The prize grew to $550 million Wednesday, after starting the morning at $500 million.
Forty-two states play the game. Indiana has seen 38 Powerball winners, and Missouri follows with 26 winners.
In Chicago, Denise Jarvis used family birth dates to pick what she hoped would be the winning Powerball numbers. Jarvis said, about 10 years ago, her brother-in-law won millions playing the lottery.
"He was in a pool with his co-workers, and he said he was riding to work, and they called out the numbers. And he said, 'Oh that's just like our ticket,' and when he got to work, everybody was hollering because that was their ticket," Jarvis said.
According to the Illinois Lottery, Powerball tickets were selling at a blistering pace Wednesday. At this 7-11 store on Chicago's Near North Side, people started dreaming big with their ticket purchases as early as 5 a.m.
"It's hard to describe. It could mean a lot of freedom, a lot of paid bills help my friends, things like that you know. I have been dreaming big," ticket buyer Allen Novak said.
The odds of actually winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 175 million. For that reason, some people speaking with ABC7 did not feel like playing along.
"Most people don't have a chance, and why waste the money. We're in a recession. I don't have that kind of money," Ken Mendenhall said.
Lottery officials expect the pace of sales to increase throughout the day ahead of Wednesday night's drawing for the largest jackpot in Powerball history. Stores that sell tickets say they have added extra staff to meet the demand. "After 3 to maybe 9 o'clock, it will be really busy, and especially last moment is the busiest one," said 7-11 employee Dharmesh Patel.
If you do beat the odds and win, financial advisers at Chicago's RMB Capital Management say you must assemble a team of financial professionals immediately and make no major money decisions for at least six months.
"The first thing do is to get that money invested, to keep things simple, and then allow the interest and the dividends and the growth from your investments to help you pay for those goals that you have," said Dimitri Eliopoulos, senior wealth advisor vice president, RMB Capital Management.