On Sept. 1, Leo Stamps of Ashburn stopped to get gas on his way home from playing golf and bought three tickets for the Virginia Lottery's Cash 5 game. He bought two more tickets when he stopped somewhere else to buy cigarettes. Then he stopped again, just to buy another ticket. Each time, he used the numbers 7-15-22-29-34.
When the numbers were drawn that night, four of those tickets, plus one he had bought earlier, were winners, for a total of $450,000.
"It was one of those days I just felt good about playing golf," said Stamps, 46, a drywall construction worker who walked out of the lottery's Woodbridge office the next day with $319,500, after taxes. "If you're going to play the lottery, you've got to play the same numbers, and eventually they'll come out."
Stamps said he first played those numbers on a July 15 more than a decade ago in a Georgia lottery. He played the 7 and the 15, then added 7 to get 22 and another 7 for 29. Then he added 34 since it was the last number available on the ticket.
John Hagerty, a spokesman for the Virginia Lottery, said others have won big by repeating the same numbers on multiple tickets. On April 5, a player from Chesapeake, Va., won $1.8 million by playing the same sequence on 20 tickets.
"What makes this so unusual is that there were all these different retailers where he purchased the tickets," Hagerty said.
Stamps bought tickets at the 7-Eleven at 43251 John Mosby Hwy., the Snak-n-Shop West at 43112 John Mosby Hwy. and the Deli-O at 43082 John Mosby Hwy., all in Chantilly, and at the Sunoco at 42870 Truro Parish Dr. in Ashburn.
In the Cash 5 game, five numbered Ping-Pong balls are randomly drawn by a machine 12 times a week. The top prize for matching all five numbers on a $1 ticket is $100,000. It is possible to win smaller amounts by dividing the dollar among different sets of numbers, putting 50 cents on one set of numbers, for example, 25 cents on a second set and 25 cents on a third. Stamp won $100,000 for each of four tickets, and on the fifth he won $50,000 because he had put only 50 cents on his lucky numbers.
The Virginia Lottery puts the odds of winning the $100,000 prize at 1 in 278,256.
Stamps said that because he didn't yet know all the tax implications of his winnings, he was going to stash the money and save for college for his sons, 16 and 10.
"It was just in God's will, and quite frankly, it's not going to last us the rest of our lives," he said, adding that the winnings would be particularly valuable because his wife, Marilyn, was laid off earlier this year from her job as a senior manager at MCI Inc. and her severance pay just ended.
"It's just a big old blessing, that's all it was," Stamps said.
As for his lucky numbers, Stamps said he would not play them again. "I've got two more sets of numbers," he said, "and quick picks."