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“It’s picking up by the minute,” store owner Mark Ebelsheiser said. “We’re selling probably 60 [percent] to 70 percent more than normal. When it gets up this high, they really come out and get them.”

Bob Allison, a retired Indian Hills Community College instructor and administrator, buys tickets weekly for a group of people at the college in Ottumwa. On Tuesday, he and two golfing and fishing buddies went in together to buy additional tickets. Mr. Allison said he usually buys a few additional tickets when the jackpot gets so high.

He said he would make a lot of people very happy if he won.

“My kids would probably retire quick,” said the father of three daughters.

In the District, a slow stream of people bought tickets as they left work Tuesday evening at the BP station at the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue Northeast.

Paul Tse, 24, spent about 10 minutes debating what numbers he would pick for his two tickets.

The Greenbelt resident said he “didn’t want to go crazy” like some ticket buyers.

“I figured if I was gonna win it was my time,” he said.

If he wins, Mr. Tse will be looking to his family.

“I’d spent it among my close relatives. All of our cousins are really close,” he said. “I’d probably save a third of it, then splurge.”

Jason Kurland, a New York attorney who has represented several jackpot winners, said what draws a person to play the lottery is “imagining what you’re going to do when you win. You’re spending $2 for that fantasy.”

Mr. Kurland’s firm Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP has a detailed list of instructions on its website, directing lottery winners on what to do after a drawing.

It resembles the same instructions for when a person catches fire: Stop, drop and roll.

First, the ticket holder should stop what he’s doing and make sure he’s actually won, Mr. Kurland said.

Mr. Kurland said he has had would-be clients come in with handwritten numbers, only to realize they had accidentally written their own ticket number rather than the winning numbers.

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