Tom McAndrews stopped at Wawa on Tuesday evening to buy a sandwich.
The Annapolis resident left the store on Bestgate Road with a Powerball lottery ticket.
While McAndrews isn't a frequent lottery player — "they're foolish odds," he says — he reasoned he might as well buy a ticket now that the jackpot has climbed to an eye-popping $1.5 billion.
"I figure, why not?" he said.
Behind him in the line that extended across the store, from the blue Maryland Lottery machine almost to the register, Marta Jones said she was playing "just to get a chance."
Jones doesn't spend much on the lottery, either, but "if it gets big enough, I'll buy a ticket."
For her, "big enough" is in the realm of $100 million or more — past the threshold when "everyone's talking about it."
At the Dash In in Severn, 20 minutes away, a steady stream of people have been buying lottery tickets, an employee there said. The convenience store sold a winning $189 million Mega Millions ticket in 2013.
The latest lottery frenzy has brought in customers who don't often buy tickets, according to the employee, who did not give his name: "There's a lot of new people — I mean, everybody's buying tickets."
Millions of hopefuls like Jones and McAndrews, including many who don't regularly gamble, have bought tickets to participate in the largest Powerball lottery in U.S. history.
Though the chances of winning the jackpot are minuscule — just one in 292 million — they'll be watching Wednesday night while the lucky numbers are picked on live television.
As prizes balloon, they become tantalizing enough to convince non-gamblers to try their luck, said Lori Rugle, a program director for the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"It's the money, and not wanting to be left out," Rugle said. "Once it gets over a certain amount, that's enough to take the risk. It makes the odds palatable."
Maryland Lottery Director Gordon Medenica has watched this round of Powerball bring out the infrequent players.
"The people who say, 'I never play the lottery' — well, they play when the jackpot is this big," he said. "These are those times when just about everyone (participates). Having that ticket in your pocket gives you permission to dream."
If a Maryland resident wins big and decides to take the $930 million cash option, they could net $616 million after taxes. The state would collect $81 million in tax revenue from the prize.
The doors such a windfall could open are a big part of the attraction of Powerball and other large jackpots, said Rugle.
"I think we all enjoy the fantasy," she said.
While daydreaming may result in a few ticket purchases for the average lottery player, it can overwhelm someone with a gambling problem.
For gambling addicts, Rugle said, winning seems "very pure. Your problems are all solved, there aren't any stresses, you're loved by everybody, you never have any emotional pain. There's all pleasure and no pain in that fantasy."
All the buzz over a record-breaking jackpot can be difficult for addicts, she said.
"It's such a trigger, it's all over there, and it's so huge, and there's so much hope and promise and seduction involved that it's easy to start thinking, 'but just one (ticket) wouldn't hurt.'" The center maintains a free hotline for people struggling with the impulse to gamble at 1-800-GAMBLER.
Wednesday's lottery drawing will be held at 10:59 p.m., and Medenica thinks this will be a drawing when a winner finally emerges. He noted that 85.8 percent of all possible number combinations have been sold so far.
"We really should have had a winner already," Medenica said.
The likelihood of a Powerball champion coming from Maryland, he said, is in line with sales levels, which hew to state population — that's a chance of about 6 million in 322 million.
Unlikely odds, perhaps — but, Jones said, "if you don't play, you don't get a chance."