Tonight at 11, millions of people across the country will hold their breath and allow themselves to imagine their biggest dreams coming true - if only for a few seconds. And when it is all over, a huge chunk of them will sigh and think, "I knew that was dumb idea."
But a few of them might actually have to pinch themselves and call an accountant if a piece of the Mega Millions pie is theirs. That is why so many people are playing the Mega Millions Jackpot today.
The fact that the jackpot is $177 million only increases the number of people willing to spend a buck for a ticket.
Jim Hotte is just such a person. As a bartender at the Off Track Betting parlor at Fulton and Third streets in Troy, he watches people come and go all day, many losing their money. He knows as a bettor, it is better for him to stay on the sidelines.
"I'm just not lucky. I don't play the numbers or the horses, because I just don't win," he said.
But when the jackpot grows so large, it's hard for Hotte to resist.
"I normally don't buy (Lottery tickets), but when it (jackpot) gets that high, I'll spend four or five bucks on tickets, sure," he said.
Hotte is not alone. Businesses around the area, including the OTB, sell more Mega Millions tickets when the jackpot gets high. Of course, a lot of the people holding a ticket in tonight's drawing have been playing Lottery games for decades.
Mega Millions, which combines the lotto jackpots of 11 states - Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, Virginia and Washington - began in May 2002, but state lotteries have been around for years.
Ed Place of Troy said he has playedthe New York State Lotto every week for at least the last 20 years and the Mega Millions since its inception. Place, who once one $790 in the state lotto, has played regardless of the jackpot, but when it gets up into the hundreds of millions, he can't help but get a little more hopeful that he'll get just a little sliver. What is he thinking?
"Just give me $1.1 million, you know," he said. "I could spend the million and put the $100,000 in the bank."
Carla Kennedy, who was buying her lotto ticket at Stewart's on Fifth Avenue and Congress Street, said she would be back today to buy her Mega Millions ticket. Like Place, she buys both tickets religiously, but never dreams of winning.
And like most people, it's just the thought of what she could have that keeps Kennedy buying those tickets.
"I just buy it every week and hope," she said. "I would buy a brand new house and put my mom right beside me."
Houses, college tuition for the kids and of course paying off debt are high on the list of ways to spend the money for a lot of people buying tickets. Hotte said he has debt of his own and others that he would take care of if he won the top prize.
"I have one person I know that is $25 thousand in debt, I would pay off my ex-wife ... and I would treat my family right, wouldn't you?" he said, adding that there would also be fine Italian suits and a sports car in his future if he hit the jackpot.
It's those sweet dreams that keep people plunking down their dollars, but what are the chances of winning the jackpot? The odds are one in 135 million.
The odds of being struck by lightning? One in 600,000.