and occupation have been changed) won a million-dollar prize in the early 1990s, and the fallout from her sudden fortune, she said, "follows me everywhere." She recalled going into a 7-11 and buying a Quick Pick ticket with a dollar she had left over from dinner. The next day, a Sunday, she checked her ticket and found she had won five dollars; she didn’t know that the Quick Pick tickets were also eligible for a special million-dollar drawing. Needing the five dollars for gas, she stopped at the 7-11 and hurriedly asked the man behind the counter for the money. It turned out that he was a lottery official who had just arrived with news that the million-dollar ticket had been sold by this vendor the night before. Meredith remembered the man telling her she had won, and then saying, "‘I have never seen anyone turn so pale.’" She said, "I walked a few steps backwards. I was absolutely shocked. But at the same time I knew the day before—I can’t really describe it fully—I knew I had to get there [to that 7-11] and buy a ticket. I had a weird feeling. I knew I had this chance. But when I won, I was shocked. If that makes any sense.

"The next thing I know," she continued, "I’m at a press conference, to which I had been encouraged to come forward." At the time the lottery people said she could remain anonymous, but for them, because of the lottery’s connection to education, the publicity was welcome. Quoting lottery officials, Meredith said they like winners to say, "‘Hey, I won the lottery’ because it inspires people," to play the game. She felt she wanted to help promote the game, "to be nice." Her picture appeared the next day in the paper. Big smile and all. "Let’s be fair," she said. "They [lottery officials] treated me royally to a major formal dinner. Then, they wanted me to audition for a commercial for another promotion, which I did. And it was really fun."

Meredith was first inundated with calls from charitable organizations. Then, when word spread at work of her windfall, she started receiving advice from co-workers who knew money managers. "Notes were passed to me during meetings," she recalled. Financial consultation was available. Meredith took the advice from one consultant and put money down on a house. She also helped family members with cash. During that time, she said, she felt things couldn’t be better, and, indeed, the early 1990s were some of her best years. A committed professional, she also won a promotion she had coveted.

Within a few years, she was recruited by a headhunter "with an enticing salary" to move to a larger corporation where she would monitor an account with the federal government. At this company she won an award as "the director of the year for the whole western division." Then, in a monthly report to a man who was the newly hired head of the corporation, she listed "major discrepancies" in the bookkeeping and told the new C.E.O. that she had "tried to fix" those discrepancies. Soon, she was declared a "whistle-blower," the kiss of death for career-oriented managers.

Suddenly Meredith was terminated—when her boss fired her, he also literally "kicked me in the shins"—for what she called her whistle-blowing activities and other "bogus reasons." She hired a lawyer and decided to sue. She poured her lottery earnings into the case—paying for the video depositions of some 20 people and, a major new expense, $600 a month on psychotherapy. After a year or two out of work, she was finally hired to a new position, though at half the salary she once had. "If you’re getting the picture, my money is going down, down, down, with the therapy. Then I had attorney costs. I gave them enough money" to retaliate against her former corporation. "That has gone on now for 6 years," she continued. "All during that time I’ve plunged about $23,000 into therapy. Then the company [she was fired from] went bankrupt," which meant hiring different attorneys to pursue her claim in bankruptcy court. "Meanwhile my income is going"—and here, her words, one after the other, dropped in tone—"down, down, down, down, down."

Next—and "worst of all!" Meredith said—she looked into selling her winnings. Most players who hit the jackpot and choose not the lump sum payout but a 20-year annuity are eventually contacted by finance companies, offering to buy future payments for less than half their value. (The Lottery maintains an investment office to advise people not to go this route.) But Meredith was desperate for cash, and, because she could not afford to pay her legal bills with her meager income, she decided to sell her payments. She even had to hire an attorney to make the sale of those payments official

"The reason I’m telling you all this," she said, "is to put the word out to future lottery winners—never, ever sell your payments. Do not fall for what these companies tell you about selling your money." Today, she is still in debt, with a lien on her house. She said, to keep her lottery money, she "didn’t want to intrude on friends or try to figure out any other way." A death in her family that year added to the woe.

