Whidbey couple wins $50,000 in state lottery

So many things could have gone differently the day Betsy and Amir Shirazi won the lottery.

Coming back home on the evening of Jan. 19, the Freeland couple stopped at Payless Foods to buy lottery tickets from the machine in the store.

If they had stopped at the Goose Community Grocer instead, they wouldn’t have won.

If they hadn’t had troubles with the ATM at the nearby gas station, they wouldn’t have won.

And if they hadn’t been so polite, they wouldn’t have won either.

While debating what type of ticket they wanted to buy, they allowed a cashier in line behind them to go ahead. She was nearing the end of her lunch break and in a hurry to make her purchase.

The cashier told the couple about a new type of card called Golden Nugget, which had prizes like cash amounts and trips to Las Vegas.

When the Shirazis stepped up to the machine, they decided to take the cashier’s advice and buy four Golden Nugget scratchers.

The result was a $50,000 payoff.

“I thought it couldn’t be true,” Betsy said.

She was in shock.

“She wouldn’t talk to me,” Amir said.

Like most things in their lives, it had been a team effort. Amir bought the ticket, and Betsy scratched it.

The couple spent the next agonizingly long day waiting. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the nearest Washington Lottery office in Everett wasn’t open until 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

The following morning, they woke up at 3 a.m., boarded one of the first ferries of the morning and headed to the mainland to claim their prize.

They took pictures at the lottery office and sent them to their friends, who thought it was a joke.

“You never think, ‘It’s going to happen to me.’ You always think somebody else is going to get it,” Amir said.

Betsy agreed.

“It doesn’t take a person who is buying all the time or spending a great amount of money,” she said.

After a few minor setbacks, the Shirazis were able to claim their winnings, sans some for taxes, on the same day.

For them, winning came as a godsend.

“We had prayed for a miracle, because we were kind of finding ourselves in a difficult situation,” Betsy said.

The couple has lived on Whidbey for the past four years but they have struggled with finding employment with health care benefits.

They plan to use the majority of the winnings for much-needed financial security in the remaining years leading up to their retirement. They also may take a trip around the state, which they said they haven’t explored enough yet.

“The plan is to be smart,” Betsy said.