How can you really resist getting caught up in the fervor over the Powerball hitting $440 million dollars? It becomes a state-wide quest – everyone just hoping that they’ll be the one to win those millions and never have to work again. After all, someone has to win, right? Why not them? Why not me?

A year or so ago, I popped into the local convenience store to drop $20 on Powerball tickets and honestly felt so conspicuous and silly, I never did it again. I just knew the cashier was snickering secretly inside as she handed me my auto-generated tickets. (I didn’t even want to be there long enough to choose my own numbers).

This year, I discovered I could buy these tickets online. Online! I couldn’t resist. $440 million, guys, seriously! I went online and created a profile, then bought 10 tickets for the bargain price of $20. One night, one drawing only. I decided to auto-pick 9 tickets, but for the fun of it, I selected the numbers on my 10th.

Have you ever ever suffered from “but what if I change that number and it was the winning number!?!” syndrome? Wow – it’s hard to change those default numbers. What if that was the winning ticket I just messed with? What if $440 million just slipped through my fingers because I changed that 43 to a 19?!?

I purposely did not memorize what the numbers used to be, for the sake of my sanity, and went about selecting my own.

Tomorrow night is the big drawing!

So here’s the fun part. After my online purchase, the Lottery was so thrilled to have me as a captive potential online gambler, that they gave me a $10 balance to play with. That’s right, folks…free money! So I went to the online games screen, which is basically the equivalent of all the scratch-off tickets you want cross-bred with Candy Crush and Solitaire. Basically…addictive online Flash games. For money. To make it more suck-you-in-able, there’s this nifty little feed on the right-hand side updating you that “James just won $5,000 playing Crush that Football!”, “Cindy just won $3,400 playing Queens are Great”, or “JELK3327 just won $10,000 playing Merry Christmas Scratch-a-Sled!”

How can you not give those a try?

So, I happily played away my free $10 – sometimes I won $1.50 here and there, mostly I lost. I played the lowest priced tickets to stretch my balance as long as possible, but no five-figure wins for me. Oh well – it was a fun 15 minutes.

But wow…I can see how that could get addictive.

There’s that feeling of “If I just try one more time…” constantly, and your old pal PayPal (or whatever payment / deposit method you set up initially) is there to pop up immediately when your balance is gone to point out that with just one easy click you can add another $5, $20, $100 and keep playing until your name is scrolling over there to the right.

I stopped. That was last night.

Tonight, I got another email from the Lottery, welcoming me again as an online “player” and giving me 5 free games. That’s right – 5 free games! So I, their potential online gambling addict-in-training, logged in and started to play my free games. I can just picture the marketing team at the Lottery offices rubbing their evil hands together in glee. My gaming fun began. At one point I was up…UP!…$5.85. I was poised to strike it big, to be a right-hand-feed celebrity.

Three minutes later, it was gone, and PayPal was not-so-subtly prodding me to add more, to just try again, one more time. I restrained myself.

Then, it occurred to me that I had, on a whim, bought a $5 scratch-off a few weeks ago at the store…impulse buy. It was a loser, but I remembered seeing that you could try a second-chance by playing online.  I fetched the card and found the spot on the site to plug in the codes and was able to play again!  This time I was sure to win – positive!  I … did win, but the very base prize, which, in second-chance-scratch-offs means I won 6 entries in the “drawing.”

Good grief…what is this now?

After looking around on the site, I finally found it. Each week there is a drawing from the pool of second-chance-scratch-off “losers”. 5 people are awarded $100 worth of … ? Scratch-off instant tickets!

My heavens…It’s a vicious cycle.

So, sometime in the next week, I will either a) win $440 million; b) win $100 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets; c) both of the above; or d) none of the above.

Anyone want to place a bet on which option the odds are best on?  Stay tuned!

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