The announced Powerball jackpot for last Saturday’s draw (January 9) was a then-record $900 million. That was more than enough incentive for Las Vegas resident E.J. Felipe to drive straight from work – about 40 miles to Primm Valley Lotto (the closest retailer that sells California Lottery products) – and purchase Powerball tickets for himself and a group of 14 of his wife’s co-workers. They would split the jackpot or any prize they won 15 ways.
“I waited in line for three hours! But it was worth it,” Felipe said of the notoriously long lines at Primm, where people come from all over Southern Nevada and California to try their luck at the infamous retail location out in the Mojave Desert.
Felipe’s lucky ticket matched the winning numbers 16-19-32-34-57, missing only the Powerball number 13. It would have been worth almost a billion dollars. Instead, Felipe had Powerball number 19. “Actually if we could just put a hook on that ‘9’ [and change it to a ‘3’]…’” Felipe joked. “No, any money we have, we’re happy with. It’s a blessing!”
Amazingly, this was the very first time Felipe had played the California Lottery since moving to Las Vegas from New York, because of better weather. It was his wife Joanne who discovered they’d won. Felipe was asleep in his chair when he found out. Funny story: “I asked him, ‘We have five numbers, did we win?’” Joanne recalled. “And he opened his eyes and was like, ‘Yea, we did,’ and then he went back to sleep!! In like 10 seconds, he woke back up and was like, ‘WE WON!!’”
“I thought they were playing a game on me. I was like, ‘No way!’” Felipe explained. “It still hasn’t sunk in. We’re still in the process of that.”
Interestingly, Felipe and his wife drove more than four hours from Las Vegas to the California Lottery District Office in Van Nuys on Monday to claim their winning ticket. They didn’t realize they could have driven to a closer district office in San Bernardino instead. Mailing the ticket was out of the question, which is humorous considering Felipe is a…are you ready for this…a mail carrier! “I was actually worried about mailing it because mail guys [mess] up all the time,” the 32-year-old joked with a big laugh.
With his 1/15th share of the more than three quarters of a million dollars, Felipe says he plans on paying off debt; “And if there’s more money, taking a vacation, possibly to Disneyland.”