NECMF

Jan 10, 2016 12:53 AM

Some key numbers about the giant Powerball drawing

The Associated Press

Enthusiastic ticket-buyers have pushed the record Powerball jackpot to $949.8 million for Saturday night's drawing.

Here's a rundown of some key figures if not the winning numbers connected to the drawing.

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JACKPOT

Could it hit $1 billion? Only if no one wins Saturday's jackpot. Kelly Cripe with the Texas Lottery said Saturday that if the jackpot rolls over to Wednesday's drawing, it'll be $1.3 billion.

ODDS OF WINNING

To put it gently, not good. The odds are one in 292.2 million. Realistically, you're really, really, really unlikely to win. One hopeful thought: Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, says your tiny odds improve a bit if you let the computer pick your numbers rather than choosing yourself.

POSSIBLE NUMBER COMBINATIONS

There are 292.2 million possible combinations of the five white balls and red Powerball. That's where the one in 292.2 million odds comes from, and they stay the same regardless of how big the jackpot grows or how many people buy tickets.

LUMP SUM VS. LIFETIME PAYOUT

Once you beat the astronomical odds and win, you'll get to choose between being paid $949.8 million through annual payments over 29 years or one $588.8 million cash payment. Those figures are before federal and state taxes, which will eat up roughly half of the cash-option prize. What's your best bet? Olivia S. Mitchell, a professor of insurance and risk management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says a safe option to avoid the risk of overspending or an investment mishap would be to take the annuity.

SINCE THE LAST WINNER

The jackpot started at $40 million on Nov. 4 and has been growing since then because there have been no big winners for the twice-weekly jackpots. Because the payout is based on sales, the prize has grown more quickly as people rush to buy tickets. More ticket sales also make it more likely there will be a winner, as all the extra tickets mean more number combinations are covered.

STATES WHERE THE GAME IS PLAYED

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

BUYING TICKETS

A regular ticket costs $2 about the same as a gallon of gas.

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