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Jim Baugher of Fort Wayne holds up his Web-researched strategy for picking lottery numbers Friday afternoon outside the BP on North Anthony Boulevard.
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Method to Mega madness

Stats crunch, or plain wild hunch?

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Marie Harrell, an employee at Scott’s Food & Pharmacy on North Anthony Boulevard, sells Mega Millions tickets Friday.

– With the continent’s biggest-ever lottery jackpot at stake, Jim Baugher decided he needed to do more than just pluck numbers out of his head. He needed a system.

So the 55-year-old mechanic went online and checked how many times certain numbers have been drawn in the past.

“I picked numbers that haven’t come up that often in hopes that maybe they’re due,” he said after buying five tickets Friday at the BP on North Anthony Boulevard, near Crescent Avenue. “I’ll let you know if I win.”

Whether Baugher’s system earned him the top prize in Mega Millions – a staggering $640 million – was determined Friday night at the 11 p.m. drawing. Three winning tickets were sold in three states.

Across the street from the BP, Scott’s cashier Marie Harrell said a steady flow of customers were buying the $1 tickets Friday. Several people bought multiple tickets, and in one case, someone purchased 100, she said.

Many who paid for a chance at the jackpot weren’t religious lottery players. They were just folks who, despite the 1 in 176 million odds of winning, couldn’t resist the potential of a massive payoff.

“I don’t normally play,” said Harrell, 31. “I did buy five.”

By early Friday afternoon, Mega Millions ticket sales in Indiana had topped $2.35 million for the day, eclipsing the state’s previous single-day record for the game just hours before the top lottery sales period, Hoosier Lottery spokesman Al Larsen said.

On the days of big drawings, sales typically surge during the evening hours as people make last-minute purchases. “Our biggest sales time is still to come. That’s when people get off work and gear up for the drawing and go out and get their tickets,” he said.

Mega Millions officials raised the jackpot from $540 million to $640 million Friday because of high-flying ticket sales around the country. That raised the jackpot’s cash option to $462 million.

Teresa Bolenbaugh, 57, said she had two tickets, each from a different store. If one of her tickets was The One, she said, she’d buy a new car to replace her blue Oldsmobile with the leaky tire, put some money in the bank, and fulfill a dream.

“I would save all the animals in the world – in Fort Wayne, anyway.”

aingersoll@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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