If you gamble on faith (as opposed to odds) you might not want read this before standing in that mile-long line to buy your Powerball ticket.

The jackpot for Powerball , the popular lottery game available throughout most of the country,  has rolled over every week since November because no one has picked the winning six number combination. The next drawing is Wednesday night (Jan. 13), with an estimated jackpot of $1.5 billion, the largest of any lottery game ever!

It costs a mere $2 to play, so why the heck not?

But … without trying to be a total a total buzz kill here, let’s take a quick look at the math.

The chance of winning almost any big stakes lottery game is just north of impossible. For Powerball, the odds are roughly one in 292 million, up from a mere one in 175 million in October, when the Multi-State Lottery Association stiffened the odds but made it easier to win smaller prizes.

That means your odds of winning are statistically a good deal lower than your odds of, say, getting hit by a bolt of lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome. So, with that in mind, please be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play Powerball, don’t quit your day job … just yet.

But hey, you never know, right? Someone’s eventually gotta win.

In this infographic, animator Joe Golling illustrates the mathematical probability of selecting that winning combination. (Note that the graphic was produced prior to the Lottery Association’s decision to up the odds.)


  • iwontwin

    im glad someone in san jose didn’t listen to you lol

  • richardchaven

    With tax and the discount for cash, expect to walk away with about a third of the jackpot. So it is not an even bet until the jackpot is (175mm x 3 x $2) $1.05 billion.

    An even bet means that it pays to buy every possible combination (as long as no one else wins too): it would cost as much as the take-home prize.

    • JW

      Being realistic as to believing advertised win (WA State
      win); numbers approximant …

      $100,000,000 Advertised win
      $ 60,000,000 Real win (cash number)
      $ 24,000,000 40% Federal tax
      $ 36,000,000 Balance

      BREAK DOWN (Actual win plus 2-loans)

      $ 14,400,000 14.4% Actual win
      $ 7,200,000 WA State loan until you die, State collects it back
      $ 14,400,000 Federal loan until you die, Feds collects it back

      Yes I still buy tickets at times J

  • JW

    Not one with a math background I ask the following question; what
    are the odds of winning both the Mega Millions and PowerBall back to back? A
    question that arose out of my statement to a friend’s question that it had to be the billions or trillions to
    one, to which he said no way.

    This formula works well for each separately using MS-Excell:

    Powerball-175,223510/1 odds using (combin(59,5)*35) as the formula

    Mega Millions-258,890,850/1 odds using (combin(75,5)*15) as the

  • R.N.

    There is bound to be a winner sometime soon, as the odds of winning the power ball are going up as the number of tickets go up.

  • Keigan

    If I won the money i would spend it all on fifa 16 and buy only bronze packs – KC

    • Panagiotis

      Seriously? Wow. Hardcore FIfa fan

  • Panagiotis

    You can’t win if you don’t play! haha 🙂


Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, an online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor