How Powerball Works: What You Need to Know to Win

Want to Win a Powerball Jackpot? Here's How.

Numbers on lottery ticket
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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 $40 million and grows by at least $10 million each time the Jackpot is not awarded. The jackpot can, and often does, reach values of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Other levels of cash prizes are also awarded. The value of the prize you'll receive if you win depends on how many numbers you correctly guess.

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).

If you purchase the PowerPlay option, the value of any prize you win for matching fewer than five balls will be multiplied between 2 and 5 times. The multiplier will be drawn at random. If the jackpot is worth less than $150 million, there will also be the chance that a 10x multiplier will be drawn.

How Do You Play Powerball?

Powerball is a two-drum lottery game. One drum holds 69 white balls, while the other drum holds 26 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
  • No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $4

    Powerball with PowerPlay Payouts:

    No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $8 - $40*

    • 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: $20,000 - $100,000*
    • 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $200 - $1,000*
    • 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $200 - $1,000*
    • 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $14 - $70*
    • 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $14 - $70*
    • 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $8 - $40*

    *The exact payout will depend on whether a 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, or 10X multiplier was drawn at random. The 10X multiplier is available only for jackpots worth less than $150 million.

    What Are the Odds of Winning Powerball?

    Powerball.com lists the odds of winning a Powerball prize. As of January 13, 2016, the odds were listed as follows:

    • 5 White Balls and Powerball (Jackpot): 1 in 292,201,338.00
    • 5 White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 11,688,053.52
    • 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 913,129.18
    • 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 36,525.17
    • 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 14,494.11
    • 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 579.76
    • 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 701.33
    • 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: 1 in 91.98
    • No White Balls, Just the Powerball: 1 in 38.32
    • Overall Odds of Winning Any Prize: 1 in 24.87

    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 $52 to guarantee a $4 win, but if you match some of the white balls on those 39 cards as well, your total winnings 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.

    If you have friends or coworkers who enjoy playing the lottery, you can also join together to increase your odds of winning without paying more money with a lottery pool.

    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.

    How Will You Know When You Win the Powerball Lottery?

    To find out if you've won a Powerball prize, you need to check your numbers. If you are contacted by someone telling you you've won a jackpot, you're probably dealing with a lottery scam.

    Many television stations broadcast the Powerball drawings live. You can also check your local newspaper.

    You can even bring your ticket to a gas station, convenience store, or other location which sells tickets, to let them check your winnings for you. Just be sure to sign your ticket first, to avoid being scammed out of a win.

    If you want to check the winning numbers online, see my list of winning lottery numbers by state for the right links.

    Want to know more about winning the lottery? Check out How to Play the MegaMillions Lottery. Want to hear about some lottery winners you definitely won't envy? Read about these Lottery Curse Victims. And avoid becoming one yourself by reading How to Win the Lottery Without Losing Your Shirt.

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