Debra Hicks never had much luck until 10:12 p.m. Wednesday.
For years, she bought lottery scratch-off tickets, dropped a few dollars on football pools and went to Las Vegas for vacation. But she never won big until she and seven co-workers at the General Motors plant in Arlington struck a $12 million Lotto Texas jackpot.
"I've always felt unlucky," she said from work Thursday. "My time finally came."
Ms. Hicks can now boast about being a lottery winner, but she and her colleagues don't get the titles of millionaire. The group is taking its winnings in a single upfront payment, which cuts the jackpot in half. Once Uncle Sam takes a quarter of that, each member of the pool will have about $500,000.
That's good money, but not enough to allow them to buy multimillionaire ballplayer Alex Rodriguez's old house.
Ms. Hicks, 45, was the only winner who could be contacted on Thursday. She said she's an odd choice for a spokeswoman since she just kicked in her share of money each week and forgot about it.
Until now, she didn't know what days lottery officials drew the numbers or what numbers her group had chosen. "I can't tell you if we won the Texas lotto or the mega-whatever," she said. "I just put my $4 in each week."
One of winners has been running that lottery pool at the GM plant for 13 years. Although she doubted her chances, Ms. Hicks remained in the pool since joining four or five years ago, even as others came and went.
"It was more for camaraderie," she said. "I told them that we'll never win, but at least I'm playing with everybody else."
During that time, Ms. Hicks said she probably bought only one Lotto Texas ticket by herself. She figured it wasn't worth testing the 1 in 25.8 million odds on her own. Last spring, Lotto Texas changed the game to increase the jackpots, but that also bumped up the odds of winning the big jackpot to 1 in 47.7 million.
But on Thursday morning, Ms. Hicks found out her luck had finally caught up with those astronomical odds.
She was in a training class when a friend called her shouting, "Y'all won! Y'all won."
"Y'all are crazy," was Ms. Hicks' response. She figured that her friends were trying to pull a prank on her and demanded confirmation from two other co-workers before she realized that it wasn't a joke.
Once reality sank in, she started screaming and hugging her friends. A spontaneous celebration erupted at the plant.
"We pretty much shut down the body shop," she said. "Management understood."
Wendi Sabo, a GM spokeswoman, said the staff at the plant is thrilled that their friends and colleagues struck it rich. It puts them in the middle of the excitement even though the winners aren't sharing the multimillion-dollar pot.
"It would be pretty exciting to know someone who has actually won," she said.
They weren't the only ones celebrating. Harry Truong, owner of the nearby Super Save Food Store, where the winning ticket was sold, said he was in shock when he received a call telling him that he had sold the winning ticket.'
"Are you joking?" he remembered saying Wednesday night.
Mr. Truong said he's getting 1 percent of the jackpot, which will arrive just in time. He has children starting college next year.
Ms. Hicks said that she and her friends haven't decided when to go to Austin to pick up the check. They are still seeking financial advice.
A new car for her
The single mother with two grown children said she's not planning many extravagances. Her immediate focus is taking care of her family.
She has a daughter and niece in college, a son who wants to go to truck-driving school, and a sister who needs financial help. Also, she's decided to buy a new car to replace the 14-year-old Lexus with 300,000 miles that she drives to work.
"I'll no longer have to drive a foreign vehicle," she said. "That's the only thing I'll do for myself."
The new car probably won't be that flashy. She already owns a 2001 Chevrolet Corvette that she bought new at zero percent interest.
Ms. Hicks said she's heard horror stories about lottery winners who blow all their money in a few months and end up in bankruptcy. She vows that she won't become a cautionary tale.
"I've always been budget conscious, and I still will be," she said. "I'm not going to be one of those who goes out and burns up all their money real quick."