Tall odds don't keep hopeful from trying for $540M jackpot

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A record Mega Millions jackpot has captivated Arizona and the 43 other states that play the game, setting a record for the largest prize in U.S. history, and the largest cash payout at $359 million. 

"I was getting gas, had 20 bucks, thought I'd put it down and see what happens!" said Spencer Davis, who normally never plays the lottery.

Others are playing now more than ever.

"It's $500 million! It's the biggest it's ever been! How can you not play?" said Alethea Gray.

When nobody won Tuesday night's jackpot, the Arizona Lottery watched the total estimated jackpot for the next drawing jump in just a few hours.

"The jackpot amount opened this morning at $476 million, and since this morning there's been so much more activity, and now that's how we've increased it to a half billion dollars," said Karen Bach with the Arizona Lottery.

By Thursday morning, the estimated jackpot had jumped again -- to $540 million. The cash option for the massive prize is not $389 million.

That has increased spending by people feeling lucky.

"Ever since it's been $350, $400 [million], I'm like, oh, I'm playing!" said August O'Neal. "I've got a newborn baby, so I'm playing!

Just be sure that when you get your Mega Millions ticket that you keep your expectations in check. You're more likely to be crushed to death by a vending machine, become a saint, marry a millionaire and be elected president of the United States than to win Mega Millions on one ticket.

But what if?

"With a number that big, you can do a lot of things, so might as well shoot for it!" Davis said.

You can buy Mega Millions tickets for the $540 million drawing until 6:59 p.m. on Friday. The winning numbers will be out Friday night.