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More power to ’em: 1,200 people join Long Island Powerball pool

Ali Kusinitz of Old Bethpage, and Debbie Gershow-Lindell

Ali Kusinitz of Old Bethpage, and Debbie Gershow-Lindell of Plainview, with some of the Powerball tickets they purchased for the big jackpot. They are coordinators of a Powerball pool which has over 1000 participants on Jan. 12, 2016. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

More than 1,000 people have joined a lottery pool in Plainview-Old Bethpage ahead of Wednesday night’s record-breaking Powerball drawing in an effort to increase their chances of hitting the big one.

After no one claimed the $948.9 million jackpot Saturday, Ali Kusinitz, 45, went online and floated a question to a Facebook group for Plainview mothers. “Why don’t we all pool our money and raise our odds of winning?” she wrote.

“From there it just snowballed,” Kusinitz, the pool’s coordinator and stay-at-home mom, said. Over the past two days, hundreds of people signed up.

Janice Kaye, 52, heard about the pool through Facebook and went to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library to sign up Sunday night. Kaye, a CFO at a marketing agency, waited for 20 minutes in a line that stretched down the block, and included several of her friends and neighbors.

“My kids thought I was crazy, but who wouldn’t want to be a part of this? We could actually win. It would be incredible,” Kaye said.

In all, 1,200 people have joined the pool, contributing $10 a piece. Kusinitz says she and other organizers have purchased around 6,000 games. They’re posting pictures of the tickets to a Facebook group, so that players can help check numbers and verify winnings.

If the pool hits the jackpot, each person could get $720,000 with a lump sum payout of $868 million. If they win fewer than $10 per person, Kusinitz says they’ll donate the money to charity.

But Bruce Torff, a professor at Hofstra University who teaches statistics, said the pool still faces pretty stiff odds. With one ticket, the chances of winning the grand prize are about one in 292 million. With 6,000 tickets, Torff said, each pool participant has raised their odds to just one in 49,000. Though it wouldn’t be the first time a pool from Long Island bucked the odds. In 2011, 20 employees at a Costco in Melville split a $201.9 million Powerball jackpot.

Earlier this week, the New York State Gaming Commission issued tips for people participating in lottery pools. Kusinitz and company followed some of the guidelines, like appointing a group leader to collect and account for the money. But they didn’t heed the commission’s suggestion to limit pools to 10 players or fewer, as the New York Lottery will only issue a maximum of 10 checks in the case of a group winner.

The commission also recommends a winning pool either forms a trust or limited liability corporation and lists each player as a member.

And even if her pool doesn’t win, Kusinitiz said it was just nice to see Long Islanders come together. “It was great to see people come out and get in on the fun,” Kusinitz said. “If nothing else, it was a great way to bring people together.”

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