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The 15 Biggest Lottery Jackpots of All Time

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The 15 Biggest Lottery Jackpots of All Time

Winning the lottery seems impossible to most people, but for a certain sect of society, it’s basically a retirement plan. Every week people play the same numbers and drop a minimum of $2 for a Powerball/Mega-Million ticket, in the hopes that they’ll hit the jackpot and be able to retire (and help the rest of their family retire). However, sometimes the massive jackpots that come from Powerball/Mega-Million tickets can bring negative consequences as people are typically inundated with requests for “help” from friends and family. Because of that, and the typical failed business ventures that people get into, a lot of these winners end up going broke (or even dying). So,let’s take a look at the top 15 lottery winners ever and see what’s become of the winners!

15. $420.9 Million Dollar Powerball (November 26th, 2016)

15 biggest lottery winners 15 tennessee

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This jackpot was won by a single ticket in Tennessee (in Lafayette, Tennessee to be exact) but ended up being split by 20 people as part of a group lottery ticket buy that many people engage in at their jobs to increase their odds of winning (and also decrease the amount of $ they win at the end of the day). The “Tennessee Twenty” as they were known around the area, all worked at North American Stamping in Portland, Tennessee. The auto parts manufacturing company ended up having to fill a lot of positions at their plant as they lost each of the 20 employees, although they were kind enough to stay on long enough to train their replacements. The 20 had to split a lump sum of “only” $254.7 million dollars, meaning that they each took home about $12.7 million dollars. Some said they wanted to put money towards autism awareness, others said that they’d like some of their money to go towards relief efforts in Gatlinburg (which had recently suffered a natural disaster).

14. $425.3 Million Dollar Powerball (February 19th, 2014)

b raymond buxton top powerball jackpots ever

15 biggest lottery winners 14 Raymond Buxton

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This $425.3 million dollar Powerball jackpot was won by a single person, a man named B. Raymond Buxton who resided in California and opted for the cash option, meaning that before taxes he brought home $242.2 million dollars. The retiree (it was unclear whether or not he was retired before he brought his winning ticket into the California Lottery offices) planned to use some of the money to start a charitable foundation for “pediatric health, child hunger and education”, whether or not he has actually done so is unclear. He also planned to see the world. He bought the winning ticket in Milpitas, a town that’s due North of San Jose and he kept the fact that he won a secret from everyone he knew for SIX WEEKS as he put together his legal and financial team. He said that sitting on that winning ticket for that long was “very scary”. Perhaps he relied on the force to calm himself, as he showed up to claim his winning in a Yoda t-shirt.

13. $429.6 Million Dollar Powerball (May 7th, 2016)

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Another huge jackpot in 2016, that helped offset what a terrible year 2016 was, at least for some, showed that the changes to Powerball (and Mega Millions) worked and were creating larger and larger jackpots. It turned out to be an amazing year at least for one family, as the jackpot was claimed by a family of eight from New Jersey. The family, that consisted of one mother and seven adult children, were the only winners of one of the largest jackpots of all time (obviously, it’s on this list!). The families matriarch, Pearlie Smith, purchased the ticket and picked the numbers herself. She said that the numbers came to her in a dream and were thus “divine intervention”, which makes one wonder… Where’s my winning number dream? Valerie Arthur spoke on behalf of the family and said that winning was a “shock”, especially the fact that they were the only people to win. The family chose the lump sum and received $284 million dollars (before taxes), which means that each family member would receive about $35 million (again, before taxes, which are brutal on lottery winnings and run about 60% in some cases). At the time it was the sixth largest jackpot in United States history and was also the largest jackpot ever for the state of New Jersey. The fact that they live in New Jersey helps them, though, as the local tax rate of 3% means that they’ll stay at or around 50% when the IRS comes calling, meaning that each family member would keep about $20 million dollars. Not bad for something that came from a dream!