It was never Meredith’s intention to quit her profession because she won a million dollars. Rather, she said, "my whole life was my career. I really did a good job at it. The benefit to me now is, I will never be so possessed by a career to the detriment of everything else. Now I’m much healthier because I’ve learned my priorities. I will never go into top management again. I’m working extra hours now, trying to see the end of the tunnel, trying to keep positive. Why? Because you have to."

I wondered whether the lottery money made Meredith’s fight more problematic because it helped draw her legal fight out longer. Her comment was that she still would have fought the fight against the company, and "would have probably lost a lot earlier than I did." The money, in fact, gave her the means to follow her conscience. "The positive is, I never want to be in the goldfish bowl of management. For a while I lost my confidence. I was blaming myself. I could have left before the corporation did this to me. In the long run, though, things like this happen for a reason. The purpose of it is to learn and grow."


Of the big winners I spoke with, not everyone wanted anonymity. One was Arthur Allen, a machinist who was, and still is, working at National Steel & Shipbuilding Company. In 1998, Allen won $4.5 million, a figure, he said, "which is before taxes. They like to throw that number out there because it’s so big." In reality, he got somewhat less, about $110,000 a year for 26 years. Allen, who lives in Santee, said that his wife paged him at work with the news. How did he react? "I coined the phrase ‘emotional intoxication.’" Friends and families were very supportive, he said. At first Allen didn’t do anything. He gave some money to family, friends, and charities. Now, he and his wife are "using money to remodel the house I still live in." This fact—treasuring a life that transcends the windfall—seemed important to all winners.

Allen said yes, he still works, "to my fellow employees’ chagrin." He believes his workmates think "that I shouldn’t be working, that I should let some younger guy have the job because obviously I don’t need the money—and that’s their opinion not necessarily mine." I asked Allen if he enjoyed the work. "Well," he said, "I enjoy working. I have long-range goals, not short-range goals and you can’t acquire your long range goals with the sum of money that you receive each year." He means the $110,000. "You don’t have to worry about the mortgage but you still have to worry about other things."

Several post-lottery sharks have circled Allen. "Early on," Allen recalled, "there were unsolicited phone calls from people who wanted to buy the annuity based on 80 cents on the dollar. You get a lot of that. If I had to do it again"—Allen paused for a short time—"I wouldn’t go public." By law, he said, the state of California has to print your name, the amount you won, and the city or community in which you live. And that’s it. That’s about as public as you have to go." If a winner wants to promote the California Lottery, then he or she can’t play anymore. Allen still likes to play so he has never signed on to do commercials for the game.

While his attitude toward money has not changed, Allen said with a laugh that his attitude toward other things has. Like "those who know only bits and pieces" of his whole story. "The attitude people project toward you. The envy that you get from co-workers. The inferences. The insinuations. It’s died down significantly since 1998." Allen called his winning a "learning experience. I can remember when I first called to get the ticket validated, and the person at the local lottery office said I was rather subdued, and she could tell by the tone of my voice. She said, ‘Well, it’s not a bad thing.’ But I’m thinking, ‘Lady, you don’t have a clue. When’s the last time somebody dropped this kind of money in your lap overnight?’"

Allen seems almost blasé about what most people would expect to transform their lives. "You’ve still got to get up and shave and go to work and you’ve still got to change the diapers on the kids and mow the grass and do the things that we all do every day." With work, he said that he used to "take all the overtime I could get my hands on. I cut back drastically. Now I work a regular 40-hour work week. From that aspect I cut back."

To the question, why do people play the lottery, Allen said, it’s no different from other forms of entertainment. "Some people spend 7 or 8 dollars on a movie. [Buying a lottery ticket] is just a form of recreation. Nothing more than that. I don’t spend the kids’ lunch money. If you do it with that aspect in mind, you can leave it at that. When I won, the odds were 1 in 18 million." Allen thinks the root reason so many play is that "people win it."


The ironies of the lottery are made to astound. One husband, Mr. Wagner, whose wife Jackie "won big" about 10 years ago, said that yes, she was part of a mega-payout of some $56 million dollars. But, when "you do the math, you find, first, that the jackpot had to be divided by nine," in other words, nine tickets had the same five numbers, and, second, "she was in a pool of 20. So after dividing it nine ways and 20 ways, it came out to something on the order of $300,000 over 20 years. And so you’re only looking at 10 or 12 grand a year for 20 years, something like that. It’s an interesting amount of money," he said, "but nothing like the little old lady from San Jose who won $84 million and who’s 84 years old—and there were no other winners." In short, Wagner said, speaking for his wife, he wouldn’t call it "a life-changing experience. Hers didn’t turn out to be the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." It was, rather, more like an unexpected state pension than "big winnings."

