People have different strategies and superstitions when trying to beat the odds and win the lottery. Just ask the cashiers they buy tickets from.
Some players refuse to buy two tickets consecutively, said Chris Scott, a cashier at the Shell station off Sunset Avenue and Old Carriage Road in Rocky Mount.
"They'll get one, and then they'll stand here and wait for someone else to get one," he said. "And then they'll ask me, what was the last one they got. And then they'll ask me the numbers. If I say a really low number, they'll be like, 'Well, I'll be back later when it gets to really high numbers.'"
Whatever their methods, luck and strategy have paid off for two Twin Counties players, each of whom won $50,000 since North Carolina began selling Powerball tickets.
Irma Cross of Rocky Mount's Northgreen subdivision and Pat Shrock of Pinetops each won $50,000.
But Shrock stopped playing the lottery because she said she has had bad luck since winning the big prize. Her car broke down, and her roof started leaking after she won, she said.
?I do believe that if you win the lottery, bad luck does follow,? she said. ?Not for everybody else, but for me.?
Mikki Reynolds, manager for L&L Food Store No. 14 in Nashville, said one of her customers plays numbers based on whatever number he sees the most that day.
"If he sees a number repetitively, that's the number to play because that's going to be your lucky number," she said.
One customer at the Citgo off U.S. 301 in Rocky Mount starts with the number 999, and then subtracts whatever three-digit sequence won during the previous night's drawing, said Kalissa Manning, a cashier. The resulting number is what the customer plays, she said.
Some numbers are regarded as more lucky than others.
According to a 2003 survey taken by the Multi-state Lottery Association, the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are still the most popular numerals to use. The numbers 7,11,21 are the second-most used, and pattern plays, such as lines and X's, come in third, according to the survey.
Some states have seen other numbers become popular in six-digit games, especially a sequence of numbers from the ABC television drama "Lost."
In the episode titled "Numbers," the character Hurley wins $116 million by playing Powerball with a sequence of numbers that are famous to fans: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The events that follow lead Hurley to believe that his numbers were cursed.
Hurley's grandfather died as he was interviewed by reporters about his newfound wealth. Later, he was mistaken for a drug dealer by police, right after his new house caught on fire. And it was the numbers that led Hurley to get on the plane that crashed on an island.
Other players do not seem worried about inheriting Hurley's misfortune. That episode of "Lost" aired March 2, 2005. That night, 51 Pennsylvania lottery players used those numbers for the evening's Powerball drawing, said Cris Stambaugh, public relations spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Lottery. She also said five people used them for the in-state Match-6 game.
Three nights later, 394 people played those numbers for Powerball, and 94 people used them for Match-6.
At first, Pennsylvania lottery officials weren't aware of the "Lost" connection.
"It took a newspaper calling us," Stambaugh said.
Hurley's numbers weren't so lucky after all; not one player who used them won, she said.