The Secret Behind Powerball Lottery Strategies:

the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are 1 in 195,200,000…To put it in perspective, the odds are better that a randomly chosen American male happens to be George Clooney…

…many people believe purchasing tickets often, or in bunches, substantially increases their chances of eventually winning the lottery. It doesn’t. Even if purchasing 195,249,054 tickets over a lifetime guaranteed a jackpot win (which it doesn’t), that lifetime would have to be very long, or the buyer very rich to begin with:

  • Buying two tickets a week, one for every Powerball drawing? Make sure you live 1,877,366 years.
  • If that’s out of the question, simply buy 47,000 tickets every week for 80 years.

So live 200 times longer than the world’s oldest tree, or blow $47,000 a week, and you’ll eventually win. Right?

Wrong again. Buying a large amount of tickets doesn’t ensure anything. The only way to guarantee a win is to buy every possible group of winning numbers, all 195 million+, for a given drawing. Which, in Powerball is impossible for a number of reasons. A “brute force” approach like this has been done before, but in a different lottery, under different circumstances. In 1992, Stefan Klincewicz led a 28-person team in purchasing 80% of the number combinations for an Irish Lottery drawing. They went on to win around £1 million Irish, which (after expenses) meant a marginal profit. This strategy was only possible because the Irish Lottery was at the time a 6/36 drawing: 6 balls out of 36 total, in one drum. The odds of winning were 1 in 1,947,792. Since tickets cost £0.50 each, one could—and Klincewicz did—buy about £1 million in tickets and guarantee multiple wins (since the “syndicate” also cashed in on a number of smaller prizes). The Irish lottery has since increased the number of lotto balls to prevent this sort of thing from recurring. In Powerball, however, it just wouldn’t work. Having the money to purchase $195 million worth of tickets overrides the need to win a lottery at all, not to mention the suspicion one might arouse purchasing, say, 50,000 tickets at a gas station.

So what can you do to improve your chances in Powerball? Some websites claim that avoiding the numbers 31 and under—those human-chosen numbers corresponding to birthdays, or lucky numbers (7 & 13)—ups your odds, but this doesn’t improve your chances of winning. It simply improves your chances, ever so slightly, of not sharing the jackpot if you win. This is not probability so much as game theory. And buying more than one ticket for a single drawing will mathematically improve your odds, but they will still be so long that the effect will really be to drain your wallet.


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