powerball winner interview

How $220M Changed A Lottery Winner

How $220M Changed A Lottery Winner

NPR’s Rachel Martin spoke with Brad Duke a few years ago about his $220 million lottery win in 2005 (you can read and listen to that interview below). We called him back this week because numbers for the biggest Powerball jackpot were drawn Saturday.

Lottery Winner Stays Grounded After $220 Million Jackpot

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Lottery Winner Stays Grounded After $220 Million Jackpot

Lottery winner Brad Duke says he’s always been fascinated by the lottery, and even thought he won once before, when he was 18. Davies Moore/ hide caption

Lottery winner Brad Duke says he’s always been fascinated by the lottery, and even thought he won once before, when he was 18.

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

In 2005, Brad Duke of Star, Idaho, hit a huge jackpot: $220 million in the Powerball lottery. It took a couple days, even a couple of weeks, for the magnitude of his win to hit. He didn’t tell anyone, and went about his daily routines while he tried to figure out what he wanted to do next.

As a regular lottery player, Duke had let himself fantasize about what it might be like to win thousands of dollars someday. As a cyclist, he’d always daydreamed about owning a high-end road bike and a high-end mountain bike, which his actual windfall would certainly cover.

I took the ticket in, let the gals behind the counter run the ticket through, and the machine made a bunch of weird noises and they started jumping up and down and jumping in circles. And I was trying to actually pluck the ticket out of their hand because my first instinct was just to kind of get out of there.

But Duke didn’t go on a spending spree. “I stayed in my house, I drove a used car for up to three years afterwards,” he tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The more I started to fantasize about what I could do with the money, the more I felt like I should try to keep my feet on the ground and change as little as I could.”

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BRAD DUKE: I had the ticket in a visor of a rental car at the time, and I had to stop and get fuel. I thought it would be a good time to check the tickets. So, I took the ticket in, let the gals behind the counter run the ticket through. And she made a bunch of weird noises and they started jumping up and down and jumping in circles, and I was trying to actually pluck the ticket out of their hand ’cause my first instinct was just to kind of get out of there.


This is Brad Duke, an exercise instructor from Star, Idaho. Duke won a $220 million Powerball jackpot in 2005. And as you might expect, life changed. Winning the lottery forced him to reevaluate his priorities, his expectations, even some relationships. We began by talking about the day he went out and bought that particular lottery ticket. Brad Duke is our Sunday Conversation.

DUKE: I thought maybe that I had won 10 or 20 thousand, but I didn’t confirm it. I went on with my day just daydreaming of what I could do with five, 10, 15, 20 thousand, whatever it may be.

MARTIN: So, that’s day one and it’s confirmed that you win. What happens a couple of days later when you wake up and the reality of this really starts to sink in?

DUKE: You know, it didn’t sink in for a couple of days, you know, probably a couple of weeks. I knew the first thing that I wanted to do was decide what I wanted to do with the money and where I wanted to go with this whole thing. So I didn’t tell anybody. I kept working. I continued with my daily routines. I made one phone call to my father and I told him – it’s a funny story – I said, dad, sit down and prepare for some life-changing news. And he says, oh, you’re getting married. And I said nope. And he goes, well, then you’re the guy that won the lottery.

DUKE: Yeah, true story, absolutely true story. And I said yeah. And he goes far out. I’ll be right down. So, you know, he came down and over the course of that couple of weeks, we kind of talked about what to do. I kept it under wraps for close to four or five weeks.

MARTIN: Wow. Wasn’t that hard? I mean, didn’t you kind of just want to tell everyone?

DUKE: Oh, it was fun. Oh, it was fun. It was fun fantasizing about being the guy and then realizing that you’re the guy and you have the reality-fantasy combination starting to come together. Turned out it was really important that I did do that because that did give me time to put together a team of people around me that were going to help me do what I wanted to do.

MARTIN: Yeah. Who were they? What did you need them to do for you?

DUKE: Well, in the process of setting goals, I wanted to grow the wealth, so obviously needed to have a really good tax attorney and a corporate business attorney. I knew that we were going to do some publicity to try and generate more opportunity, so I needed a publicist and a banker. And I still have that same team around me today.

MARTIN: So, you said you had done some daydreaming. You let yourself kind of fantasize about what it would be like to win $10,000, 20,000. What did those dreams look like and then how did they change when all of the sudden you were handed a check for millions of dollars?

DUKE: The thing that I was thinking about was kind of bike that I can buy. I’m into cycling, and one of my fantasies is just getting a really high-end road bike and a really high-end mountain bike.

MARTIN: Yeah, $220 million would do it.

DUKE: Yeah. And that really was the first thing that I did. I didn’t spend money. I stayed in my house, drove a used car for, you know, up to three years afterwards. The more I started to fantasize about what I could do with the money, the more I felt like I should try and keep my feet on the ground and change as little as I could.

