Saturday’s drawing in the Powerball multi-state lottery has an estimated jackpot of $1.6 billion. That’s the third-largest lottery prize ever in U.S. history.
But big prizes come with small odds. A player who buys a single ticket for the November 5th Powerball only has a 1 in 292,201,338 chance of winning. You’re way more likely to get hit by lightning.
But if you still want to play, there’s a few things you should know that can improve —or worsen—your chances.
What is the Powerball Jackpot?
Let’s get this out of the way first: The estimated jackpot prize for the Saturday, November 5th 2022 Powerball lottery is $1.6 billion for those winners that choose to receive an annuity, which will be paid out over 30 years. But nearly all winners choose to receive a one-time lump sum payment instead of waiting. The cash option for Saturday’s drawing is worth $782.4 million.
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All this assumes you are the only winner of the jackpot. Huge lottery prizes like this one attract a lot more players who buy a lot more tickets, and the top prize is often shared between multiple people who happened to pick the same numbers. Should that happen, the jackpot is divided equally by the number of winning tickets.
How to choose the right lottery numbers
A lot of people have a lucky number or a date they like to use when playing the lottery. But has that number historically shown up in drawings?
The Powerball lottery winner is chosen by randomly selecting five white balls with numbers on them out of a pool of 69 numbered balls, and then a red-colored “Powerball” out of a pool of 26.
According to U.S.A Mega, the five numbers that came up the most in Powerball drawings over the last seven years are 61 (drawn 78 times), 32 (77 times), 21 and 63 (both drawn 73 times), and 69 (71 times). The most common Powerball was 24 (drawn 45 times), followed by 18 (42 times), 4 (36 times), and 13 and 21 (both 34 times). The least commonly drawn numbers are 34 and 26 (both drawn 44 times) and the least common Powerball is 23.
Of course, that’s just based on 802 drawings since October 7, 2015. Given a longer time period and a bigger data sample, every single number should be chosen the same number of times; the whole point of randomly selecting balls is to average out differences over time.
Still, you might be inclined to pick one of those numbers, or to choose another “lucky” option. But think twice before you do. If other people choose the same numbers as you, you’ll have to share the jackpot with them—and people are more likely to choose a “lucky” number like 7, or a number between 1 and 31 because it represents a birthday. Shying away from those numbers doesn’t improve your chances of winning the lottery, but it does give you a very slightly improved chance to take home the prize all by yourself. So statistically, it’s better to choose uncommon numbers.
Then again, if everyone picks unusual numbers for this very reason, those numbers are going to be more likely to be shared, so it’ll actually be better to chose a usual number. See how hard it is to hack this system?
States with the most lottery winners
There are 45 states that participate in the Powerball lottery, and it’s also available in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. But every state has not had a jackpot winner.
Since the game started in 1992, players in only 43 of those 48 locations have won the Powerball jackpot, according to Jackpocket, a third party lottery app that allows users to buy tickets on their phone. Indiana has been the luckiest, with 39 jackpots won, followed by Missouri with 31, and Minnesota with 22. It would seem that being from one of these states means you have a higher probability of winning, right?
Wrong. All those people in those states were lucky, but not because they had a higher probability of winning. For one thing, some states entered the multi-state pool later than others: Mississippi, for example, only started selling Powerball tickets in January of 2020, so it’s no surprise that it’s never had a winner.
But more importantly: In all things lottery, you can’t escape math. People in populous states like New York, New Jersey and California win more often because they have more people playing. Your odds don’t change based on where you buy the ticket.
There is, however, one factor which might actually make it a good idea to play Powerball in one state versus another: Local rules about whether or not the winner can stay anonymous. In places like Illinois and Kansas, winners can request that the lottery board keep their identity secret. In states like New York, you can expect your name to be released to the media —meaning everyone in the world now knows you’re a billionaire.
The secret to winning the lottery is: Buy more tickets
Lottery is a game of chance and probability, so the best way to increase your odds of winning is to buy more tickets. If you have a 1 in 300 million chance of winning, buying a second ticket doubles your odds to 2 in 300 million, another to 3 in 300 million, and so on.
Of course, while you’re improving your odds, your chances of taking home a billion dollars are still infinitesimal. In order to improve your odds in a really substantial way, you’d have to spend a huge amount of money. Even if you spent a million dollars buying $2 Powerball tickets this Saturday, the odds would still be overwhelmingly against you.
So play your lucky number, play an uncommon number, play your birth date, whatever. Buy one ticket or buy twenty. It doesn’t really matter.
What time is the lottery drawing?
Wait, you still want to play? Powerball drawings are held every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. ET. Good luck!
Updated 11/4/22 to reflect changes in the estimated jackpot.