Money

Here's who won the 5 biggest US lottery prizes ever

Though investing is one of the smartest ways to grow your wealth, it's not the only way. A lucky few become instant multimillionaires thanks to the lottery.

If you want to take a chance on joining them, Wednesday night's Powerball drawing is expected to be the second largest prize in history. After no one had Saturday's numbers, the total pot rose to $700 million.

Winners choose to receive the money in either 30 annual allotments over 29 years or to get it all at once in a single payment for a smaller amount. For example, a lump sum on the $700 million would be $443.3 million. Lottery site USAMega.com estimates the federal tax withholding would be about $110.8 million. Then, there are state taxes too.

Still, a few hundred million dollars isn't too shabby for buying a $2 ticket.

Here are the top five prizes ever won.

1. $1.586 billion (Powerball)

There were three winning tickets for history's biggest prize, which was drawn on Jan. 13, 2016, according to CNN Money.

John and Lisa Robinson in Tennessee, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt in Florida and Marvin and Mae Acosta in California all had the option of roughly $533 million before taxes as an annuity or $327.8 million as the lump-sum payment.

The Robinsons' winning ticket was one of four they bought at a grocery store, they tell NBC's TODAY show. They opted to take the lump sum. "We're not guaranteed tomorrow," says John.

In Florida, Smith and Kaltschmidt also picked the lump sum. At the time they planned to get massages, upgrade their truck and retire with the newfound wealth, according to NBC.

The Acostas remained anonymous for months after winning, but released a statement saying they were thankful for the "rare gift that has been placed in our care."

2. $656 million (Mega Millions)

Merle Butler, right, standing next to his wife Patricia Butler, holds up the winning Lottery ticket, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
Belleville News-Democrat | Getty Image
Merle Butler, right, standing next to his wife Patricia Butler, holds up the winning Lottery ticket, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

In March 2012, Mega Millions also had three winning tickets.

Illinois winners Merle and Patricia Butler claimed $218.6 million of the winnings.

In Maryland, a state that allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, three school employees claimed their share under the name "The Three Amigos."

The third winner in Kansas remains anonymous.

3. $648 million (Mega Millions)

Ira Curry of Georgia and Steve Tran of California both won the December 2013 Mega Millions lottery.

Tran called his boss to say "I don't think I'm going to come in today, tomorrow or ever," according to NBC Bay Area. Jennifer's Gift Shop, where Tran bought several tickets, received $1 million for selling the winner — a perk given in several states.

Curry bought her tickets as a last-minute decision and selected a combination of family birthdays and her lucky number seven.

Both went with the lump sum option of $173 million.

4. $590.5 million (Powerball)

In May 2013, Gloria Mackenzie in Florida won a jackpot worth about $590 million, the biggest in American history to be won by only one person. She chose to receive the one-time payment of about $370 million before taxes.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer person," one of her neighbors told NBC.

5. $587.5 million (Powerball)

Cindy and Mark Hill, center and second from right, stand with a ceremonial check from the Missouri Lottery for $293,750,000 during the news conference, Friday, November 30, 2012.
Kansas City Star | Getty Image
Cindy and Mark Hill, center and second from right, stand with a ceremonial check from the Missouri Lottery for $293,750,000 during the news conference, Friday, November 30, 2012.

Cindy and Mark Hill won half the jackpot, or about $293.7 million in November 2012. While their daughter Jaiden, 6 years old at the time, asked to buy a pony with the winnings, Cindy said, "The pony's not going to be for a while." Instead, the family planned to stick to saving for college and taking vacations.

A winner in Arizona chose to remain anonymous, but was later revealed as Matthew Good through a public records request by the Associated Press.

Don't miss: The smartest steps to take if you win the $700 million Powerball jackpot

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