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Mega Millions hopefuls flock to buy tickets for biggest jackpot ever

Travis Funk 28 from Chicago's Old Town aredisplays his numbers 7-Eleven store Frankl  Lake streets Thursday evening. I Scott

Travis Funk, 28, from Chicago's Old Town area displays his numbers at the 7-Eleven store at Franklin & Lake streets Thursday evening. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Steinberg: Tips on not winning the Mega Millions lottery
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Updated: May 1, 2012 8:20AM

The little video screen by the cash register urged customers to “Play responsibly,” but almost no one was paying attention Thursday.

With a Mega Millions jackpot of $640 million up for grabs — the largest in U.S. lottery history — people inside the 7-Eleven at the corner of Franklin and Wells were buying dozens of tickets apiece and using a host of questionable strategies in the hope of delivering the winning ticket.

First-time lottery ticket buyer Danny Roseth, 26, of the Gold Coast boasted of feeling “very confident.” Roseth’s strategy involved using family birthday dates, and then calling up his mother to ask for her favorite number.

“Hell, no!” said David Arreola, 31, when asked if he employs a number-picking strategy. “What are the odds of winning — one in 176 million? But I feel obligated to [buy a ticket], like everybody else. There’s that chance, that one hope. It’s spending $10 on these tickets [and] sacrificing two beers?”

By 5:45 p.m., the 7-Eleven store had sold 3,600 Mega Millions tickets on Thursday, the story clerk said.

Frank Kelly, 50, of Beverly — like a lot of folks in line — let the computer pick the numbers for him.

“It’s all B.S.,” said Kelly, who works in the financial industry. “It’s a random process, right? That’s why I don’t have a strategy. . . . The big thing about this is you get to think about [winning]. What would I do? How would I handle it? I’d probably call a lawyer first.”

Just what could you get for $273 million, the estimated cash value if there’s a single winner who opts for the prize in one lump sum?

How about three customized Boeing 737s? Or if you wanted something nice, but didn’t want to blow every penny, you might consider the world’s most expensive painting, Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players,” valued at $250 million.

The previous biggest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in March 2007. No one has won a drawing since Jan. 24. Mega Millions is played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Contributing: Donna Vickroy and Sun-Times Media.

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