$640M Jackpot Wasn't Hit in California

Run the numbers and it's clear, lottery players are really just buying shared excitement

At least one lucky player in Maryland hit Friday's $640 million jackpot, but California wasn't completely left out. Twenty-nine Golden State residents matched five numbers.

The 29 Luckiest Spots in the State

The odds of winning Friday's lottery jackpot were difficult to comprehend. Still, customers at Bluebird Liquor waited for hours in a line that stretched out the door and down Hawthorne Boulevard.

And maybe they were smart to do so: Bluebird was among the nearly 30 stores that sold a 5-for-6 ticket.

Friday's Winning Numbers: 2-4-23-38-46, Mega Number 23

Lottery lovers were drawn to Bluebird by the whopping $540 million Mega Millions jackpot, which actually increased to $640 million as they waited in line Friday morning. Customers told NBC4 they consider the store "lucky."

The line eventually stretched one block, around the corner, and halfway down another block. The store sold thousands of tickets Friday morning as clerks completed transactions at all four cash registers.

Doors closed promptly at 7:45, and left dozens of jackpot hopefuls outside and out of luck.

But at $1 a ticket, what are the odds of picking a Mega Millions winning ticket -- even at a "lucky" store?

According to Dr. Ken Alexander, a mathematics professor at USC, the odds of winning are one in 175.7 million. That raises the question: Why not guarantee you win by buying all possible ticket combinations?

“Well, a number of things get in the way of that,” Alexander said.

More on the Lottery: Mega MIllions' Epic Fail

Assuming 350 million tickets are sold, there’s a better than 90 percent chance that there will be at least two winners. So after taxes, you’ll likely come out with a loss.

And, assuming it takes about five seconds to fill out each card, you'd need five years to mark the bubbles on the game tickets. There goes that plan.

But what about the strategy of choosing outlets that have previously sold winners?

"If you buy them from some store that sells a lot of tickets, then the store is more likely to have a winner,” Alexander said. “But your 10 (tickets) have the same probability as if you buy them from anywhere else.”

A student and her friend dropped a modest $20 at a 7-11 near USC Thursday for 20 tickets. That made Michelle Chong's odds of winning 1 in 9 million -- daunting odds, but at least she bought guaranteed herself some excitement Friday.

"It's just the excitement that you might win," said Chong. "The number is so big."

Had Chong purchased 50 tickets, her chances of winning the jackpot would be comparable with her odds of being struck by lightning.

Based on U.S. averages, you're about 8,000 times more likely to be murdered than win the lottery and 20,000 times more likely to die in a vehicle crash.

The odds didn't sway Eric Stevens, a first-time lottery player who could not resist the allure of Friday's $640 million jackpot. He bought his first ticket at La Paz liquor store in Burbank at about noon.

"I never really got into it before, and I figure the number has never been this high before, and I could use the luck at this point," said Stevens.

The previous largest jackpot on record -- $390 million -- was won in the  March 6, 2007, Mega Millions drawing.

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