It wasn't quite 5 p.m. when people began popping into College Square Liquors in Westminster, one after another, seven inside of 10 minutes. And while there were those who went on to peruse the long aisles of wooden shelves of wine or stacked cases of beer, it was the prospect of stacks of green bills that drew these customers to the counter.

The Maryland Lottery announced Wednesday morning that the Powerball jackpot had reached $500 million, up from the $450 million jackpot announced Tuesday afternoon. The $450 million jackpot was the fourth-highest in its history.


Such a potential payday has a certain allure, said Mike Bareford, the store's general manager.

"We are not a huge lottery store, but we certainly see increased traffic and see some new faces we don't normally see," he said.

A woman breezed through the store to the counter to purchase her Powerball tickets, saying aloud that she rarely plays but that a jackpot this big was just too much to pass up. Not far behind was Frank Buberl, of Westminster, who said that while he plays smaller games from time to time, a big jackpot is worth some extra consideration.

"I play when it gets high," Buberl said. "The higher it goes, I make sure I get in and go out of my way to get a ticket."

Buberl is not alone, according to Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery. After no top winner was found for the previous Powerball drawing on Saturday, Jan. 2, the initial jackpot was revised up from $345 million to $400 million, as thousands of people bought tickets.

"Over the weekend we were tracking hourly sales; we were looking at something like $200,000 per hour statewide," Medenica said. "I think [Wednesday] is when it gets really crazy, because they just raised it to $450 million [Tuesday]."

According to numbers provided by the Maryland Lottery, $490,490 in Powerball tickets were purchased on Friday, Jan. 1, and $1,767,640 on Jan. 2, the day of the drawing that failed to produce a top winner. Sales on Monday, Jan. 3, reached $891,551, which, given the $2 price per ticket, equates to just shy of 450,000 tickets.

The next drawing takes place at 11:22 p.m. Wednesday, according to Medenica.

"The sales of tickets will stop at 9:59 p.m. [Wednesday] night, you can buy it any time up until just short of 10 p.m.," he said.

It's rare for the Powerball jackpot to be so large, according to Medenica. The most recent time it hit this level was in May 2013, when a single person from Florida won the entire $590 million haul, and Medenica said that jackpots in the hundreds of millions really bring out people to buy tickets.

"It used to be when a jackpot got over $100 million that's when you would see the lines and that sort of thing, and then it kind of slowed down," he said. "I think what you're seeing now is that kind of just incredible public excitement like it used to be in the old days, even though it's happening at slightly higher levels of jackpots."

One thing that hasn't changed is the sometimes challenging task of deciding what to do with all that money if you win. Just ask Buberl.

"I don't know what I would do," he said, "that would be a good problem to have."