March 30, 2011— -- The group of seven lottery pool players that won last week's $319 million Mega Millions jackpot could have had an eighth member, but one unlucky man made a choice that cost him millions.
The New York co-worker who regularly played in the office pool opted out on the night they had the winning ticket, according to an Albany, N.Y., deli owner who knows the winners.
"They asked him a couple of times, and he didn't feel lucky," said Jill Cook, owner of Cook's Deli, where the group often comes for lunch.
She said she heard the news through buzz from the nearby office, adding that she felt "terrible" for the man.
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The winners, apparently a group of New York state government IT professionals, have yet to come forward publicly to claim the prize. But lottery officials say they'll attend a news conference Thursday.
So far, the officials said, the winners have been huddling with lawyers and financial advisers as they prepare to split a jackpot worth $202.9 million after taxes, if they take the lump sum.
The group of seven includes a mix of older and younger employees who often bought lottery tickets together, Cook said.
The group didn't turn up for work Monday, Cook said, adding that she heard they have already quit their jobs. Many people who know them say the winning ticket couldn't have gone to better folks.
"It was a blessing to hear that they won. They're great, down-to-earth people," Cook said, adding that she didn't expect the group to squabble over the money.
If there's any solace for the unlucky man who opted out, it may be the knowledge that big lottery jackpots sometimes come with big problems. All too often, winners can't handle the changes that come with an outsize check.
Take, for example, Jack Whittaker, who won the largest individual payout in lottery history, worth $315 million. After accepting the prize, Whittaker was sued, divorced and arrested for a DUI, among other wrenching family problems.
"It has certainly been a curse to me," Whittaker told ABC News.
Mega Millions Jackpot: Lottery Money Can't Buy You Everything
Big jackpot winners can also face family problems and kidnap threats, not to mention a parade of people who come out of the woodwork expecting help.
And even for those who can handle the money, there's also the simple truth that money can't buy you everything.
In Albany, Cook said she's happy for the winners. But if they come back to her deli for lunch, she said, they won't necessarily get special treatment.
"Just because you're millionaires," she said, "doesn't mean we're not going to screw up your food."
ABC's Emily Friedman and Jeremy Hubbard contributed to this report.
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