In 1997 Robert Johnson, a retired electronics worker from Point Loma, bought a Scratchers ticket at a corner store on West Point Loma Boulevard, where the proprietors are "almost like family to me"and hail from India and Afghanistan. When he scratched, it read, "TV Show, TV Show, TV Show," and he rhymed, "I’m going to Sacramento." The odds were one in 100,000. On the Big Spin, he played the Scooter game with "ten of us around the table. They don’t play that now. I had number one around the circle and sure enough the damn scooter ball, a magnet ball, went by me and then came back and then fell in front of me. Then I got to spin the wheel." He won $75,000, and his first reaction was—"I need that money."

After federal taxes (28%), he got a check for $54,000. With the money, Johnson took trips to visit old friends—to Colorado to see his ex-mailman and to Naples, Florida, to see a man who used to work on his car, who is 84. Johnson then rode Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to Seattle and stayed at the Warwick Hotel. "I basically spent the money," he said. "I just wanted to enjoy it before I pass away." He decided not to invest because, at 70 when he won, he said, "I’m O.K. on money."

In the spirit of sharing his bounty, as a Christmas gift Johnson took the Afghani man who sold him the ticket to Mazatlan. "He’s single, and I’m single, and we went down for 8 days and nights." Though he had about a dozen phone calls immediately after winning, he was glad not to be interviewed by the local TV stations. He still plays the lottery, three tickets every night. He does well picking numbers in the Fantasy 5, recently winning $350. What’ the draw? "A little action," he said. "To spice things up. A boring life, or whatever. I retired in 1989, and I’ve got the money. It’s just for fun. If I was really in it for the money, I’d be betting on sports, where you’ve got a 50-50 chance."

I asked Johnson whether there were any bad effects from his winning, and he said, "No," emphatically. "But there probably would have been if I’d won big. You’ve seen people go through a divorce, with the wife arguing, ‘I had the ticket,’ and the husband saying, ‘No, I had the ticket.’" For Johnson, that, most definitely, would not have been worth any jackpot.

John Tarantino’s experiences echoed many of Johnson’s—going to Sacramento for a Fantasy 5 game, and winning $85,000. Actually, Mr. Tarantino didn’t want to talk, but his wife did. Mrs. Tarantino said that when her husband, a long-time fisherman, won, he had been in "forced retirement" for 10 years because of a near-fatal accident while at sea. A regular player, then and now, "It’s like a little hobby to him," she said. "He doesn’t do anything else. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t go carousing, and he doesn’t spend any money, so he enjoys it." His response to the invitation to Sacramento was laughter and elation. "But then," Mrs. Tarantino said, when they got there, "it was nothing. You’re happy but it’s like, after we won it, we went, "O.K., now what?’ It’s nothing like you want to run out and spend it. At least, we didn’t." The couple took a cruise to the Panama Canal, and "banked the rest."

Mrs. Tarantino described her and John as coming "from hard-working stock back east, people who worked hard for what we earned." She said she realized "how fast [the money] goes, especially when you get older. If you were to buy a Mercedes or a BMW, it’s well over 100,000 dollars now. What a waste of money." The Tarantinos prefer to hold fast to their lives, still domiciled in a "modest little stucco house in North Park. We both drive 1987 vehicles because they’re still running." They have not received any calls from lottery sharks—"not even a call to buy a grave site," Mrs. Tarantino said.

Stock market investment was the strategy the Tarantinos chose, one typical of many winners. (In a sense, it’s like trading one lottery for another.) "Maybe," she said, "we should have put it into CDs. But we hope down the road, things will pick up and we’ll make it back again." Finally, Mrs. Tarantino wanted to advise other (potential) winners about the luck of the draw. "People have to know that it really isn’t a windfall because it can be spent in one week. If you’re working people and you’re lucky enough to get some extra money, my goodness," she said, her voice silken yet strong, "hang on to it, hang on to it for a rainy day."

