Little plastic Ping-Pong balls and printed numbers. Doesn't sound like much, does it?
If you're lucky, live in or near 12 U.S. states and are willing to shell out a buck in the next few hours, six Ping-Pong balls could be your ticket to a life of unimaginable wealth.
Tonight's prize drawing in the multistate Mega Millions lottery is going to grab lots of attention because of the size of the payout -- $370 million. That's the largest single payout in North American history.
And all you have to do is pick six numbers.
Lottery officials told ABC News that the $370 million jackpot could move even higher before the balls are drawn -- in "Good Morning America's" Times Square Studios home at 11 p.m. ET. Officials ratcheted up the total by $15 million this afternoon because sales are off the hook -- more than 1 million tickets were sold in New York state in an hour this morning.
"I have to get some money, baby!" said Margarita Paragitan while buying tickets on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "I want to go to Hawaii, and I want to take care of my brothers and sisters. They live in Daytona and they have no money. I want to take care of my family first."
What's causing the sales frenzy? When lottery prize money gets to these levels, it's not just starry-eyed dreamers who line up to get tickets; hard-nosed pragmatists and lottery neophytes get drawn in, too.
"I could use $370 million," said Jacqueline, a once-a-year player who didn't want to give her last name.
So we thought we'd take a minute to help you start your list of Things to Do With My $370 Million by looking at the numbers.
But before that -- the sweet dessert of this raffle-inspired dream -- we should eat our vegetables by looking at how much of your winnings will be winnowed away by the tax man, where all that ticket money is going and what your realistic chances are for a win.
The multistate organization that runs the drawing says its math shows that about one in every 40 Mega Millions tickets purchased will win something.
Prizes range from a $2 gimme if you get the Mega Ball right (one in every 75 plays) up to the jackpot prize where the odds are, well, quite a bit longer (one in 176 million plays).
Many people think that they're less likely to win a prize when the jackpot gets big, but that isn't the case. Basic math proves that your odds of winning remain exactly the same no matter how many tickets are sold. There are about 176 million possible combinations that could be drawn whether one or 100 million tickets are sold.
Keep something in mind, though: Even if you do somehow beat the odds and match all five main numbers and pick the Mega Ball, you might not get $370 million. If more than one ticket has those numbers, you'll be sharing your new-found wealth with someone else. The Jackpot prize is equally divided amongst all the winners.
Oh, and if you buy your ticket in California, those smaller prizes are not guaranteed. That state runs the Mega Millions lottery as a "pari-mutuel" game, meaning the value of the second through ninth place prizes are determined by the number of tickets sold.
That really depends on where you live.
On average, about half of the dollar you spend to buy a single Mega Millions ticket gets put back into winners' pockets.