The New York Times:

Perfeito Esteves was the fill-in guy on a paving crew laying asphalt on Interstate 80, a few miles from the Delaware Water Gap. It was his first day on the job, and a couple of the other men on the crew asked if he wanted to join their betting pool and chip in $2 for lottery tickets.

Perfeito Esteves didn’t chip in $2 for a winning lottery ticket.

Mr. Esteves figured he was just a short-timer and would work with that crew for only a week, so he said no. One of the co-workers he turned down, Americo Lopes, collected the others’ money, as he always did. Then, at the end of that week, Mr. Lopes quit, saying he needed foot surgery.

Mr. Esteves not only took Mr. Lopes’s place as a permanent worker on the crew, he became a linchpin in court when the other men sued Mr. Lopes over the $38.5 million he pocketed from a winning ticket.

Mr. Esteves, 42, who lives in Elizabeth, N.J., was not one of the plaintiffs. But he took the five co-workers’ side, testifying against Mr. Lopes, who lost the case on Wednesday and was ordered to share the winnings.

On Thursday, Mr. Esteves said that he had regrets — and some anger — about his decision not to buy into the betting pool. Mostly he grinned and shook his head when talking about how he had missed a chance at some serious money.

Perfeito may have missed the perfecta, but in the lottery of life he’s a winner.