A woman from Chula Vista, who requested namelessness, won $90,000 on the Fantasy 5 Dream Machine. Not a gambler, not a lottery player, it was a fluke for her to buy a ticket one day in 1996. What was winning like? First, she had never been on a plane before. The trip to Sacramento for her and her daughter was paid fore by the lottery, but she couldn’t afford (though she wanted it badly) to bring her whole family to support her. "We were really broke," she recalled. She kept her winnings to herself because "I don’t really make a big deal about stuff. My kids, yes. But it’s good not to go flaunting stuff around." Her husband’s friends—she is no longer married to him—said, at the time, "we saw your wife on TV," so the word started getting around. The elementary school where she was a member of the P.T.A. board contacted her, and one poor family requested food: she gave something to both. She gave anonymously to her church.

Next, she paid for her daughter’s first year in college; then, her husband got a new van. She tried to hold onto the rest, but recalled that "my husband liked to spend more money than he had coming in." So some of her lucre went to pay off credit card bills. She admitted to buying some "dumb stuff." Without saying exactly what was left, the woman said simply that her and her husband "aren’t together anymore." Though they wanted to buy a house, she said, it was a good thing they didn’t "because that would have been something else we would have had to split up." A footnote: The new man in this woman’s life also won, three years ago, a nice little pile in the lottery. "For him," she said, "he was very happy." Having also come from a poor family, that year, "he got to make Christmas for them. Everybody got bicycles."


And then there’s the win-some, lose-some story of Clarence Tinney. Just as Robert Johnson had done, Tinney also bought a Scratcher in 1997 at a convenience store. Tinney, at the time an active-duty United States Marine, recalled that every week, outside the gates of Camp Pendleton, he used to buy five tickets. Standing in line one day, he watched the man behind the counter selling Scratchers, which can be bundled in groups of ten. The clerk said to a woman in front of Tinney, "‘Did you want all ten tickets?’ ‘No’ the woman replied. ‘Do you have a problem hearing? I said five.’ She made a big deal about it," Tinney laughed. On a whim, he stepped up and said, "I’ll take those other five. It [the winner] was the third ticket, right in the middle," which got him the trip to the Big Spin. There, after first winning the Scooter game, the Fantasy 5 ball hit $50,000, and, going again, Tinney doubled that to $100,000. After which, he held pat.

Was he surprised? Yes, Tinney said, but not as surprised as his mother, whom he said is a "devout Christian and totally against gambling. But"—he recalled her telling the family—"if anyone’s going to gamble, ‘let Clarence do it because he’ll win.’" Tinney said for some reason he has always been a lucky sort, which he can’t explain.

That $100,000 (after taxes it sunk to $72,000) was "not enough to retire on." So Tinney re-enlisted with the Marines, intending to stay in for 20 years. "I got the check and took it to an attorney. As a Marine I really didn’t need that money. Sure, I could have blown it on new cars. But I had purchased an ’86 Toyota Celica before I won the money and I decided that if it was good then, it was good now." Tinney had the attorney set up a trust fund for his daughter, who was six months old when her father won. After that, Tinney said, "I didn’t have the money." But his friends still thought he did, despite his telling them it was being invested for his daughter. "It’s hard to convince people that you just won the lottery and you don’t have any money." He recalled going out on Friday and Saturday nights after winning, "and for months, it seemed like I was picking up the tab."

Tinney’s story, though, was about to turn ugly. Under the advice of a Merrill Lynch broker in Carlsbad, Tinney had put the $72,000 into his daughter’s trust fund, which could then be invested in the stock market. "I deposit it, I leave, I quit thinking about it and start receiving statements." Late summer, 1997, the money is growing—a $1000 a month, he recalled—"and I’m thinking I did the perfect thing I could do." He shipped out for Panama in the fall, for 45 days, and that "was when the Asian crisis hit," when several Asian currencies were significantly and quickly devalued. "The Merrill Lynch broker," Tinney recalled, "that I had sought all this wisdom from, said that we were diversified across five or six mutual funds. But in one month I lost $26,000; I returned and had $43,000 in my account." The broker "had me fully invested in the Asian stock market. I had to go through a cooling-off period. Long story short, I decided to fire my broker."

