Gary Higens Is Iowa's Second Powerball Millionaire In Two Weeks
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DES MOINES, Iowa - A Des Moines man has become Iowa's second Powerball® millionaire in two weeks.
Gary Higens claimed his $1 million prize Thursday morning at lottery headquarters in Des Moines. Higens, 54, a manager at Florist Distributing in Des Moines, which supplies plants and flowers to Hy-Vee stores, admitted he was shaking a little at the unexpected news when his wife called him at work.
"After she told me, I thought about it, I made sure she wasn't playing a practical joke on me, and it was hard to comprehend," he said. "She was shaking, she was very uncalm. I was trying to do my daily business, which wasn't working very well for me. I finished what I knew I had to get done and then I told everyone I'd be gone for a little while."
Higens' ticket came close to winning it all, matching the first five numbers but missing the Powerball in Wednesday's drawing. Higens bought his winning ticket at Krueger Amoco, 630 S.W. Ninth St. in Des Moines. The winning numbers in Wednesday's $40 million Powerball drawing were: 1-4-11-23-26 and Powerball 14.
"Is Powerball over-performing in Iowa?" Lottery CEO Terry Rich asked Thursday. "Nope, Iowans are just lucky. This is exactly what we expected to see with the debut of $2 Powerball."
Higens said Powerball is the only lottery game that he and his wife, Patricia, play and they buy one ticket for each drawing. They choose their own numbers this way: 1 is Patricia's birthday; 4 is their son's birthday; 11 is Gary's birthday; 23 is their daughter's birthday; 26 is Gary and Patricia's wedding anniversary; and 8 is Patricia's lucky number.
Higens joked that his wife may need to choose a new lucky number now, since it was the only number that wasn't selected in the drawing. He said that they plan to do some remodeling on their house, invest for retirement and help out their grown children.
"We'll start from the top and work our way down," he said. "The house needs a new roof, so that's something we can get done pretty quickly. We can stick some back and invest some of it, too. It will make things easier."
This is Iowa's second $1 million winner in a month's time since $2 Powerball began in January. The new version of the game debuted Jan. 15, sporting several new features to give players more value. The game's starting jackpots have doubled to $40 million and the jackpot is now easier to win. But perhaps the most important change for Higens is that the game's second prize for matching the first five numbers but missing the Powerball has increased from $200,000 to the current $1 million cash.
Steve Petty of Adair claimed a $1 million Powerball prize on Feb. 20.
"Our last winner had no idea that he would have won a $200,000 prize in the previous version of Powerball," Rich said. "It was fun to be able to reflect on that; we're hoping the latest winner finds that interesting as well."
No one won the jackpot in Wednesday's drawing, so the big prize climbs to an estimated $50 million for Saturday.
Higens said as he claimed his prize that he hadn't told anyone at work why he was leaving for a time. He planned to return to the office Thursday afternoon and admitted he'll be the talk of the office.
"Actually, I'm not sure I'm going to tell them," he said with a laugh. "I'm sure I'll come in and someone will have heard about it."
Players in $2 Powerball still choose their first five numbers from a pool of 59, but the group of numbers in the Powerball pool has shrunk from 39 to 35, producing better overall odds of winning a prize. The Power Play® option is still available for an extra $1 per play.
Since getting its start in April 1992 in 15 states with jackpots that started at a guaranteed $2 million, Powerball has grown into one of the world's biggest and most recognizable lottery games. Today Powerball is played by 44 lotteries across the country with drawings at 9:59 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.