US

Dreams of riches: What makes Mega Millions players think they can defy staggering odds?

  • Scott Hoormann holds two Mega Millions lottery tickets he purchased at Energy Express Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    Scott Hoormann holds two Mega Millions lottery tickets he purchased at Energy Express Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)  (The Associated Press)

  • Anita Watson, assistant manager at Energy Express convenience store, touches a screen to print out a Mega Millions lottery ticket Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    Anita Watson, assistant manager at Energy Express convenience store, touches a screen to print out a Mega Millions lottery ticket Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)  (The Associated Press)

  • John Hollis shows off his Mega Millions lottery ticket he purchased at the Fuel City convenience story Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in Dallas. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    John Hollis shows off his Mega Millions lottery ticket he purchased at the Fuel City convenience story Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in Dallas. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)  (The Associated Press)

It's the ultimate fantasy: Walk into a store, plunk down a dollar and with nothing but extraordinary luck — you win a giant lottery.

The odds of that happening are astronomical. But tell that to the optimists and dreamers who lined up at gas stations, mini-marts and drug stores Monday for the last-minute Mega Millions ticket-buying frenzy.

The $586 million prize — fourth-largest in U.S. history — could grow by Tuesday night's drawing.

Experts say what drives people to play is the same thing that drives people to gamble: the fantasy of quickly improving your life amid financial anxieties and uncertainty.

The huge Mega Millions prize stems from a major game revamp in October that dramatically reduced the odds of winning.