Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot Hits $290M

VIDEO: Mega Millions jackpot now at $237 million after no tickets matched during Tuesdays drawing.
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Did you resolve to rid yourself of debt in 2011?

You still may have a chance to hit that goal early, as Friday night's New Year's Eve Mega Millions draw once again did not produce a jackpot winner.

The new jackpot for the multi-state Mega Millions lottery drawing on Tuesday, Jan. 4, will be $290 million.

No tickets purchased matched all five numbers (10, 12, 13, 35, 56), plus the mega number (9) and the Megaplier (4) in Friday night's $242 million drawing.

The biggest jackpot game in the nation, Mega Millions is played in 41 states and in Washington, D.C.

The snowballing prize is the result of 15 consecutive draws with no winner. The jackpot started at $12 million on Nov. 12 and kept rolling over to the next drawing.

A winner of the jackpot may receive the spoils in a lump sum of $182 million. At least 25 percent of a massive lottery windfall goes to the federal government, and state taxes vary by location.

But the odds of producing a winning ticket are slim -- roughly 1 in 175 million.

Other smaller prizes can range from $2 to $250,000, depending on how many numbers are matched.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007. Winning tickets were sold in Georgia and New Jersey, according to the Mega Millions website.

Blessing or Curse?

But before you go stock up on tickets, consider whether the lottery is the best way to hit it big.

For some it is.

Seven-time lottery winner Richard Lustig said playing the lotto is like any other investment.

"You have to invest money to get something out of it," Lustig, 59, told ABCNews.com in an October interview.

Lustig, a former singer and drummer, said he's come up with a strategy that has earned him some of the top prizes in the local lotteries he plays.

"Most people buy a $1 ticket and win $10, and they put the $10 in their pocket," said Lustig. "Those people are playing the game wrong. Instead, he said, if you win $10, you should buy $11 worth of tickets because "if you lose, you only lost a $1."

Using this method, Lustig won $98,000 in a Fantasy 5 game and $842,000 in 2002.

He said such sudden windfalls have not brought any major downside.

"I'm very fortunate to have a great family," said Lustig.

A Windfall of Cash Can Bring a Windfall of Problems

Not all lottery winners have been as lucky as Lustig, lending truth to the cliche that a sudden windfall of cash doesn't necessarily buy happiness.

"The dream you have about winning may be better than the actuality of winning," Steve Danish, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, told ABC News in 2007. "There have been families that have just been torn apart by this process."

On Christmas morning in 2002, Jack Whittaker won $315 million in the Powerball lottery.

"I got sick at my stomach, and I just was [at] a loss for words and advice," Whittaker told ABC News five years later. "You know, I was really searching for advice, and it's like Christmas Day."

Whittaker may have paid a bigger price for his $315 million prize than it was worth.

"Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he said. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else who wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."

Whittaker had good intentions for his winnings, and made good on his plan by using the prize to help build churches and start a charitable foundation.

But Whittaker ended up getting slammed with more than 400 legal claims against him or one of his companies.

His prize also coincided with several personal tragedies, including the death of his granddaughter and the end of his marriage.

"She was the shining star of my life, and she was what it was all about for me," said Whittaker, talking about his granddaughter. "From the day she was born, it was all about providing and protecting and taking care of her. You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up too."

ABC News' Lyneka Little contributed to this report.

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