Luck was on Grantland Jackson's side.
When the 63-year-old Pigtown resident woke up Wednesday and heard the Mega Millions prize had been bumped up to $500 million, he knew he'd be heading around the corner to the Shop n Go food store on Washington Boulevard to buy a few tickets. What he didn't know was he was already a winner — $500 in the scratch-off lottery ticket he'd purchased the day before.
Standing outside the corner grocery, he beamed about being $500 richer, though he joked that he'd have to share it with "the warden," his wife. Still, his eyes were on a bigger prize, and he plopped down another $4, for Mega Millions.
"The big boy — those tickets," said Jackson, adding that he'd use his winnings to improve his house on Scott Street. "I'm not greedy. If I get a little piece of it, I'll be satisfied. But I'm trying to win."
What would be the largest Mega Millions pot in history drew a steady stream of customers Wednesday morning, many of whom never play the Mega Millions lottery, which is up for grabs in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
After no one won the $363 million jackpot the game offered in Tuesday evening's drawing, lottery organizers estimated that Friday's bonanza would be $476 million.
But early Wednesday, the Mega Millions team raised the projected top prize to $500 million because of stronger-than-expected ticket sales. And tickets can be purchased until 15 minutes before the 11 p.m. Friday drawing, which means sales could drive the purse above the half-billion-dollar mark.
"It is possible it could go up again," said Carole Everett, a spokeswoman for Maryland Lottery, one of the nine states that founded the Mega Millions consortium 10 years ago. "Wouldn't that be something?"
Lottery directors from participating states will confer every day this week to determine if sales merit pushing the winnings projection higher, she said by phone Wednesday.
"This is when it really gets fun," Everett said. "Because people who don't normally play go out and buy a couple bucks' worth of tickets, for the fantasy of it."
For Shop n Go, having no winner Tuesday night meant the buying frenzy would continue throughout the week.
"As the jackpot goes higher, people tend to buy more," said Dhrumit Patel, son of the shop's owners. He said the business has been a lucky spot recently, selling a $10,000-winning scratch-off ticket and two $50,000-winning tickets.
Though there wasn't a jackpot winner in Tuesday's drawing, there were two tickets in Maryland that won $250,000 prizes and more than 126,000 tickets that won a prize less than that amount. A 7-Eleven in Germantown and High's Dairy Store in Sykesville each sold a $250,000 ticket.
Linda Barnette, a custodial worker who got off the bus on Washington Boulevard and stopped in the store to buy her regular tickets, wasn't tempted by the unusually large prize.
The jackpot goes to a player who picks all six numbers drawn. The odds of that happening are roughly 1 in 176 million.
"You don't really have a chance of winning," she said as she headed to work. "I know people who bought $30 or $40 worth, and you figure all the other people are doing that too. And nobody hit the big one. I don't have much money to spend."