By Tuan Nguyen and Juliet Linderman
MANHATTAN — Despite the dismal odds — 1 in 176 million — hopeful New Yorkers were rubbing rabbits' feet raw in anticipation of Friday night’s drawing of the winning numbers in the $640 million Mega Millions lottery.
And as the stakes get larger and larger — New Yorkers reportedly spent $1.3 million an hour on Thursday beginning at noon — optimistic gamblers are feeling lucky and taking their chances, even as the big announcement approaches.
Sales of Mega Millions tickets quadrupled at Andy's Deli at West 47th Street and Eighth Avenue in Midtown as the jackpot began to approach the half-billion dollar mark earlier this week, said store employee Manuel Lliguichuzhca, 27.
“They increase the money spent. Before [ticket buyers] would spent $20, now they’re doubling the money,” he said. “It’s going big now.”
Even Liliguichuzhca succumbed to the infinitesimal chance of striking it rich after the jackpot skyrocketed: he spent $20 on Mega Millions tickets — usually he allows himself just $5 a week to spend on the lottery.
And of course, everyone plays the numbers differently, employing personal tricks for picking lucky numbers.
On Friday morning Robert McIlwain, a Hell’s Kitchen-based businessman, was reading his four children’s birthdays to Liliguichuzhca and the rest of the bodega staff while Daniel Sharrock, a bus driver for the Gray Line bus company, selected numbers from the births and deaths for his mother, sister and brother.
“They were here and now they’re gone, and they left behind money for me — I spend $10 a week on the lottery, it only costs one dollar [per ticket],” he said.
If he strikes it rich — the lump sum option would be $462 million before taxes — Sharrock promised that he’d pay his winnings forward.
“To tell the truth, I’ll help all of those who are poor,” he said.
He paused, before revealing he also had another dream to pursue.
“I’ll be honest," he said, admitting a secret affinity for acting. "I’ll be the next Denzel Washington.”