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5 who opted out of Mega pool say they are not bitter

An early-morning phone call on a Saturday usually means one thing for the IT workers at the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

"I said, 'Great, the server's down,' " said John Kutey, 54, of Green Island.

Nope. Instead, he and six colleagues had hit the jackpot: $319 million in the multistate Mega Millions game's fifth-largest prize in its history.

"It still seems unreal to us," Kutey said Thursday at a news conference at State Lottery headquarters. "We're pretty average folks. This really hasn't sunk in for anybody."

Each of the seven winners will collect a check for $19.1 million, after taxes.

But some of their colleagues from their Albany office might be kicking themselves.

Co-winner John Hilton, 57, of North Greenbush, said there are about a dozen workers in the information technology department who start playing the lottery at $2 per person when the jackpot hits $100 million.

"We keep a checklist of who's in and who's out for any particular drawing," he said.

This time, five names were crossed off the list when they declined to play.

ABC News identified one of those unlucky workers as Mike, saying he didn't want to reveal his last name.

"I just wasn't feeling lucky that day," Mike said during a work break from his IT job.

Now he's a big loser.

But Mike told ABC he was delighted for the winners.

"These seven were the hardest working state employees I've ever come across, go-getters," he said. "I'll be sad to see them leave. They were such great people."

Mike said none of the five who opted out of the Mega Millions pool is "bitter or angry."

"I don't think they'll cut me in. I don't think they should. I don't deserve it," he said before heading back to work.

Meanwhile, a hankering for a Snickers bar and an impatient patron may have provided just the extra bit of luck needed by those who opted in.

Mike Barth, 63, of Bethlehem, said his colleagues designated him to go to the newsstand next door and buy the ticket. Another lottery customer cut in front of him in line when he reached for his favorite candy bar.

The Snickers bar became a payday instead.

"I'm thinking later on, when we found out we won, that this guy who jumped in front of me could have been the one with the winning ticket," Barth said. "It just goes to show -- you never know."

Last Friday night, Barth's co-worker Gabrielle Mahar, 29, of Colonie, learned that she and her fellow workers had won big when she saw the winning numbers scroll across her TV screen during the late-night news.

"I looked at my photocopy of the ticket, then rechecked it and rechecked it and rechecked it," she said. "I just couldn't believe it was real."

After calling her mother and her best friend, Mahar called her boss, Kristin Baldwin of Clifton Park, and left a message on her answering machine saying they had won.

Baldwin, 42, said she got up and listened to her answering machine around midnight.

"I was numb. In total disbelief," Baldwin said. "I'm really not prepared for it. It's a wonderful thing, but it's so much to sort out and deal with."

The winners said they haven't decided whether to quit working or exactly how to use their new-found wealth.

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