Massachusetts hospital worker claims $758M Powerball prize

The winner of the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot has come forward to claim her prize – and she has already quit her job.

Mavis Wanczyk, 53, was a hospital worker in Massachusetts. She said she and a firefighter she knows were leaving work Wednesday night when he read her the winning numbers. They realized she had won, but she didn't believe it at first.

"He goes, 'You just won' -- I go 'You're joking, come on, please. He says, 'Sign that ticket now,'" she told reporters Thursday. "I couldn't drive anywhere; I couldn't do anything, so he followed me actually to make sure I was safely home."

Wanczyk opted to take the cash option of $480 million, or $336 million after taxes, lottery officials said. Winners who take a gradual payout stand to get more money spread out over several decades.

She has worked at Mercy Medical Center for 32 years and had dreamed about retiring in 12 more years.

"I've called them and told them that I will not be coming back," Wanczyk said. "The first thing I want to do is I just want to sit back and relax. I had a pipe dream and my pipe dream has finally come true."

She bought the ticket at a store in Chicopee. It was the only ticket that won the jackpot, the largest grand prize won by a single lottery ticket in U.S. history. 

The $758.7 million jackpot is the second largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The winning numbers are 6, 7, 16, 23, and 26, and the Powerball number is 4. 

Powerball is played in 44 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some details about the game and how the prize has grown so large:

WHEN WAS THE DRAWING AND HOW DOES THE GAME WORK?

The drawing was Wednesday at 10:59 p.m. ET in Tallahassee, Florida. Five white balls were drawn from a drum containing 69 balls and one red ball was selected from a drum with 26 balls. To win, players need to have paid $2 for a ticket and either have chosen numbers or opted to let a computer make a random choice.

THE PRIZE

The jackpot is listed as $758.7 million, but that refers to the annuity option, doled out in 30 payments over 29 years. Nearly all winners favor the cash option, which pays significantly less. For the current jackpot, the cash prize would be $480 million.

THE ODDS

The odds of winning are one in 292.2 million. Tom Rietz, a professor at the University of Iowa who researches probabilities, says one way to think about it is to envision the 324 million U.S. residents. Your chance of winning is roughly comparable to being that one lucky person out of the entire population, with everyone else losing.

TAXES

Federal income taxes will take a 25 percent bite from winnings. State taxes vary, so the amount winners will pay in taxes depend on where they play. Some of the nation's biggest states, including California and Texas, don't assess state taxes on lottery prizes, so winners in those spots would be just a bit richer.

WHAT IF I MATCH SOME BUT NOT ALL THE NUMBERS?

Face it, you're almost certainly not going to win the jackpot, but players have much better odds of one in 25 of winning a lesser prize. Those odds range from one in 11.7 million of winning $1 million for matching the five regular balls to one in 38 for matching the Powerball and winning $4.

WHAT'S THE POINT OF POWERBALL?

Amid all the talk about sudden wealth, it's easy to forget that the purpose of Powerball is to raise money for government programs in the 44 states where the game is played, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each jurisdiction decides how to spend the money raised by Powerball and other lottery games, with some funding college scholarships, others spending the money on transportation and many using it for general state programs.

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