A lot of people played Powerball for the first time on Wednesday.
Many were lured by the thought of winning the $550 million jackpot.
“I figured, ‘Why not me?’” said Dale Pepper, who bought $40-plus worth of tickets — $2 a pop — at the Country Farms store on Erie Boulevard. He played his and his daughter’s birth dates and hoped for the best.
People were buying tickets in bunches.
“Usually people will buy one ticket but now that the jackpot is so high, people will buy two, three, four,” said Khan Ullah, manager of S & D Convenience Store on State Street.
It was the first Powerball ticket for Sandy Fogg, who bought hers at Stewart’s on Erie Boulevard. “All you need is one to win,” she said.
Store manager Mark Delnick said, “It’s been really busy. You have your regular players and a bunch of people that don’t regularly play. There’s definitely a lot of excitement and buzz, people with office pools coming in.”
Montaz Hoteky, a clerk at the Mini Mart & Deli on Albany Street, estimated that they had about 100 people as of 6 p.m. with about 35 in one hour alone. “We had lines that kept coming in.”
Hoteky said some people choose birthday dates as numbers, others just pick random numbers out of their heads and still others rely on the quick pick for random numbers.
“I just sold the $550 million winner,” he quipped to Antonio Hightower of Schenectady.
Hightower said if he wins he is going to get his car fixed, start a business and donate some of the money to the Center for Disability Services.
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.
Doug Kaminski of Schenectady won’t be disappointed regardless of what happens. He didn’t buy any tickets, refusing to get swept up in the hype.
“It doesn’t even faze me. The way they say you’ve got better luck of becoming president than hitting the Powerball. I’ve never been that lucky.”