March 28th, 2012

04:53 PM ET

**Editor's note: ***The day after this story was published, the jackpot estimate rose to $540 million***.**

The jackpot in Friday's Mega Millions lottery drawing has risen to an estimated $500 million, the largest in the game's history, after Tuesday night's drawing produced no jackpot-winning ticket.

The latest estimate, announced around midday Wednesday, is even larger than lottery officials had announced just hours earlier. The initial estimate for Friday's drawing was $476 million, which also would have been a Mega Millions record.

Tuesday's numbers were 9, 19, 34, 44 and 51, with a Mega Ball of 24. That drawing was for an estimated $363 million jackpot, which would have been the game's third-largest.

Forty-seven tickets earned a pre-tax prize of at least $250,000 each by matching five numbers without matching the Mega Ball. Nine California winners will get $308,573 each because of parimutuel rules in that state.

The game's previous biggest jackpot was $390 million in a March 6, 2007, drawing. That jackpot was split by winners in Georgia and New Jersey.

The growing jackpot has drawn plenty of interest from would-be millionaires. On Monday, lottery officials announced that "stronger than expected sales" prompted them to push up Tuesday's jackpot up from an initial estimate of $356 million to $363 million.

"I see so many different faces every day, and it's not just Tuesday and Friday that they come in. It's every day of the week," Latasha Allen, a manager at a Columbus, Georgia, convenience store, told CNN affiliate WTVM-TV this week about the growing number of lottery players in recent days.

In Virginia, one of the 42 states where Mega Millions is played, lottery officials expect that about 5.8 million tickets will be sold on Friday alone, Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty said. Two Fridays ago, on March 16, the state is believed to have sold about 1.3 million tickets for a jackpot that was, at the time, $200 million.

"Sales are very, very strong in Virginia. It looks like we're seeing a lot more people who don't normally play want to get in the game," Hagerty said Wednesday afternoon.

Friday's $500 million prize is payable as an annuity over 26 years. If a winner prefers, he or she could choose a one-time, lump-sum payment, which in this case would be $359 million. Both figures are before taxes.

This prize has been building since January 24 when a Georgia woman won a $72 million Mega Millions prize. She chose a $52 million lump-sum cash option.

Last year, the game stopped just short of breaking its record. A $380 million jackpot was split by two winners, one in Idaho and another in Washington, on January 4, 2011.

The biggest single-ticket win in the other nationwide lottery, the Powerball, was in February 2006 when a ticket held by eight workers at a Nebraska food plant paid a $365 million jackpot.

Mega Millions is played in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A jackpot-winning ticket must match all five numbers drawn from a pot containing 56 balls and then match the Mega Ball, which is drawn from a pot containing 46 numbers. Odds of winning are almost 176 million to 1. Each ticket costs $1.

Jackpots start at $12 million and rise for subsequent drawings when jackpot-winning tickets aren't sold.

powerball numbers

Isishm... maybe if I win I could finally afford to buy off a few congresspeople.

conradMaybe we could buy fox news and shut it down. Then buy the Supreme Court and end Citizens United. That would be a great benefit to society.

palintwitI would donate some to my favorite catholic church and the rest to Sarahpac.

ChrisSeriously? People pay as little as a few bucks and can win this huge chunk of money? If the winner doesn't give at least half of this "Free" money to local charities or homeless shelters.... I will lose all faith in humanity.

MEPlaying the Lottery is an irrational decision.... And you expect winners to be rational with their winnings?

AJThey do... its called taxes.

SPENTThis might buy obama another four years, maybe?

town486One Mega jackpot does not make sense. Why can't the lottery give out multiple winnings with each ranging from $10 million to $50 million so that many more can enjoy and benefit from the lottery rather than one big winner. Share the goods.

orThey could give out 476,000,000 prizes of $1 each. Then everyone will be equally happy.

Chris@ Tom I'm fairly certain that "Don" would have 476 million reasons to not give a crap about spelling....

Dutch$1=fun to dream

JackJust an FYI for anyone who is interested, the odds of winning the jackpot are not 176 million to 1. They are more along the lines of 25 billion to 1.

BrianNot true...the odds are exactly 1 in 175,711,536.

JoeyYou are wrong.

BooneNo, they are correct on their number. It's not 25 billion to 1.

Robert JWhen you multiple 56 X 56 X 56 X 56 X 56 X 45 your answer should come to 24, 823, 929, 920 or almost 25 billion to 1 odds. So the lottery office would make a 'slight' profit if every number combination was purchased.

BooneMy guess on why you thought it was 25 billion to 1 was that you took (1/56)*(1/55)*(1/54)*(1/53)*(1/52)*(1/46). That gets you close to 25 billion to 1, but that is not the right way of calculating the odds, because you actually have a 5/56 chance of getting one number right, then 4/55 of getting the next number, then 3/53.... etc.

BooneYou can't just take 56 x 56 x 56 x 56 x 56 x 46, because you have a 5/56 chance of getting one number right. After that ball is drawn, there are 55 balls left, and you have 4 numbers to get that one right, etc.

BrianThat's not at all how you figure out the odds. The first number you have a 5/56 chance of getting right, the second one is a 4/55 chance, down to 1/52 chance for the fifth number. Multiple those together, including the 1/46 chance for the megaball, and that gives you the correct odds of 1 in 175,711,536.

BOMBO ©Actually, no. It's in the billions to one range only if you need to predict the numbers in the exact order they come out. But you don't. Since they can come out in any order, the odds are in the millions to one range. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the calculation based on a 6 of 49 format, but the same principle applies here.

GreenspamHow does lottery maintain the integrity of the system when so much money is involved?

Billy Bob DarnellI could by me a whole round of benzes with that. For all my homies to

Semper fiHelp stop human slavery and child hunger.After that .......Got my sailboat all picked out.

justsayinWouldn't it make more sense to have 476 $1 million dollar prizes and help more people than make 1 person filthy rich? Nobody needs THAT much money, they should improve everyone's odds with more draws =)

toddIf I win I am not going to quit my lower middle class job....................sike!

HarryI could not even conceive of what to do with this much money. You could live the high life off the interest this much money would generate.

ALL MIneI would give a dime to any charity !!! Why should I support some Mexican or lazy M-Fer for !!!