CHRIS RAMESAR IS NOT ENTIRELY without luck. A limousine company owner from Brooklyn, he has played the New York State lottery for years. "He won $500 once," says his wife, Maria. "Often he comes close to winning more. A friend calls him the luckiest unlucky person on earth—he always gets a bum deal."

Ramesar's most momentous bummer ever is undoubtedly the $10 million Lotto Pick Six jackpot he thought he had won. On May 7, 1993, Ramesar mailed in his $150 subscription bet that was good for six months. In mid-June, when he didn't receive confirmation of the bet, he phoned lottery headquarters and was reassured that his application would soon be processed. Then on July 17, his numbers were drawn. For two days, Chris, 45, floated in the ether, assuming he had won. But on July 19, an attorney friend called the lottery office to claim the prize for him and was informed that Ramesar's application had not even been recorded, though it had been mailed 10 weeks earlier. His entry, in short, was not valid.

Ramesar was at first crushed—then furious. "The state owes me money," he insists, "and I intend to get it." He sued for breach of contract, but on Sept. 16 the New York State court of claims ruled against him. Judge Louis C. Benza noted that Lotto receipts state that "a confirmation notice will be issued indicating the start date [of play]...." Worse, he explained, lottery rules essentially protected the state from any liability against disgruntled players.

Yet one of Ramesar's attorneys, Marc Kasowitz, thinks his client could win on appeal. "You should be able to sue Lotto if they mess up," he says. "Here, they did. The judge himself admitted there was a delay in processing the subscription because lottery headquarters had moved from Albany to Schenectady."

Buoyed by their attorneys, the Ramesars still cherish their fantasies. "Life could be so full," sighs Maria, 38, a computer sales representative. "It would be incredible to wake up every day and wonder if you want to go swimming or to Bermuda for breakfast." For now, however, the Ramesars will have to make do with waking up and wondering how their lawsuit is doing. Will they ever play Lotto again? "Never," vows Maria. "Lightning never strikes twice."