BLANCO — Larry Martinez of Blanco always relied on the numbers generated by a computer when playing the lottery.

Three drawings ago, however, he decided to use numbers of his own.

While the numbers were significant to him for several reasons — his birth year, part of his social security number and an old employee number — it was a quick glance at a news segment Thursday evening that instantly changed the importance of these five digits.

Larry and his wife, Cynthia Martinez, claimed the nation's first $1 million prize in the newly formatted Powerball game launched Sunday.

The ticket for the Wednesday drawing matched the white ball numbers of 6, 29, 34, 44 and 50, earning them a second-place prize of $1 million. Previously, the prize for matching five white balls was $200,000.

"I was tired from having worked all day, so I was taking a nap when my wife came in and told me that the news was reporting that someone in New Mexico had won the million," Larry said in a phone interview Friday from the lottery office. "She told me to get my numbers to check. I noticed that some of the numbers looked familiar, so I thought we might have won something."

Larry, who stored his ticket in the visor of his truck, said before Thursday, he never checked his numbers on a regular basis.

"I never expect to win," Larry said. "I just like giving money to the scholarships so kids in New Mexico can go to college. It's important to me.


Advertisement

"

Larry logged on to the New Mexico Lottery website, where he verified the numbers on his ticket with the numbers posted.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "It was hard for us to sleep that night."

Larry and Cynthia were in Albuquerque on Friday to claim their prize at the Lottery office, where they spent most of the day in shock.

"We never really had that talk about what we would do with the money if we ever won," Larry said, "so we've been in a whirlwind today trying to think about it."

Larry retired from the New Mexico Department of Transportation but still works as a consultant. Even after winning this money, he said he plans to continue working.

The couple wants to make investments and share the prize with their three sons and grandson.

The New Mexico Lottery offers five drawing games: Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Roadrunner Cash and Pick 3, as well as scratcher games. The revenue funds Legislative Lottery Scholarships.

According to Linda Hamlin, a spokeswoman for the lottery, Powerball is the most popular drawing game in New Mexico.

"We promised more winners and bigger prizes in the new Powerball game and we delivered on the very first drawing," New Mexico Lottery CEO Tom Romero said in a prepared statement. "We're thrilled that the New Mexico Lottery sold the new game's very first $1 million prize."

Larry purchased his winning ticket at the 7-2-11 at 5697 U.S. 64, in Farmington.

The store has sold 19 large prize-winning lottery tickets ranging between $700 and $5,000. For selling the $1 million-winning ticket, the store is eligible for a lottery bonus of $2,500.

When asked what the couple would do next: a vacation, new car, new house or a nice dinner out on the town, Larry snickered.

"That steak dinner sounds nice," he said. "We haven't eaten all day."

Larry said he will continue to buy a lottery ticket each week.

"I've been buying them for a long time," he laughed. "Why stop now?"