SCHENECTADY, N.Y. March 31, 2011— -- Mike went to work today while seven of his co-workers went to the Lottery headquarters to pick up their checks for $19 million each.
Mike and four others had opted not to pony up $2 to go in on the usual Mega Millions pool despite the $319 million jackpot.
"I just wasn't feeling lucky that day," said Mike, who declined to give his last name, during a break from his IT job at the Department of Housing and Community Renewal in Albany, N.Y.
He was so right. He is now considered the biggest loser.
While Mike went to his office today, his seven lucky colleagues were celebrating their new mega wealth -- $19,129,571 each after taxes -- and Mike was delighted for them.
"These seven were the hardest working state employess I've ever come across, go getters," he said. "I'll be sad to see them leave. They were such great people."
Mike said none of the five who opted out of the Mega Millions pool are "bitter or angry."
"I don't think they'll cut me in. I don't think they should. I don't deserve it," he said before heading back to work.
While Mike returned to taking care of his agency's computers, Mike Barth, 63, was regaling the world with the close call he had while buying the winning ticket.
"I was at the counter and it was my turn to buy a ticket when I reached down to grab a Snickers bar from the candy display," Barth said. "I like Snickers Dark and I said I just got to have one. And someone reached over me, actually cut in front of me to buy a ticket. I thought about saying something, but let it slide. I bought the next ticket -- the winning ticket. "
Barth went to the lottery headquarters today to collect his winnings along with his six co-millionaires, three other men and three women. Waiting for them, besides their checks, was a large white cake surrounded by Snickers bars.
The other winners include Gabrielle Mahar, 29, John Hilton, 57, John Kutey, 54, Tracy Sussman, 41, Kristin Baldwin, 42, Leon Peck, 63.
The group met with a financial adviser Monday and all agreed they wanted to take the lump sum of $202.9 million. So each will get a check that after taxes will total $19,129,571.
Barth said the group has been playing the "big jackpots" for years and are guided by the maxim that there is a "fickle finger of fate."
They are not fickle about how they do it.
"We are pretty buttoned up," Hilton said. "We keep a check list of who's in and who's out for any particular drawing. You've got to."
They have played the lotteries when they went over $100 million and throw in $2 each.
"We have a list every time you get in and if you're not, you get a line through your name and you're out," Hilton said.
Mahar, the youngest of the group, was the first to find out they were winners.
"I was home watching TV with my boyfriend," she said. After seeing the numbers on the news, "I rechecked and rechecked the ticket." Then she got her winning ticket out of the recycling bin where she had thrown it.
Mega Millions Winners Will Each Get $19,129,571
Mahar said she paused before deciding to call her supervisor at work Kristin Baldwin, who was a fellow winner. "It was late. What if it wasn't real? I didn't know what to do."
"I called my boss and said I hope you were in the pool this week because I think we won," Mahar said. When asked if she was married, Mahar said with a laugh, "Not yet."
Leon Peck, one of the oldest winners, is known as the office prankster. He thought the late night call telling him they had won was payback for the jokes he always played on the others.
Mahar said the group hasn't made any decision yet on whether they will share with their friends who opted out of the pool.
The new millionaires aren't going crazy with their bonanza.
On the top Mahar's wish list is a new dishwasher. Barth is getting new tires and will put away money for his son to go to college.
"I just want to fly somewhere in first class," said Hilton.
Kutey had the most extravagant plans. "My wife and I are going to every Disney park there is," he said.