Mega Millions: What you need to know in case you win

Win Mega Millions, this pile is yours
(Chicago Tribune)

How many millions?

That would be 500 (up from 476 earlier today) of them if you win this week's eye-popping Mega Millions prize. It's hard to get one's head around, no?

In Baltimore, that's enough money to help the city buy, say, a few historic landmarks, a couple of rec centers and -- why not -- free swimming all summer at every municipal pool. After a dip, everyone could then towel off with a ten.

This morning people are going crazy over the news that they have a chance to win what would be the largest Mega Millions pot in history.

"Good am!" Hoda Kotb tweeted early Wednesday. "Nothing like waking up on Wednesday and realizing the mega millions lottery is 476 million dollars... hello #gottabuyaticket"

Comedian Stephen Colbert also chimed in on the site: "Just bought a Mega Millions ticket at the deli. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna win, so I also bought 363 million bucks worth of yogurt."

Tickets are selling like mad. It's all anyone's talking about. So to help clear your mind, here are a few cold hard Mega Millions facts.

1. You have a lot of competition: They sell Mega Millions tickets all over the country. That's people vying for this pot in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

2. You win, you gotta pay the man: All prizes are subject to income taxes.

3. So many ways to get the cash: If you choose the annuity option, you get money every darn year for 26 years. For every million dollars of the prize, that's about $38,500 a year before the aforementioned taxes.

You could also choose straight-up cash in a lump. The value of the cash option for Friday's drawing is to $359 million.

To get you dreaming right, here's a run-down of the largest ever Mega Millions pay-offs:

1     $390 million, on March 6, 2007. Two winners in Georgia and New Jersey

2     $380 million  on January 4, 2011. Two winners in Idaho, Washington

3     $336 million on August 28, 2009. Two winners in California, New York

4     $330 million on August 31, 2007. Four winners in Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia

5     $319 million  on March 25, 2011. One winner in New York

6     $315 million  on Nov. 15, 2005. One winner in California

7     $294 million on July 2, 2004. One winner in Massachusetts

8     $275 million  on Feb. 22, 2008. One winner in Georgia

9     $270 million on Feb. 28, 2006. One winner in Ohio

10   $266 million on May, 4, 2010. One  winner in California

Good luck!