12. $435 Million Dollar Powerball (February 22nd, 2017)

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Winning millions of dollars comes with all sorts of positives and a handful of negatives. Even people who have won hundreds of millions of dollars have gone broke after helping out friends and family with their money issues or making bad investments and so it’s really best to stay as anonymous as possible if you’ve won a jackpot to avoid the massive amount of people that end up asking you for money after you’ve won. That was the case with this jackpot, where the numbers 10, 13, 28, 52, 61 and a Powerball of 2 ended up netting a single person in that state around $244 million dollars (if they took the lump sum) or even more if they went with the annuity (which is the smarter play, but people are told by their new financial advisers that they can make more investing in the stock market and so they typically take the lump sum, not realizing that their new financial advisers simply want access to their millions). If you think it’s odd that so far that most of these jackpots have come in the past couple years, you’re not alone. Both Powerball and Mega Millions did up their prices from $1 to $2 in recent years, which has made their jackpots grow faster and larger, but beyond that, it is odd that five of the ten largest Powerball jackpots occurred from the start of 2015 until the end of 2016.

11. $447.8 Million Dollar Powerball (June 10th, 2017)

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There’s an unspoken rule in gambling that you should never quit when you’re on a winning streak and while scratch-off tickets aren’t really the sort of gambling that you do at a Casino where someone may scream that “unspoken” rule at you if you leave the Black Jack table after winning big, it still basically applies. That rule ended up changing the life of Jeff Lindsay of California (Surprise, Surprise), as he ended up buying the Powerball ticket after winning some cash from a scratch-off ticket. As stated in the last entry on this list, if you think there’s something fishy about the fact that Powerball and MegaMillion lately (because of the sheer amount of massive jackpots), you’re sort of right. Beyond the fact that they doubled the cost of their tickets they also changed their algorithm to essentially make it a lot harder to actually win. The odds of winning in Powerball, for example, went from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 292 million. That means that less and less people are winning week to week, and as the amount gets higher more and more people stop by to buy a ticket, which with the increased price of the tickets means that the jackpots are getting higher and higher. So, don’t expect this trend to end anytime soon.

10. $448.4 Million Dollar Powerball (August 7th, 2013)

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The first entry on this list that was split between multiple people! As stated in the last entry, the odds of winning are 1 in 292 million, so considering the fact that most writers aren’t math experts, does that make it harder or easier (or the same?) for multiple people to end up winning these jackpots? Either way, this massive jackpot ended up being split by a project engineer in Minnesota, a 70-year-old man in New Jersey and a group of 16 victims of Superstorm Sandy. Before the lump sum option and taxes, the three groups would end up with about $150 million dollars apiece, meaning that the group of 16 would get just under $10 million dollars before taxes and, again, the lump sum. Considering the fact that many of the people in the group of 16 ended up losing their homes to Sandy, it’s money that actually will really help people rebuild their lives and that’s something worth celebrating.

9. $487 Million Dollar Powerball (July 30th, 2016)

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One lucky person won what was the fifth largest jackpot ever at the time back in the summer of 2016. Like the previous entry, the winner asked to remain anonymous as to avoid the flood of scammers and beggars that comes with winning the jackpot. To me, though, the ability to say no to people who otherwise treated you poorly in life would be the best part of winning the Powerball, but that’s just me. This winner was less evil, though, and apparently pledged $100,000 of his winnings to a couple New Hampshire nonprofit organizations. The winning ticket was sold at Hannaford Supermarket in Raymond, New Hampshire and the supermarket (which receives a cut of the money as well (for selling the winning ticket)) also pledged to donate $100,000 to non-profits as well. Like everyone else on this list so far, the winner also opted for the lump sum, meaning that (before taxes) he landed $341.7 million dollars. Yeesh.

