The Best Strategy For Buying Powerball Tickets Is Worth A Shot, Right?
So you want to be a billionaire? It's highly unlikely that anybody will win Wednesday's record-breaking Powerball jackpot of more than $1.5 billion. But if you're going to play, then you might as well do it right. When it comes down to it, there is little you can do to increase your odds of winning — but I'm telling you that there's a chance, so you might as well keep reading.
UPDATE: This post was originally published in January 2016. As of Aug. 23, 2017, the new Powerball jackpot has hit $700 million (and if there are no winners, it'll go to $1 billion). The Powerball will be drawn at 10:59 p.m. EST.
EARLIER: First things first: Whether you like it or not, you should probably come to terms with the legitimate odds of winning the prize. They're one in 292.2 million. No matter how many people play, those odds remain the same. To win, you need to match five numbers, each of which can be between one and 69. Those matches can be in any order. Then, you also have match the Powerball number, which can be any number from one to 26. The number of combinations remains the same, and each combination has the same probability of getting chosen, so therefore, your odds will always be the same ... and not very good.
But who really cares about the odds, right? I mean, if you have the chance to win a billion dollars, are you really going to pass up that opportunity? If not, you might want to consider choosing a common Powerball number, letting the computer do everything for you, or buying multiple tickets.
If you're going to make your own picks, 20 might be a good Powerball to choose — it's the most frequently selected Powerball number, having come up 75 times before. Next is the 6, which has been chosen 74 times, followed by 2, which has been chosen 69 times. It's important to keep in mind, though, that basing your number selections on history doesn't actually increase your chances of winning. When the numbers are drawn Wednesday night, each number and combination will have the same likelihood of being called, regardless of how many times it has been selected in the past. Still, it might make you feel better to know that history is on your side.
Another data point from lottery history could convince you not to select your own numbers. When buying a ticket, you can either choose all six numbers for yourself, or let the computer choose them for you with what's called a Quick Pick ticket. According to lottery officials, three-quarters of Powerball jackpot winners have used Quick Picks. As with the previous strategy, whether you choose the numbers on your ticket or not has no bearing on your actual odds of winning, but it could make you feel better if you're new to the lottery system.
Ultimately, the only strategy that will actually increase your odds of winning Wednesday's jackpot is to buy multiple tickets — as many as you can financially justify. Going back to the probability, if each number has the same likelihood of being selected, then you'd have to increase the number of selections you have on your side in order to increase your overall likelihood of winning. Unfortunately, buying two, 10, or even 50 tickets won't raise your chances that much. There are nearly 300 million options that could be called on Wednesday night — and if you have enough money to buy that many tickets, you probably shouldn't be playing the lottery anyway.