MARTIN: Why did that occur to you?

DUKE: You know, I’m not sure. I’m a goal-oriented person. One of the goals that I had put out there for myself after this was try and make the most of this opportunity and not squander the gift that’s been given to me and try to grow it something I can leave behind, leave a legacy behind. And once I started to believe in that goal that I set for myself, kind of dictated some of my decisions.

MARTIN: So, did you quit your job?

DUKE: I did not. I continued on as long as I could. It was crazy. Everybody had the greatest ideas since sliced bread. I got proposals for time machines, flying cars, and eventually I had to quit ’cause it was disrupting the business. I continued to stay on and teach my morning spin class for about two and a half years after.

MARTIN: Did anyone in your life start treating you differently?

DUKE: Oh sure, yeah. Yeah, there’s definitely a preconceived notion, whether it’s good or bad, and that does change your surroundings. And, you know, for sure, when something like that amplifies everything around you.

MARTIN: Did you have to end any relationships because how your life changed with this money?

DUKE: You know, I’m pretty fortunate that way. I never had a serious casualty like that where I’ve had to end a relationship. I had some dating trouble, but that was expected.

MARTIN: You think it would be a boom for your dating life?

DUKE: Yeah, too much of a boom. But as far as loved ones and people that were in my life at the time, I have been pretty fortunate.

MARTIN: There has been, as you probably know, some terribly tragic stories over the years of lottery winners who kind of detached from reality and lose their friends, go bankrupt. How did you avoid all of that and what is your advice for future lottery winners?

DUKE: I knew the statistics. I knew six out of 10 people that won 10 million or less were bankrupt in less than five years. You know, so I knew the statistic and that’s one thing that I really wanted to not become. You know, the biggest piece of advice I can give somebody that gets put into that, you really have to define what’s important to you, and develop a plan around it and then get people to help you do what you’re not so good at doing as part of that plan.

MARTIN: You still have that mountain bike that you bought?

DUKE: Yeah. I have that mountain bike plus about another 10.

MARTIN: Good for you. Brad Duke. He won $220 million in a Powerball lottery eight years ago. Brad, thanks so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: You’re listening to NPR News.

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NPR’s Rachel Martin spoke with Brad Duke a few years ago about his $220 million lottery win in 2005. We called him back this week because numbers for the biggest Powerball jackpot were drawn Saturday.

7 Smart Lottery Lessons From the Biggest Powerball Winners Ever

What the World’s Biggest Lottery Winners Did Right (and Wrong)

In January 2016, the Powerball jackpot soared to a record-breaking $1.6 billion. The three winning tickets made Maureen Smith, John and Lisa Robinson, and Mae and Marvin Acosta not only the biggest Powerball winners but the biggest lottery jackpot winners in the world. As of June 2018, this still constitutes the largest Powerball or Megamillions lottery windfall ever.

Here are seven lessons you can learn from how the three Powerball winners each handled their life-changing experience—just in case you hit it big.

Take Your Time Claiming Your Prize

The first thing you should do is check on the rules in your state for claiming your prize because you don’t want to miss the deadline. How long you have to claim your prize varies depending on whether you plan to take your prize as a lump sum or as an annuity.

You should also see whether your state allows you to remain anonymous after claiming the prize, which would reduce the problems that come with becoming a lottery winner. Currently, six states including Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina let Powerball winners stay anonymous, while other states offer ways for lottery winners to shield their identities.

After that, you might be tempted to rush out and claim the prize as soon as possible. After all, once it’s claimed there’s no chance of losing the ticket or having it stolen.

However, it’s a good idea not to claim your prize too soon. You’ll have things to get in order and decisions to make before you start.

Two of the three January 2016 Powerball winners waited to claim their prize. Maureen Smith waited about a month while Mae and Marvin Acosta waited more than six months—saying they needed the time to assemble a team of advisers.

On the other hand, John and Lisa Robinson went on the Today Show before they even claimed their prize, a reckless move that shocked experts. Although things worked out for the Robinsons, John admitted to being frightened to travel interstate when everyone knew he was carrying a ticket worth millions in his pockets.

Get Good Legal and Financial Representation

After you’ve verified your options for claiming your lottery prize, focus on getting solid legal and financial advice. Each of the three January 2016 Powerball winners did the smart thing and retained legal representation before stepping forward.

When you are dealing with a multi-million prize, you need to have a team of professionals to help you sort out the best ways to maximize your earnings and protect yourself. At a minimum, you’ll need a lawyer, an accountant, and an investment advisor who are familiar with dealing with windfalls.

Some of the many challenges the Powerball winners faced—along with their team of advisers—included how to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits and debtors, where to invest their money, how to handle requests for money from both reputable and disreputable sources, and how to set up charitable donations.

First, you’ll need to know what kind of financial adviser to use and how to interview an accountant. You’ll also have to figure out the steps to take to choose a good lawyer.