8. $536 Million Mega Millions (July 8th, 2016)

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The first appearance of a Mega Millions jackpot was a doozy! On top of the fact that it’s Mega Millions (that was just introduced into more states a few years ago, which increased it’s jackpots accordingly), this jackpot also was sold to a single person in Indiana meaning that a single person basically won over half a billion dollars (taxes and fees notwithstanding). The winning ticket had the numbers 8, 19, 20, 55, 73, and the “mega-ball” of 5 and it produced the seventh biggest jackpot at the time and another huge jackpot in 2016. Sold at a Speedway gas and convenience store (that had to be ecstatic about the bonus they’d receive) that is located on one of the busiest highways in Indiana. The Speedway gas station, despite being on a busy highway, was actually in a very small town. Cambridge, Indiana, only has about 2,000 residents and so while the winner bided their time before coming forward the town was abuzz with rumors about who could’ve won the money. After a few weeks of speculation, it turned out that a family that was headed out of state for their children’s sports “activities” were the ones that won the massive amount. They just happened to notice that the jackpot was so high and on a whim bought five tickets. Those five tickets changed their lives and make you want to run to your closest gas station to buy some as well!

7. $564 Million Dollar Powerball (February 11th, 2015)

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This massive jackpot actually had three winners, Marie Holmes of North Carolina, Andrew Weber (who claimed it on behalf of a trust) in Texas and an anonymous person in Puerto Rico. Marie Holmes was an unemployed mother of four who said that “[She] thought [she] was going to have a heart attack when [she saw] the ticket.” in an interview with local news in North Carolina. She actually obtained the winning ticket from her uncle, whom she says “sold” her the winning ticket. Hopefully, she gave him a cut of her winnings, because that really has to hurt. She previously held jobs at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and now said that she essentially was retired and no longer had to worry about providing for her son and three daughters. “I don’t have to worry about the word ‘struggle’ no more, and neither do they,” she said. “I just want them to understand that money doesn’t change you, but it can help you, so they don’t have to worry about debt, none of that. They can go to college; they don’t have to worry about nothing. And I’m glad that I can do that for them.”

6. $587.5 Million Dollar Powerball (November 28th, 2012)

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This gigantic jackpot had two winners, Matthew Good of Arizona and Cindy and Mark Hill of Missouri. The Hill’s were from Dearborn, Missouri (not Michigan) and at the time they made history as the jackpot was the highest in Powerball history. Granted, they only won half of the total, but still, that’s a lot of cash! They said that they were in “shock” after learning that they held one of the two tickets that ended up matching all six of the Powerball numbers that were drawn on November 28th. Cindy said, of learning that she had won, “I think I’m having a heart attack, I think we just won the lottery!” After she dropped her daughter off at school she headed to the gas station to get a winning numbers report after she heard that the winning ticket was sold in Missouri. She knew beforehand that she had won, so handing over a ticket worth about $300 million dollars to a stranger who was making about $6 an hour seems like a risky move. The ironic thing about them winning the jackpot is that Cindy had told her daughter the previous night that “[It’d] probably never happen” to them after the daughter saw the jackpot amount on the news. Their daughter was actually adopted and since they’ve won they’ve thought about adopting again as they obviously could afford to raise another child. Cindy had actually been laid off in June of that year, so the jackpot really, really helped them out and couldn’t have gone to a more deserving couple.

5. $590.5 Million Dollar Powerball (May 18th, 2013)

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This may be the most stereotypical entry on this list as the winner of this massive jackpot, was the 84-year-old Gloria Mackenzie of Florida. While it’s perhaps not surprising that the money went to a geriatric woman in the South, what is a surprise is that she actually ended up winning as opposed to someone else in line at the Publix grocery store. According to Mackenzie, someone that was in front of her in line actually allowed her to go ahead of them, sealing her fate as the winner of one of the largest jackpots in the history of the Powerball and also what had to be the eventual suicide of that kind samaritan. The $590.5 million dollar jackpot ended up as a lump sum of $370.9 million dollars before taxes. The Publix was located in Zephyrhills, which is north of Tampa and also an STD in the Pacific Rim. It was the fifth ticket she had purchased in total, not at the time, but one has to think that the person who allowed her to go ahead really might not have won as that split second interaction could’ve changed the time just enough for that person to end up with a different set of numbers from the Powerball system. You have to hope, as it has to just be killing that person who Mackenzie should give at least a couple million to. But, apparently, it isn’t! That person, whose name is Mindy Crandell, 34, said that the lesson it taught her 10-year-old daughter (who was also in line at the Publix) was more important than the money. When interviewed she said that it’s more important to be patient than rich, but that sounds like the words of a person who missed out on almost $600 million dollars.

