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Mega Millions jackpot nears record level
CBS News -- The Mega Millions estimated jackpot has soared to $636 million, making it the second largest jackpot in U.S. history.
The jackpot had been $586 million, but lottery officials increased it this morning because of strong ticket sales ahead of the evening drawing.
The jackpot now trails only a $656 million Mega Millions pot in March 2012.
Paula Otto, lead director for Mega Millions, says officials expect about 70 percent of the possible number combinations to be purchased. The cash option is $341 million, before taxes.
CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller spoke with at New York City woman who jumped on the bandwagon.
"I only bought four, just thinking: You know what? They say, All you need is a dollar to win. We are four people on it so we're hoping for the best," said Helen Tirado.
Unfortunately for Tirado and others like her, changes in recent months mean dwindled chances for winning Mega Millions. Odds of winning the jackpot used to be 1 in 176 million. This past October, those odds changed to 1 in 259 million. Players used to have to pick six numbers from 1 to 56, but now it's 1 to 75.
Sociology professor Iddo Tavory studies the behavior of how people make decisions. He says when lottery players start to fantasize about their future after winning the lottery, their choice to enter seems rational.
"What houses they would buy, what they would buy their mother, what they would buy their friends, what car they would drive," Tavory said. "Where you feel like there's actually something there that could happen, not just kind of a fantasy you're having out of nowhere, I mean then, the odds don't matter that much."
Lottery officials tell CBS News, the majority of Mega Millions sales come on the final day -- and with today's snow across parts of the country -- we will have to wait to see how that affects the projected $250 million in sales.
Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.