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Illinois Lottery ‘Virgin’ Takes The $1.765 Billion Plunge

In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, a greedy Indiana Jones snatches the solid gold idol off the pedestal in the cave. Then, all hell breaks loose.

Indy, chased by a giant rolling two-ton stone “power ball,” barely makes it out of the cave to the jungle.

That’s the same greedy itch this “lotto virgin” felt last week while purchasing three Powerball tickets in the Illinois Lottery.

Unfortunately for me and millions of others, a player in California won the $1.765 billion Powerball jackpot on October 11. The winning numbers were 22, 24, 40, 52, 64, and Powerball 10. The victory ended a drought of 35 consecutive drawings without a big winner stretching back to July 19 when another player in California matched all six numbers and won $1.08 billion. What are they smoking on the West Coast?

The biggest Powerball jackpot on record was worth $2.04 billion and was won by a single ticket holder – from California, of course – on November 7, 2022. The jackpot had rolled for 40 straight drawings and the cash option was worth a whopping $997 million.

Edwin Castro was revealed to be the $2.04 billion winner when he recovered from shock and came forward three months after the drawing. The previous record had been worth $1.58 billion and was split between three ticket holders on January 13, 2016.

There have been 405 Powerball winners nationwide since 2003. Here is a list by state of the number of winners:

Indiana – 39

Missouri – 31

Minnesota – 22

Pennsylvania – 19

Wisconsin – 19

Kentucky – 18

Louisiana – 18

Florida – 16

California – 14

What about Illinois? Sorry. There were only two winners in two decades. That’s another argument for moving to Indiana.

Powerball’s outrageous odds of 1 in 292.2 million are designed to generate a big jackpot, with prizes becoming ever larger as they repeatedly roll over when no one wins. In 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a Powerball ticket costs $2 and players can select their own numbers or leave that task to a computer.

Here are the options for the Powerball payout. The winner can take payment through an annuity, doled out over 30 years, or take the cash option, which last week was estimated as $774.1 million. Half of that would go to Uncle Sam in federal income taxes.

With all those millions dancing in my head, I briefly held “lotto court” in the ticket line on October 9 at the BP station at Peterson Avenue & Pulaski Road in the Sauganash neighborhood.

Why was I there? You could say that my Bohemian grandmother’s psychic gypsy blood made me do it. This writer really sensed that the $1.765 billion lotto jackpot was going to be won. Why couldn’t my family be the lucky winners?

While managing a line of ticket buyers that snaked out the door, the patient manager of the Northwest Side BP station literally had to explain to this rookie how the Powerball lottery works.

“You can multiply your non-jackpot winnings by adding an additional ‘Power Play’ number for an extra $1 per game,” he said. So, the play amounted to $2 for each ticket plus $1 for the Power Play – three tickets cost $9.

Sensing ticket-buying angst in the shop, this novice gambler apologized to the crowd, and announced: “I’m a lottery virgin!” Everyone laughed. A middle-aged Asian woman winked at me. One young man cracked up and walked out the door without his ticket. The BP manager chased after him. Non-gamblers just stood there bug-eyed waiting to pay for gas, soda, and chips.

My clairvoyant wife and I have been talking about the billion-dollar lottery for weeks. Believe it or not, we both are lottery virgins despite our ages. I’m a World War II baby, and the blond is a 1960s Baby Boomer.

My late father-in-law, Herbert L. Benson, Jr., a self-made oil man and World War II veteran from South Carolina, may have been the thriftiest man on the planet. My wife inherited that trait.

On the other hand, my cab driver father, the late Chester Louis DeBat, picked the longshot winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1921, won money, and never missed a chance to bet on a big thoroughbred horse race at Arlington Park when he moved to Chicago.

Then, there were those 1950s “crap games” when dice were flying in the back corner of the Checker cab garage near North & North Park Avenues in Old Town. There also were jackpot poker games on payday in the back room at Tony Gula’s nearby grocery store. When my mother complained about evaporating mortgage payments, dad said: “I’m just trying to get even. Then, I’ll quit.”

So, with a Powerball win, what was on our billion-dollar bucket wish list? Here are a few luxury dreams that every Chicagoan likely may share:

• Pay off all of our extended family’s real estate mortgages, totaling nearly $3 million.

• Take the entire family on a first-class $200,000 trip around the world, or a flight into outer space.

• Set up a $100,000 college fund for each of our grandchildren.

• Pay cash for a half-dozen new $100,000 Cadillac Escalades. Four cars are for our children. Two flame-red ones are for our greedy selves.

• Donate $100 million to the City of Chicago to build a neighborhood of “tiny houses” for 20,000 homeless people and immigrants on the long-vacant 415-acre U.S. Steel “South Works” site near South Lake Shore Drive & 87th Street.

• Build a custom community home on the Gold Coast for women in the arts – music, painting, and drama – a recreation of what once was the mission of the Three Arts Club, founded by Jane Addams and 31 other women.

For more information on some of Powerball’s largest prize winners, including a state-by-state breakdown of where each jackpot-winning ticket was purchased, visit:

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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