Rick Knudsen says he only plays the lottery "when I feel lucky," about four or five times a year.
The 53-year-old Calimesa, California, man said he was feeling especially lucky on Aug. 21, so he bought a $5 Quick Pick at a 7-Eleven store near his home in the largely rural community of about 8,000 people just across the San Bernardino County line in Riverside County.
The first set of numbers on that ticket — 5, 31, 34, 41, and 74 with Mega Ball number 3 — turned out to be the luckiest of his life. The next day it won the $180 million Mega Millions Jackpot covering 44 states and the District of Columbia.
The day after that, on Aug. 23, Knudsen retired from his job as manager of RWC Building Products, a roofing distributor in San Bernardino. He and his wife, Lorie Knudsen, 54, were introduced at a press conference Wednesday at the California Lottery district office in San Bernardino.
The $180 million total is the seventh largest in California history.
The Knudsens took the cash option, $107 million, netting them about $80.25 million after deductions for federal taxes. They plan to use the money to build a home somewhere in the mountains in Southern California, some cars, possibly a condominium in Hawaii and to take care of Lorie's 83-year-old father, who lives with them.
They also plan to take care of their three grandchildren, daughter and four sons, including a 33-year-old, also named Rick, who has undergone three open-heart surgical procedures.
"Our bucket list got huge," Rick Knudsen quipped.
He said he was inspired to buy the lottery ticket in the midst of a lucky streak in which he made seven purchases over two days, paying even dollar amounts, with no coins as change.
"I just had a lot of lucky things happening," he said. "I'm a numbers guy. I don't buy (lottery tickets) unless I feel lucky."
He said he tried to buy a lottery ticket after going to a gym early in the day Aug. 21, but it was too early.
"I came back after I started hitting some (changeless) receipts," Rick Knudsen said.
The Knudsens, who have been married throughout their 23-year residency in Calimesa, left town on the day of the lottery draw to stay at a time share in Indio owned by their daughter's boyfriend's mother.
It was 8:30 Saturday morning, Aug. 23, when Rick Knudsen's sister called him and said, "Hey, somebody in Calimesa won the Mega Millions. Did you buy a ticket?"
"I said, 'Yes,'" Rick Knudsen recalled. "I looked it up, saw the numbers, I scanned it with my eyes three times. I got this. I told my wife, 'You need to check this out.'"
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