Maybe it’s just anecdotal. Maybe it’s just the people I’ve come across. But when a lottery jackpot gets big I often hear people say, “No one from New Jersey ever wins.”

They’ll say it’s always someone from Texas or Florida or wherever.

And Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot got really, really big. Over $1 billion big. By 11 p.m. drawing time on July 29 it just might creep over the line to be the third biggest lottery jackpot in United States history. The cash option alone (which almost everyone takes) is over $600 million. After taxes you’re still walking away with over $400 million.

You’d be richer than Brad Pitt. You’d be as rich as Al Pacino, Chris Pratt, Tina Fey and Jennifer Lawrence all put together. (At least according to celebritynetworth.com)

But is it true that no one from New Jersey ever wins the big one?

No.

New Jersey Lottery Powerball, Mega Millions tickets
New Jersey Lottery Powerball, Mega Millions tickets (Chris Swendeman)
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Examples:

In 2019 Michael Weirsky of Alpha in Warren County made news not only for hitting the $273 million Mega Millions. He made it for almost having lost the ticket forever before finding out he’d won. He had left his freshly purchased ticket on the counter at the store where he bought it and miraculously when he went back to check they actually had saved it for him. A heartwarming part of this story is he was divorced and out of work at the time. How life changed!

There was Pedro Quezeda of Passaic. At 19 he immigrated from the Dominican Republic. In 2013, at 45, he was working hard running a little deli when he hit a Powerball drawing with a $338 million jackpot. (He took the cash option of $221 million.) This was a guy who had a house foreclosed on just four years prior and didn’t even own a car when he hit. It’s the kind of person you hope to see win.

Then there was Vernon resident Richard Wahl in 2018. He misread his Mega Millions ticket at first and thought he’d lost. Thank God he went back and double-checked before tearing it up because he actually had the winning numbers for $533 million. He told his wife, “We get to go on vacation.”

Not realizing he was saying he’d won the lottery, her typical Jersey girl response was, “Don’t be an idiot.”

A year later he moved to Florida and bought a resort.

There have been many others. Follow this link for a deeper dive.

The lesson here is don’t think no one from our small state ever wins. Keep your hopes up. That’s the fun of playing. Hope. As said in “The Shawshank Redemption,” hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

You can now listen to Deminski & Doyle — On Demand! Hear New Jersey’s favorite afternoon radio show any day of the week. Download the Deminski & Doyle show wherever you get podcasts, on our free app, or listen right now.

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