With Mega Millions (or Mega Billion) fever sweeping the country, lottery pools are flooding offices nationwide.
At first, they sound like a great idea. Why play solo, when your odds of hitting the jackpot are a measly 1 in 302,575,350? Team up with some coworkers, and you might improve your odds to, say, a much more optimistic 13 in 302,575,301.
But before you either chip in or organize your office's pool, experts say beware of the following do's and don'ts. They could mean the difference between buying your own private island and crying softly at your desk while your coworkers are on their islands.
Designate a leader. And make sure he or she is highly organized. Because this isn't just about collecting money and buying tickets. The organizer will also have to:
Give everyone copies or photos of pool tickets. Wouldn't it be terrible if your pool leader said the team won nothing, but amazingly he or she hit the jackpot with a self-purchased ticket?
It's happened before. In 2013, a group of Indiana hairstylists sued their coworker after that coworker claimed she had purchased a $9.5-million-winning ticket with her own money -- not the pool's money, CNN affiliate WXIN reported.
It's incumbent on pool leaders to send images of the tickets before the drawing. If they don't, pool participants should demand them.
By emailing photos of pool tickets, it doesn't just make sure players know which numbers belong to the pool. It also ensures the organizer is actually buying tickets, rather than just pocketing his or her coworkers' cash.
Email the list of players (every time you play). This helps protect the pool leader. At a certain cutoff time before each drawing, email everyone to say who's paid. This prevents random coworkers from trying to cash in post-victory.
Don't use cash: If possible, pay your pool leader with an electronic account -- such as PayPal or Venmo -- so you have written confirmation of your payment for a certain lottery.
Electronic accounts can also help the organizer keep track of who's in. And they're a lot less messy than wadded up dollar bills dropped on your desk.
If you must use cash, make sure to see your organizer's list of who's paid.
Don't make verbal promises: A verbal "IOU" probably won't cut it if the pool wins and you say, "Well, I was going to pay." But thanks to electronic payment accounts, it's easy to pay the organizer anytime, anywhere, or in advance of the next lottery if you're not going to be available.
Don't get overwhelmed: Yes, this is a lot of work. Who said winning an avalanche of cash was easy? But if anyone -- especially the pool leader -- starts feeling overwhelmed, there are apps for that.
For example, Lottery Pool Boss allows players to prepay for pools, track their prepaid balances and receive email confirmations of payments. And if the pool wins a smaller prize, the app allows you to roll over those winnings to the next pool.
Because anything less than the jackpot is chump change, right?