As of January 11, 2016, the Powerball lottery jackpot is at a record high of 1.4 billion dollars, and everyone is talking about it. What if you win? What would you do with the money? How would you tell your boss to take your job and stuff it?
Whoa, now. Let’s slow down and talk numbers for a moment. The odds of winning the Powerball lotto are 1 in 292,201,338. It’s rather difficult to conceptualize numbers that large, so let’s put that into perspective. Take a moment to guess how long 292, 201, 338 seconds is. Maybe a few days? Weeks? Couldn’t be any longer than several months, right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
It’s 9 years, 3 months, 3 days, 3 hours, 22 minutes, and 17 seconds. And one Powerball ticket buys you one single second of that time. Thinking about it this way really makes one ticket seem like a tiny drop in a very big ocean.
Do the Powerball lottery odds ever change?
Yes and no, but mostly no. Occasionally the rules for Powerball will change, calling for a different number of balls to chosen from. This doesn’t happen often, though. In fact, it’s only happened 9 times in the last 24 years. The most recent change was made in October 2015, where the number of balls in the primary drawing was increased from 59 to 69, and the balls in the secondary drawing reduced from 35 to 26. This made picking the winning number much harder. Prior to the change, your odds would have been an incredibly optimistic 1 in 175,223,510.
As weeks go by with no big winner, the prize pool grows and more and more people will play, all hoping to take home the big prize and move to their own private tropical paradise. The number of people buying tickets has no effect on any one persons chance of winning. The only risk is that more than one person may pick the correct numbers, and the prize will be split between them. Unless the rules are changed again, the only way to increase your odds of taking home the jackpot are to buy more tickets.
How are the odds of the Powerball lottery calculated?
One ball chamber contains white balls numbered 1-69. Another chamber has red balls number 1-26. Five balls are randomly pulled from the first chamber, and one from the second. This one is called the Powerball.
Various prizes can be won if certain criteria are met. Statistically, the most likely prize is getting none of the white balls correct, but correctly guessing the red ball. The odds of winning that specific prize are about 1 in 38, and the prize is a whopping $4. Not very exciting, right? Let’s take a look at the odds of some of the bigger prizes.
|5 White + PB||Jackpot||1 in 292,201,338|
|5 White No PB||$1,000,000.00||1 in 11,688,053|
|4 White + PB||$50,000.00||1 in 913,129.18|
|4 White No PB||$100.00||1 in 36,525.17|
|3 White + PB||$100.00||1 in 14,494.11|
|3 White No PB||$7.00||1 in 579.76|
|2 White + PB||$7.00||1 in 701.33|
|1 White + PB||$4.00||1 in 91.98|
|0 White + PB||$4.00||1 in 38.32|
|Win Anything||Variable||1 in 24.87|
Statistically speaking, you’re two and half times more likely to get elected President of the United States of America than you are to winning $100 in the Powerball drawing.