Experts say don't go broke playing Mega Millions

11:23 PM, Dec 17, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - Even though most people know there's absolutely no way they're going to win, they were still snatching up Mega Millions tickets Tuesday.

The tickets were selling so well that Tuesday night's drawing is now at an estimate $636 million.

Susan Alexander was at a 7-Eleven convenience store with her young daughter and wasn't interested in playing Mega Millions at all until she heard what the jackpot was. 

Floridians haven't always been able to play Mega Millions. Florida came on board as the 43rd state to get the game back in May. The Mega Millions prize starts at $12 million, while Powerball starts at $40 million. While a dollar gets you into the Mega Millions game Powerball is $2 per play.

Mega Millions jackpots are likely to continue to skyrocket because lottery officials boosted their potential payouts. The odds of being a winner are 1 in 259 million. But that hasn't stopped some people from spending more than they have on the chance to strike it rich. Gambling experts will tell you that's dangerous business. It's why these types of games are sometimes called the "poor man's tax."

Anthony Santos has been a plumber for 27 years but now runs his own plumbing business. He has a strategy for winning where he goes from store to store buying one or two tickets. He says he won't spend more than about ten dollars, though.

If he wins, he says he'll donate a good chunk of his money to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to help children with cancer.

STORY: How winners spend their money

Gail Howard is the author of Lottery Master Guide. She tells our news partner USA Today that with the odds of hitting the jackpot are so small you should buy no more than one ticket and she says pick your own numbers instead of letting the computer at the store do it.

The Mega Millions jackpot has rolled over 21 straight times since Oct. 4. One key change contributing to the size of jackpots occurred that month. Mega Millions set a minimum jackpot of $15 million and created new rules for how numbers are chosen.

Originally, customers chose five numbers from 1-56 and one number from 1-46. The new structure has customers choosing five numbers from 1-75 and one number from 1-15. No one has won since the new rules went into effect.

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