4. $648 Million Dollar Mega Millions (December 17th, 2013)

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Two people ended up splitting this gigantic amount of money about a week before Christmas back in 2013. One of the winners was Ira Curry (who was 56 years old), a woman from Georgia who came up with the numbers on her own by combining the birthdays of people in her family. She took the lump sum and after taxes ended up with “only” $120 million dollars. She, smartly, went to the lottery offices in Georgia to confirm her ticket and while allowing her name to be released (which some say is a gigantic mistake) did not appear at the press conference because she was too busy quitting her job and making it rain on all of her enemies. The other winner was Steve Tran, a delivery driver who purchased his winning ticket in San Jose, California. When he learned that he had won he immediately called his boss and said “I hit the jackpot. I don’t think I’m going to come in today, tomorrow, or ever.” Good for him!

3. $656 Million Dollar Mega Millions (March 30th, 2012)

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This springtime jackpot ended up with three winners, which has to take some of the fun out of winning. When you realize that you win, unless it’s been announced somewhere that you’ve heard, you have to at least hope that no one else is going to come forward (or perhaps use your upcoming winning to track down the other people and murder them and steal their tickets). The first couple that apparently didn’t do that was a retired couple from Illinois, Merle and Patricia Butler. They said that they planned to use their “part” of the winnings to do some “real good”. So far, there is yet to be peace on earth and I think we can all blame Merle. The second winning ticket was divided amongst a group of friends in Maryland who dubbed themselves the “Three Amigos”. Original. The third winner is actually still unknown as they went the anonymous route. They purchased the ticket in Kansas which is one of the states that allow the winners to remain anonymous. You have to think, though, that if a person does stay anonymous they’re basically saying that they hate their extended family and don’t want them to realize that they’re rich so they don’t have to deal with them. Sounds about right.

2. $758.7 Million Dollar Powerball (August 23rd, 2017)

15 biggest lottery winners 2 Mavis Wanczyk

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The most recent winner on this list, the winning ticket was sold in Chicopee, Massachusetts to Mavis Wanczyk who replaced Gloria Mackenzie as the largest single winner in Powerball history. The 53-year-old decided to retire (obviously) and immediately quit her job. She discovered that she had won while leaving work at the Mercy Medical Center after a co-worker looked at her ticket and told her she had won (instead of grabbing a scalpel and taking the ticket). That co-worker was smart enough to tell her to immediately sign the back of her ticket just in case someone decided to… Grab a scalpel. She basically went into shock at that point, telling the press that “[She] couldn’t drive anywhere. [She] couldn’t do anything.” She was so surprised that her coworker actually followed her home to ensure that she made it there okay and also to ensure that he’d get a chunk of that money.

1. $1.6 Billion Dollar Powerball (January 13th, 2016)

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This jackpot was insane. As you can see, a lot of the largest jackpots have been after 2010. That’s because both Powerball and Mega Millions changed upped their price from $1 to $2 in recent years, and also made the odds of winning a lot worse, for Powerball basically making the chance of winning around 1 in 300 million. That leads to these massive increases in jackpots and leads to “Powerball Mania!” that tends to sweep the country about once every six months. That ended up being the case when the jackpot hit $1.6 billion dollars back in January of 2016. Unfortunately, it ended up being split three ways, which still made it so the three winners ended up with enough each to make this list (before the lump sum and tax cut, of course)! Those winners were Mae and Marvin Acosta from Chino Hills, California; John and Lisa Robinson of Munford, Tennessee; and Maureen Smith, a 70-year-old from Melbourne Beach Florida. The “Powerball Mania” was big enough to land the Robinsons on the NBC show “Today” before they had actually cashed in their ticket. Their lump sum was $327.8 million. Smith had been playing the winning numbers for years before she hit the jackpot and the Acostas refused to speak to the media after the assembled a team of advisers and ended up waited six months before claiming their chunk of the prize.

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