Madness Mounts as Powerball's Payoff Piles Up

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Thousands of lottery players braved the 90-degree heat yesterday to stand in line for Powerball tickets and their shot tonight at the record-breaking $250 million jackpot.

Frank Glacion got to work yesterday morning to find 30 anxious Powerball players massed outside his Stop and Shop convenience store in the 3000 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE an hour before the 9 a.m. opening.

"People have been pounding on the doors before I get here," Mr. Glacion said. "I couldn't get a spot in my own parking lot. I haven't seen the front door of this place for the last two days."

Powerball players can choose $250 million in annual payments over 20 years or take a one-time cash payment of $137 million.

And tickets are going fast.

D.C. Lottery officials estimated about 5,000 tickets a minute were being sold, and as of yesterday afternoon almost $3 million worth had been rung up.

Only one lottery game has ever had a bigger purse. Last year's Christmas lottery drawing in Spain - named "El Gordo," or "the Fat One" - had a $270 million purse, but the grand prize was only $2 million.

In the Powerball game, players choose five white numbered balls on a card from a possible 49 and a red "powerball" from a selection of 42 numbers. Or players can ask for all random numbers.

Brian Lease, 34, bought 42 tickets at Bergmann's Liquor on the 700 block of Sixth Street NW and picked each one with a different red Powerball number.

"I'll automatically have one Powerball number, and that's one step closer to winning," Mr. Lease said.

Mr. Lease's strategy may improve his odds, but chances to win the jackpot are still one in 80 million, said Athena Ware, a spokeswoman for D.C. Lottery.

The District was home to one Powerball winner in December 1993. Percy Ray Pridgen of the District, then 69, won half of a $90 million Powerball jackpot days before Christmas. Mr. Pridgen, a retired bricklayer and the father of 17 children, shared the prize with Richmond barber Chuck Gill, 35.

If there's no winner tonight, the jackpot will keep skyrocketing, Miss Ware said. Players have until 9 p.m. to buy a Powerball ticket. The drawing, at 10:59 p.m., will be broadcast live on NewsChannel 8.

Players aren't discouraged by the odds, and many have grand plans for their lucky ticket.

"I'll set up a charity fund for young African-Americans. It would offer scholarships and teach family planning," Mark Joseph, 21, said. "And I think I'll buy Trinidad." "I've got my eye on a Lexus. That'll be the first thing I buy," said Karen Armstrong, 44, who bought 20 tickets at the Stop and Shop.

"I'd have a big party on a cruise boat for my friends and co-workers," she said. "I'd take care of my parents. I'd give money to the church. With that much cash, I'd just live happily ever after."

D.C. Lottery officials said the jackpot is so large because no winners were drawn on Saturday, an estimated $195 million jackpot. …