The current Powerball jackpot looks paltry at $90 million compared to the recent windfall one lucky individual received of $731 million. Of the biggest jackpots of all time in the US that one ranked 5th.
The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338, so you’re more likely win at a slot machine than of winning the grand prize. But, if you choose to play, what will you get for the more modest Powerball prizes?
How to play Powerball
When you play Powerball you need to choose six numbers from two separate pools for the drawing. Players choose five numbers between 1 and 69 for the white balls and one number for a red ball, or Powerball, from 1 to 26.
There are a total of nine ways to win a prize in Powerball, ranging from $4, recovering your initial $2 buy-in plus $2, to the jackpot. Players can increase their prize amounts by spending an extra $1 for the “PowerPlay” option to win two, three, four or even five times as much. However the PowerPlay only applies to non-jackpot prizes below $1 million. Any PowerPlay number doubles the $1 million prize.
What are the nine prizes for the Powerball?
All states set the 2nd through 9th prizes at pre-determined amounts, except California, where all prize payouts are based on sales and the number of winners. The nine possible winning combinations are as follows, starting from the smallest, and thus the highest odds of winning.
The Powerball – $4
If your Powerball matches the one that is drawn you will get your $2 ticket purchase back and a couple bucks more, for a total of $4. The odds of your ticket matching only the Powerball is 1 in 38.
1 number plus the Powerball – still $4
If you choose one correct number plus the Powerball you’ll bring home $4 again. The odds more than double to a 1 in 91 chance.
2 numbers plus the Powerball – $7
If your ticket matches two numbers and the Powerball you’ll get $7 but the odds to get there begin to skyrocket to 1 in 701.
3 numbers – $7 again
The odds of getting three correct numbers are a bit better at 579 to 1, but you still take home $7.
3 numbers plus the Powerball – $100
If you purchase a ticket that matches three numbers and the Powerball you’ll finally get back enough money to treat yourself or someone else to something special. The odds to get that $100 in your pocket jump to 1 in 14,494.
4 numbers – $100
The odds of buying a ticket containing four numbers without the Powerball almost double again to 36,525 to 1 chance, but the prize stays the same at $100.
4 numbers plus the Powerball – $50,000
Now the prize really climbs as do the odds for hitting four numbers plus the Powerball. If you can overcome the roughly 931,129 to 1 odds you’ll be able to take that holiday you’ve been putting off with the $50,000 prize or even a new car. You’re twice as lucky, or better said unlucky, to be hit by lightning at this point (500,000 to 1).
5 numbers – $1 million
To get the $1 million prize you’ll need to match the numbers on the five white balls drawn without the Powerball and beat the 11,688,053 to 1 odds.
Powerball jackpot – The whole enchilada
Everyone who plays the lottery, and many who don’t, think about “the what would I do with all that money?”. The vast majority who do play will keep dreaming with the odds stacked seriously against them with just 292,201,338 to 1 shot of buying a ticket that matches all five numbers and the Powerball.
What happens if you win the jackpot?
Just about anything that could happen is more likely than winning the jackpot. However if you were to be so lucky, you would get two choices, either receive the prize as an annuity, a series of payments over the years, or as a lump-sum payment.
The Powerball annuity is paid out as one immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments. Each payment is 5% bigger than the previous one to keep up with inflation.
For a typical jackpot of $100 million, the initial payment would be about $1.5 million, and future annual payments would grow to about $6.2 million.
Although less than the prize announced for the overall pot, the one-time, lump-sum payment is equal to all the cash in the Powerball jackpot prize pool.