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Powerball - How to Play the Powerball Lottery

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Logo of the Powerball Lottery

Logo of the Powerball Lottery

Image © The Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL)

What Is the Powerball Lottery?:

The Powerball Lottery is a multi-state lottery run in all but 8 of the US states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. It replaced the Lotto*America lottery in 1992, and was the first lottery game to use two drums. Winners are drawn on Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10:59 PM Eastern Time. The drawings are done at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and announced on television, on the Powerball website, and in newspapers.

The Powerball Lottery offers a Jackpot which starts at $20 million and can reach values of hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as other levels of cash prizes.

How Much Does It Cost to Play Powerball?:

Basic Powerball cards cost $2 each. For an additional dollar, you can add the PowerPlay option, which increases the size of your prize if you win (note that PowerPlay doesn't affect the size of the jackpot).

Note: The fixed-value PowerPlay prize amounts is a change that was made on January 15, 2013. Before then you could pay an additional $1 for every multiplier to your prize if you won. With the old format, with a $2 card, the value of any non-Jackpot prizes you win will be doubled. a $3 card would have tripled your prize and so on, up to the maximum $6 card, which would multiply your prize value by five.

How Do You Play Powerball?:

Powerball is a two-drum lottery game. One drum holds 59 white balls, while the other drum holds 39 red balls. The red ball is the Powerball.

When you buy your ticket, you'll select five numbers (these winning numbers will be drawn from the first drum with the white balls) and one Powerball number (the winning powerball number will be drawn from the second drum with the red balls). You can choose your Powerball numbers or you cal let the Powerball machine drawn your numbers randomly.

The order of your first five Powerball numbers doesn't affect your chances of winning. So if you pick the numbers 1 3 9 13 17 and the Powerball 6, and the winning numbers come up 17 9 1 3 13 (6), you'll still win.

How Do You Win Powerball?:

To win the Powerball Jackpot, you need to match all five white balls in any order, as well as the red Powerball. Even if you don't win the Jackpot, you can win cash prizes for getting as little as one correct number (the Powerball). Here are the Powerball payouts:

Basic Powerball Payouts:

  • 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot
  • 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $1,000,000
  • 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $10,000
  • 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $100
  • 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $100
  • 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $7
  • 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $7
  • 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $4
  • Just the Powerball: $4
Powerball with PowerPlay Payouts:
  • 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot
  • 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $2,000,000
  • 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $40,000
  • 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $200
  • 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $200
  • 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $14
  • 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $14
  • 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $12
  • Just the Powerball: $12

What Are the Odds of Winning Powerball?:

Powerball.com lists the odds of winning a Powerball prize. As of December 2, 2012, the odds were listed as follows:
  • 5 White Balls and Powerball (Jackpot): 1 in 175,223,510.00
  • 5 White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 5,153,632.65
  • 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 648,975.96
  • 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 19,087.53
  • 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 12,244.83
  • 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 360.14
  • 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 706.43
  • 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: 1 in 110.81
  • Just the Powerball: 1 in 55.41
  • Overall Odds of Winning Any Prize: 1 in 31.85

Is There a Secret to Winning Powerball?:

The Powerball.com FAQ Page points out that if you buy a Powerball card for every possible red ball, you'll be guaranteed to win at least the small prize. Of course, you'll have spent $78 to guarantee a $4 win, but if you match some of the white balls on those 39 cards as well, your total wins could be higher.

Other than that, there's no secret to choosing winning numbers that will improve your odds. The number draw is totally random. However, you can read my lottery winning tips that really work to find no-nonsense tips to help you win lotteries.

Is Playing Powerball Worthwhile?:

Whenever the Powerball Jackpot gets really big, tons of people start entering for the chance of winning hundreds of millions of dollars. But does it make sense to play Powerball?

There's no definitive answer to that question. But statisticians have devised a formula to help you determine whether the risk is worth the potential payoff. To find out what that formula is and how it works, read the entertaining and informative article, Is Powerball a Mug's Game? from Slate.

Which States Do Not Participate in the Powerball Lottery?:

The Powerball Lottery is not available in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, and Hawaii.

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