HOWELL, N.J. — The start of the New Year appears to be a lucky time for Mike Ducker.
In the last week of December 2013, the year he started playing the lottery, he won $20,000 on a 20X Cash scratch-off ticket. Then just a couple weeks later, in January 2014, he claimed another $20,000 playing the same game.
But those cash prizes pale in comparison to the $200,000 he recently won playing the $500 Frenzy game. On Tuesday, Carole Hedinger, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery, presented Ducker, a Brick Township resident, with a check for $200,000 at Wine O Land on Route 9 in Howell, where Ducker purchased the winning ticket.
"It's a completely overwhelming experience," Ducker said during a press conference at the liquor store. "I must have checked (the ticket) about 10 times to be honest, just to make sure that I wasn't seeing things. It was an unbelievable experience, every time that I scanned it and the reality starting setting in more and more and more."
Ducker, who declined to comment on his employment, said he plays the lottery "more than the average person." He said he indulges for entertainment purposes and is responsible about how much money he spends on tickets.
He keeps a separate fund just for lottery tickets. In all, Ducker has spent a total of $125,000 on the lottery, but has won $300,000.
"It's pure entertainment for me," he said. "The days I'm not having luck, I still enjoy it. Life is great right now. It's an unbelievable experience."
So what is Ducker going to do with his winnings?
"I'm going to buy a new vehicle and after renting for many years, it will help with a down payment on a house — when the time is right," he said.
Ducker said he plays the $500 Frenzy game the most often because it offers him the best odds of winning $500 in any game. Ducker is never thinking about the top prize, $200,000, when he plays.
So when he purchased his most recent $500 Frenzy ticket at Wine O Land, he was in shock when he scanned the ticket at the self-scanner device near the register.
"The message came up that something was wrong with the ticket," he said. "It was a claim. And I checked multiple times. I brought it over to Wawa and had it checked there, and it said that it was a claim-winner. Based on my knowledge, I know that this game only has one prize that's a claim-winner, so it couldn't be anything other than the $200,000 prize."
Ducker said his decision to purchase a lottery ticket at Wine O Land was nothing more than intuition. He frequents many different retailers to buy lottery tickets.
But sometimes luck strikes twice at the same place, as it did when Ducker won his combined $40,000 on two 20X Cash tickets purchased at the Singin Oil auto-repair shop on Hurley Avenue in Lakewood.
The owner of Wine O Land, Sarath Mamdapadi, earned a $5,000 bonus commission for selling the winning ticket to Ducker.
But Ducker isn't even the top winner at Wine O Land, Mamdapadi said. A lucky player took home $1 million in the Mega Millions game in July 2015.
Ducker can only dream of getting so lucky a fourth time and claiming a prize that big. But as the New Jersey Lotto catch phrase goes: "Anything can happen in Jersey."
"The lottery has come up big for me in the past couple years," Ducker said.
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