RALEIGH – Lucama resident Pablo Rios Maldonado likes the challenge of lottery games like Carolina Cash 5. That’s why the retired construction manager always picks his own numbers for a chance to win the jackpot in the nightly drawing. The odds of matching all five numbers to do that are 1 in 575,757.

Rios Maldonado beat even longer odds – 1 in 1.2 million – to win the top prize of $50,000 in Wednesday’s Cash 5 Bonus Bucks drawing.

Six such drawings have been held since the promotion started last fall. When a Cash 5 player makes a $5 ticket purchase, an entry slip for the next Bonus Bucks drawing is issued at no extra cost. A total of five cash prizes are awarded in each drawing, including the top prize of $50,000. The final odds of winning depend on how many entry slips are issued.

Rios Maldonado stopped Wednesday morning at the Rose Mart on West Raleigh Road in Wilson. As he bought his daily Cash 5 tickets, he chatted with the clerk about the Bonus Bucks drawing to be held that day. In the afternoon he checked the lottery’s website to see if he had any luck. The $50,000-winning entry number matched the very first entry slip he checked.

“I had a feeling,” he recalled. “And there it was.” He called his wife Valerie, who works in a doctor’s office, to share the good news. “I’ve got something to tell you,” he said. “I think we’ve won a little money.”

Rios Maldonado said the moment was “euphoric.” After required state and federal withholdings, the after-tax value of the prize was $34,000. The couple, who has been together for more than 12 years, plans to use their winnings to pay off the bills they owe and take a cruise.

With a lucky lottery win added to his list of life experiences, Rios Maldonado shared advice for other lottery enthusiasts. “Don’t ever quit hoping you’re going to win,” he said. “But you gotta play smart – play responsibly.”

Thursday’s Carolina Cash 5 jackpot is estimated at $159,000. The next Bonus Bucks drawing will be held Dec. 4 with an entry deadline of Nov. 20.

Ticket sales make it possible for the N.C. Education Lottery to raise money for education programs in all 100 counties. Details about how more than $19.3 million in lottery funds have made a difference in Wilson County are available on the “Where the Money Goes” page on the lottery’s website.