In Collinsville, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, seven firefighters were pooling their money for a $14 ticket that offered seven plays.
Mike Harris keeps the pool in order by distributing a photocopy of the ticket to each contributor and scrawling their names on the handout. To him, it's just common sense.
"There's no confusion," he said. "This is the ticket we have."
The good and the ugly
If you're the person buying the tickets, make sure co-workers are aware if you plan to buy personal tickets on the side.
That didn't happen in Indianapolis, where a hairdresser became involved in a lawsuit with seven of her former co-workers.
Christina Shaw claims the winning ticket wasn't part of an office pool. The hairstylists say they had all verbally agreed to share any winnings from any tickets purchased at the same time as those for the pool.
"People don't realize that this is serious business," said New Jersey attorney Rubin Sinins. He represented five construction workers who claimed a colleague cheated them out of a share of a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot. The man claimed he won the 2009 jackpot on a personal ticket -- not with a ticket he bought as part of a lottery pool.
There's also an Ohio man who missed his weekly lottery pool because of an injury, then later sued his co-workers for a chance to share their winning $99 million jackpot.
"When you go in with people in an agreement that involves potentially millions of dollars, you're talking about a contract," Sinins said. If a ticket wins, "then issues can arise as to who's actually part of the pool, who's entitled to the money, what proofs there are to establish that."
Nearly impossible, but still . . .
It's smart to plan, but it also can feel silly to plan for something that is nearly impossible to win. Or is it?
The chances of winning the latest jackpot are about 1 in 175.2 million. That's how many ways a person can combine the numbers to make a play. However, Sinins said it's still important to consider what would happen if you somehow overcame the odds.
"If there was no chance, you wouldn't do it, and you obviously want to do it," he said. "So you want to make sure that there's no problem afterward."