The odds may be astronomical, but with a jackpot reaching into the upper stratosphere, many Boulder County residents handed over a buck or two Tuesday for a chance at winning a near-record Mega Millions lottery jackpot.
An estimated $636 million was on the line for the Mega Millions drawing at 9 p.m. Tuesday. The jackpot represented the second largest in U.S. history, following a $656 million pot sold through Mega Millions in March 2012, according to The Associated Press.
At the 7-Eleven store at Folsom Street and Valmont Road in Boulder, just hours before the much-anticipated drawing, a steady stream of hopeful players bought up tickets.
North Boulder resident Reggie Holmes bought five tickets at the 7-Eleven on Tuesday afternoon. Far from a regular lottery player, Holmes said he only buys tickets "when they get my attention."
"Right off the bat, I'd give 10 percent to various charitable organizations," Holmes said, adding that he would also use the money to help out two sisters and take care of his children.
As for what he might do for himself, Holmes said he would have to take his time to think about it.
"I don't have a lot of wants. I'm pretty satisfied," he said. "The thrill to me is not what I could do for me, but what I could do to help people and change people's lives. Like Santa Claus forever."
Emily McDaniel also bought five tickets Tuesday.
She only buys in when the jackpots make headlines and "I have absolutely no chance of winning," she said with a laugh.
Each ticket purchased Tuesday actually gave McDaniel a 1-in-258,890,850 chance of hitting the jackpot.
When asked the first thing she would do with the money, McDaniel responded, "Probably a lot of philanthropy."
While they may not have known it, Holmes and McDaniel picked a convenience store with some history when it comes to doling out multimillion-dollar jackpots. In 1992, a local woman purchased a $27 million winning Colorado Lotto ticket at the store.
Assistant manager Felicia Morris said sales of Mega Millions tickets tend to increase as soon as the jackpot for the contest -- which is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- climbs over $100 million, but sales have been especially brisk this week.
"The hard part is when you have people that are ready to go waiting in line and then people who ask, 'How do you play?" she said. "It slows it down, and some people get upset, but since it's Christmastime, I hope there are no fights."
Usually turned off by the odds of winning, Morris said she decided to buy one ticket for Tuesday's drawing.
"I play it once in a blue moon. It's my moon today," she said. "It would be a nice Christmas present."