Getting Struck by Lightning, Again

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Admit it. You don’t spend money on scratch-off tickets expecting to win the jackpot. It’s more for the fun of it than actually winning. Adorning a birthday present with a $1 scratch-off and the possibility of winning a million dollars is a nice gesture. In the end, when all the little squares and circles are exposed, covering every surface with scratch-off dust, we’re happy to win back the cost of the ticket.

Occasionally, you hit a big number, like $20 or $50. Sometimes, those $1 and $2 winners sit under a magnet on the fridge for so long that they never get cashed.

Full disclosure, I’ve never won more than $25 on a scratch-off ticket. It doesn’t matter if I bought it for myself, received it as a present, or gave it as a present. My brother once won $500 on a scratch-off he was given for his birthday (not by me). He used most of it to buy himself a Montblanc pen.

But somebody’s got to win the big prize, right? The NYS Lottery keeps the scratch-off games open until all the jackpot tickets have been claimed. After that, they pull all the remaining tickets from the vendors, even if there are still smaller prizes to be won.

If you didn’t already know, Jackpot winning scratch-off cards are scarce as hen’s teeth. Only five winning Jackpot cards are printed for every 20 million tickets. Those tickets are dispersed to more than 16,000 authorized retail distributors.

With astronomical odds like that, none of us expect our nephew or Mary from Accounting to win the jackpot on the ticket we bought for them.

Except for Juan Hernandez, of Uniondale.

Juan recently won the jackpot with the “$10,000,000 Deluxe” scratch-off ticket he purchased at a Stop and Shop in Hempstead. The winning ticket, which cost 30 bucks, was a 3,521,600 to 1 shot at the Jackpot. Juan pocketed a cool $6,510,000 after taxes.

While being interviewed after collecting his oversized check at the NYS Lottery Office, he mentioned that “I’m still trying to spend the ten million I won in 2019.”

Excuse me?

Mr. Hernandez also won a $10 million prize playing the “$350,000,000 Cash Spectacular” game in 2019. Apparently, he hasn’t figured out how to spend all those winnings yet.

The odds of getting struck by lightning are about 500,000 to 1, and getting struck twice is almost 1 in 9 million. Could it be that people who survived a lightning strike don’t go out when it rains anymore? Either way, the odds of the same person winning a $10 million prize twice on different scratch-off games within three years are probably incalculable.

If I overcame enormous odds to win a $10 million prize on a scratch-off, I’d take the cash and run, never to play another scratch-off. But not Mr. Hernandez. He continued playing those $30 scratch-offs, and it paid off with another $10 million Jackpot prize.

Not for nothing, but winning $10 million on a scratch-off once is very, very lucky. But twice? On a scratch-off? That’s hard to believe.

Then again, you gotta be in it to win it, right?

Meanwhile, the rest of us shlubs will continue to buy those $1 and $5 tickets as gifts, in the hope that our friends, family, or coworkers will win a couple of bucks and have a nice lunch on us. Of course, if they did happen to win a jackpot prize, we always hold out hope they would remember who spent that $5 and gave them the ticket.

Now and then, it does pay off.

This past Valentine’s Day, a husband in Virginia stopped into a store after working late to pick up a few soon-to-be dead flowers and a scratch-off ticket for his lovely bride. Not the most romantic of gestures, but something is better than nothing, right?

The ticket was a $10 million jackpot winner.