When the Powerball prize structure changed 10 days ago, Al Ramos of Albuquerque had no idea that a last-minute $2 decision would become a life-changing experience.
Ramos correctly matched all five white ball numbers for the September 7 Powerball drawing. And by spending an extra $2 for the Power Play multiplier option on his $2 Powerball purchase, Ramos tripled a $200,000 prize into the New Mexico Lottery's first-ever $600,000 prize.
The $600,000 prize is the fourth-largest New Mexico Lottery prize ever, after three multi-million dollar Powerball jackpots.
Ramos correctly matched 12-32-40-50-54 and the Power Play of 3, but missed the red Powerball, 37. It was also the first time that Ramos had ever bought the Power Play multiplier option, which can multiply Powerball prizes from 2 to 5 times.
He bought the quick-pick ticket at the convenience store where he works part time.
"I went to work Thursday and the manager thought that we had sold a winning $600,000 ticket with Power Play," he said at Lottery headquarters. "I pulled the ticket out of my wallet. We scanned it. 'There it is,' I told her."
Ramos immediately called his wife Paula and asked her to come to the store, but wouldn't tell her why.
"I was worried," she said at Lottery headquarters on Friday. "When I got there he was pacing back and forth like a lion. He told me that he had just won Powerball and showed me the ticket."
Ramos remained stunned for a while, continuously looking at a printout stating that a $600,000 prize had to be claimed at the Lottery.
After paying some bills, the couple plans to save and invest their prize while adding to their daughter's college fund. The pair also said they are pleased that Lottery proceeds are used for a college scholarship program.
"Knowing that it goes for education is important," Ramos said. "It does good work."
This prize was claimed three weeks after MSgt. John San Cartier took a lump-sum payment for winning a $93.4 million Powerball jackpot, and seven weeks after a Roswell couple claimed a $500,000 Extravaganza Scratcher top prize. It is the second time in New Mexico that a Powerball second prize was increased by Power Play.
The winning $600,000 Powerball prize was purchased at Kicks 66, 7524 Menaul NE in Albuquerque. Ironically, Ramos realized that he had won on the store's fifth anniversary as a New Mexico Lottery Retailer.
In addition to 162 $100,000 to $600,000 winners in New Mexico (five winning numbers but no Powerball), there have been 826 $5,000 to $25,000 third prize (four winning numbers plus the Powerball).
The New Mexico Lottery has already raised more than $250 million for public education, including more than $182 million for the Lottery Success Scholarship program. Well over 35,000 students so far have received their in-state college tuition paid by the Lottery Success Scholarship, with an updated student count pending.