Tinney cashed out the account and vowed to handle the money himself. To do that, he graduated, December of last year, with a degree in accounting and a minor in finance. "Since then I’ve done my own investing, and [if money is lost] I’m the only person to blame for it." Tinney, who was also recently commissioned as an officer, said his wife has received a master’s degree in accounting and been practicing the trade for five years. "If I could tell anyone who got a lump sum of money like I did, and if you wanted to quote me, you could—take the money and put it into a CD account. If you want to buy something, that’s fine. But if you want to invest anything, put it in a CD account for a year and do nothing. Then, if you feel like you want to become a savvy investor," he said you must study, you must go to school, you must learn, and only then can you "invest it yourself—because you’re not going to boost your sales commissions by trading stocks all the time," as a broker might. Don’t "jump in and go fully invested. First, understand that because you have this money, people are wanting to take advantage of you."

As for helping people invest, Tinney said, "I want to give someone the real scoop, not pad my wallet," a reference to his defrocked broker. When’s retirement? In 10 years, when he’s 41, Tinney will leave the Marines with a generous pension and a safely invested nest egg for his daughter’s college education. Tinney and his wife are going to "retire" in Carlsbad, where they both hope to open a financial planning firm. But, he said, he’s seen the spike in housing prices here, so he’s a bit worried. He’ll be "working on investing harder or winning the lottery again" to afford, what he called, "a California retirement."


Another Marine, William Bartsch, won big in 1990. That year Bartsch was a gunnery sargent and, like Tinney, also stationed at Camp Pendleton. His prize, after picking six of six numbers in a Lotto jackpot, was $3.2 million. On his 44th birthday, Bartsch claimed his prize, then said "no thanks" to any publicity about his winnings. (He still plays $10 a week; it’s just a hobby, he said.) I caught up with him at home, where he spoke in short phrases in a soothing baritone like a young Elvis Presley. In the background, his wife played with their grandchild.

"Things haven’t changed much," Bartsch said. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1997 as a Master Sargent, after 28 years, and he receives a military pension. He said he has worked in the electronics field—a "calibration" job in Vista for five years—but the company was downsized and he left, not really in need of money. With the Lottery prize, Bartsch said, "We’ve made investments. But they’re kind of kicking us in the butt right now. Just like anybody else. We bought good stocks; they’re just down from where we bought them at."

Bartsch said his annuity pays him $130,000 per year and, yes, the financial consultants still call and ask him to sell his payments. In the beginning, he recalled, "These guys kept calling and saying they wanted to give me my three million dollars, and I’m going, ‘What are you guys getting out of it by giving me the money?’ Then it finally dawned on me—they’re not going to give me three million dollars, they’re going to give me a million and a half, and I sign my lottery over to them, and they make 100 percent."

Like other big winners, Bartsch puts his jackpot into terms only winners can comprehend. "The money I won," he said, "was only $3.2 million. If you look at the median income of San Diegans, my annual payment [of $130,000] is not much more than what most people make," and he laughed.

I laughed, too. "So you’re just keeping up with the Joneses?"

"That’s right," he replied. "I didn’t win a lot of money. Once you start getting it, you say, ‘this money isn’t that much.’ My wife and I still live in a small house here in Carlsbad. We remodeled it. She had two kids and I had two kids"—and that money, he said, certainly helped to raise the children. Overall, the money has made Bartsch’s life better—"a slight better than the Marine Corps’ income."



  • Odds of Powerball jackpot (multi-state)—80,089,128:1
  • Odds of California SuperLotto Plus, All 5 of 5 and Mega Number—41,416,353:1.
  • Odds of California SuperLotto Plus, All 5 of 5—1,592,937:1.
  • Odds of dying from flesh-eating bacteria—1,000,000:1.
  • Odds of being dealt a Royal Flush on the first hand in Poker—649,739:1.
  • Odds of the Earth being hit by the asteroid 2002 NT7 in 2019—250,000:1.
  • Odds of dying in an earthquake—77,326:1.
  • Odds of being struck dead by lightning—55,578:1.
  • Odds of dying in a fire—1062:1.
  • Odds of dying in a car accident—244:1.
  • "It is three times more likely for a person driving ten miles to buy a Lotto ticket to be killed in a car accident than to win the jackpot" (Can You Win? Mike Orkin).