"Everyone starts to play when it hits a certain amount," Palmisano said.

Around noon Tuesday, a steady stream of would-be millionaires bought tickets at Morrell Park Deli, and Patel said the store was selling hundreds more Mega Millions tickets than usual.

Many tempered their enthusiasm.

"I don't count on it," said Anna Church, 58, who said she would buy a house and care for her special-needs son and other family members if she won. "Usually I feel like city folks don't have much of a chance. It'll probably be someone in the county."

Another customer asked her what she meant.

"It takes money to get money," Church said.

Dean Moore said that he and his daughter's mother had bought at least 40 Mega Millions tickets since Friday.

Asked what he would spend his winnings on, Moore, 26, paused and grinned.

"So much. Homeless shelters. Build a new school. Invest a lot in Johns Hopkins University," he said. "The rest, just spend the [stuff] out of it."

His daughter would get a brand-new car, Moore said, though she's only 9. He said he would probably try to buy the Baltimore Ravens.

"I know the odds, the outcomes," Moore said. "I don't expect to win. But it's definitely fun."

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance and Pamela Wood, and Tribune news services contributed to this article.