The multistate jackpot, which lottery officials are calling "the largest lottery jackpot in world history," has captivated the nation, has caused long lines at convenience stores and has many dreaming of creative ways to quit their jobs if they get the lucky numbers.
"Friday night's Mega Millions drawing will truly be a spectacular event in lottery history and provides an unprecedented opportunity for players to take a chance on a half-billion dollar dream for just the $1 price of a ticket," said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery and lead director for the Mega Millions group.
Sales have skyrocketed at Manhattan Tobacco, a New York convenience store, said cashier Alex Shanahe. He said the store has proved to be lucky, as it's sold winning tickets of $3 million and $5 million.
"The sales have tripled. Everybody wants to win the Mega Millions," Shanahe said.
A single winner could claim yearly payments or a one-time cash option of $462 million, Mega Millions spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said.
The drawing will be held at 11 p.m. ET on Friday, and it can take several hours for lottery officials to determine whether there is a winner and in what state the winning ticket was purchased.
The Mega Millions lottery is played in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, lottery officials say.
The odds of winning the jackpot are about one in 176 million, which means you would have a better chance of getting struck by lightning.
Richard Lustig, a seven-time lottery winner who has written a book about lottery strategies, said it's good to buy tickets as part of a group, to increase "buying power." He also advised against using the automatic "quick pick" option and instead choose your own numbers.
And while the urge to take a chance on such a big jackpot is alluring, Lustig said to guard against getting too enthusiastic.
"Don't go crazy with this," he said. "Don't get what's called lottery fever. Do not spend grocery money. Do not spend rent money."
Myra Langford, a 70-year-old retired school administrator, said she knows the odds but still bought five tickets.
If she wins, Langford said, she will help fix the roof of her church and move out of the cramped Queens apartment she lived in for the past 47 years.
"You got to be in it to win it," Langford said.