Lump Sum or Annuity?

Powerball jackpot winners are given a tough choice—accept a smaller amount of money as a lump sum, or receive the entire amount of the jackpot spread out over 30 years.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice. With the lump sum, you pay a large amount of taxes all at once, whereas with the annuity, you only pay taxes on the amount you receive each year.

Receiving income each year makes it harder to blow through your entire windfall at once (though some lottery curse victims managed to do so by taking out loans on their future income). On the other hand, with proper investment, your lump sum could bring in greater dividends than your annuity might.

In the case of the January 2016 Powerball jackpot, all three winners opted for the lump-sum payment. Maureen Smith said her age heavily influenced her decision. At age 70, she wasn’t sure how many payments she’d see.

Even though they’re younger, the Robinsons agreed. “We’re going to take the lump sum because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” John said.

Before you make the decision yourself, be sure to consult with your advisers to make sure that you make the right decision for your situation.

Protect Your Privacy, Control Your Story

It’s important (though excruciatingly hard) to keep your big win private. Although it’s tempting to shout your news to the world, as soon as people hear that you’re about to become a multi-millionaire, you become a target.

Don’t tell anyone outside of an extremely small circle of trusted friends, relatives, and advisers about your Powerball jackpot win.

For example, Maureen Smith and her husband David Kaltschmidt kept going to work as usual after finding out they were going to be fabulously rich and didn’t even tell their adult children they won the Powerball jackpot.

Additionally, start thinking ahead about the image you’re going to project when reporters and other interested parties start looking into your life. Experts suggest that you scrub your social media accounts—better yet, delete them altogether.

Also, think about how you want to be contacted, because a lot of people are likely to be reaching out to you. Maureen Smith, for example, set up a contact at her law firm to respond to all inquiries and requests.

Don’t forget that not only are Powerball winners going to be in the limelight, so are the people they talk about publicly—so it’s a good idea to be careful about what you say.

During their press conference after claiming the Powerball win, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt refused to answer several personal questions like what personal meaning the numbers they played had to them and details about their children.

Meanwhile, Marvin and Mae Acosta were so careful of their privacy that they moved out of their home the day before claiming their prize and refused to speak with the press at all.

Don’t Make Major Changes in Your Life

If someone were to ask you what you would do once you become a Powerball winner, you might say, “quit my job” or “buy a mansion.” But, the experts suggest that you don’t make any big moves immediately.

While winning a few hundred million dollars might make you feel like you haven’t a care in the world, the reality is different—as these lottery curse victims could tell you.

There are a few good reasons not to make a major change immediately. For one thing, people need structure in their lives and quitting your job and totally changing what you do with your life is difficult and jarring for most people.

That might be why John and Lisa Robinson both planned to keep their jobs, despite their $327.8 million windfall. John said, “You can’t just sit down and not do nothing anymore. How long can that last?”

David Kaltschmidt said he would retire from his job at Northrup Grummond, but that was already in the works. “We are not going to go party. We are still going to live the same lives,” he said. The big purchase he was planning was simply replacing his broken-down truck.

Powerball winners should also work with their advisers to set up a budget that ensures that their funds last. It’s surprising how fast hundreds of millions of dollars can disappear if your money habits aren’t sound. It’s a good idea to use your lottery winnings as your seed corn and spend only the interest you get on your investments.

Be Prepared for Emotional Turmoil

It’s natural to think that Powerball winners feel nothing but excitement after winning so much money. But, winning a huge sum of money has a lot of consequences, and not all of them are pleasant.

Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt said that they were dreading the press conference and attendant publicity. David said that he had lost 10 pounds in the month since they found out they were winners, whereas Maureen said she was no longer in a quiet place and was afraid it would make her less friendly because of all the worrying.

Meanwhile, John and Lisa Robinson said that they had been sleepless after realizing they were winners. “More stress comes with that ticket,” Lisa said.

After claiming their prize, things continued to be difficult for the Robinsons. They were the target of a frivolous lawsuit by a felon who has sued thousands of people in the hopes of getting a share of their cash and their names were used in a wide-spread Facebook phishing scam.

On top of all of that, Powerball winners have to worry about people befriending them just for their money, being hounded by charities and people with sob stories, and the huge responsibility that comes with having that much money.

Quick Pick or Choose Your Own? How Powerball Winners Pick Numbers.

Many lottery players want to know whether they should pick their own numbers or use the quick pick option to have a computer randomly choose their numbers.

Technically, the odds of winning should be equal regardless of which method you choose.

The three winners of the 2016 Powerball jackpot bear that out. Two of the winners used the quick pick method, while the third, Maureen Smith, played the same numbers that she’s been playing for about 30 years.

Because neither way has a better chance of winning the lottery, pick whichever method is more fun for you.

Find out what the world's biggest lottery winners did right (and wrong!) with their Powerball winnings, so you're prepared if you win big. ]]>