All the Luck in the World

If you'd been struck by lightning 600 times, would you wonder if God was after you?

BY: John D. Spalding


Everyone has a system when it comes to the lottery. Some people like to play their birth date, or their children's ages. Others consult their astrological chart. I took another tack recently and drove 200 miles to Beaver Meadows, Penn. At Bernie's Variety Mart, an undistinguished drive-up store on the main road to Hazleton, between Scranton and Allentown, I bought a half dozen Super 6 tickets. According to the state of Pennsylvania, my odds of winning that night's $14 million prize were pathetic: 1 in 39,959,158. What the lottery didn't factor in was the man who'd be picking the numbers--Joe Hornick Sr., holder of perhaps the luckiest lottery-winning streak ever.

Since 1989, Hornick, a 67-year-old Catholic and semi-retired owner of a home heating-oil business, has hit four jackpots--three with tickets from Bernie's Variety Mart--for a total of almost $3 million. In June, the Cash 5 paid him $206,217. Three weeks later, still waiting for his previous check, Joe hit the Cash 5 again, for $71,037. The odds of winning the Cash 5 just once are 1 in 575,757. Joe has now hit it three times. (Four years ago, he struck for $68,000.) Oh, and last April, Joe asked his nephew to buy him a ticket in Florida while there on business. Joe won $6,673.

Joe, who still plays the lottery daily, rarely spends more than $40 a week on tickets.

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