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Over 2,000 people picked all zeroes as their lottery numbers — now they're splitting a $7.8 million prize

A customer purchases lottery tickets in Richland County, South Carolina.
Tim Dominick | The State/MCT | Getty Images

A couple of thousand people in North Carolina had the same great idea over the weekend, and now the state lottery is on the hook for $7.8 million.

More than 2,000 people won the Carolina Pick 4 drawing on Saturday after picking all zeroes. The lottery's winning numbers did, in fact, turn out to be 0-0-0-0, which means the state's NC Education Lottery will pay out a total of $7.8 million in prize money to the winners — a record for a single Pick 4 drawing, according to state lottery officials.

Dozens of those lucky winners showed up to the state's lottery headquarters in Raleigh on Monday to be among the first to claim their prize money. The NC Education Lottery shared a photo on Twitter showing how, at one point, so many winners arrived at once that a long line of people stretched out of the building.

One winner, named Willie Ward, said in a statement that he regularly plays all zeroes in Pick 3 and Pick 4 lottery games. "I love the zeroes," he says. "I'm dedicated to them."

Another winner, named Stephen Carter told state lottery officials that he'd "never played 0-0-0-0 before" and that his wife had selected the lucky numbers for him. "We've got a family reunion coming up," Carter says in a statement. "We're excited to show off our big check there."

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Officials for the NC Education Lottery said in a statement that sets of four identical numbers in a lottery drawing are known as "Quads" and that those are among the most popular number combinations for lottery players. In fact, the previous record for a Pick 4 payout was $7.5 million in 2012, when the winning numbers were 1-1-1-1, according to NC Education Lottery. And, just last week, the state actually paid out a total of $2.1 million in prizes to more than 5,600 Pick 3 winners who selected the winning number combination of 1-1-1.

The odds of matching all four of NC Education Lottery's Pick 4 numbers are 1 in 10,000, and players have the option of paying either $1 for a ticket and the chance to win up to $5,000 in prizes, or they can pay 50 cents for a possible grand prize of $2,500. State lottery officials said in a statement that 1,002 people won the $5,000 grand prize, while another 1,012 people won $2,500 apiece for their winning 50 cent tickets.

Of course, these lottery winners will still face a tax bill on their prize money. The IRS requires lotteries to report any prize money over $600, which it taxes like regular income, and the federal government also requires lottery officials to automatically withhold 24% of winnings of $5,000 or more. Winners will also face a state tax of about 5.5% on their prize money.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to show that the federal government requires that lottery officials withhold 24% of lottery winnings of $5,000 or more, while other prize money is taxed like regular income.

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