How to win a lottery jackpot: strategies from mathematicians and statistics specialists - ForumDaily
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How to win a lottery jackpot: strategies from mathematicians and statisticians

Does it really all come down to luck when it comes to the lottery? You can learn to win at Powerball using a few smart strategies, reports Readers Digest.

Photo: IStock

Even before you buy a Powerball ticket, you're dreaming about all the places you'll go, the people you'll see, and what you'll do with those millions (or billions).

Reporters interviewed two statistics professors, including one who won $100 in the 000 Powerball drawing. Should you go with the most common lottery numbers or buy tickets in the state with the most winnings? Or maybe buy a certain number of tickets? Here's what you need to know about how to increase your chances of winning and even your prize pool the next time you buy a Powerball ticket.

How to win at Powerball

Winning Powerball starts with purchasing a ticket and selecting five numbers from 1 to 69, plus one “Powerball number” from 1 to 26. So how many numbers do you need to win Powerball? Only one - if it's a Powerball number. Of course, you won't win big money using just one number: you'll get $4. You'll still only get $4 if you match one more ball.

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The prize increases to $7 if you match any three numbers, $100 if you match any four numbers, and $50 if you match the Powerball number plus four other numbers. Even if you don't match the Powerball number, getting the other five numbers right will win $000 million.

And if you're lucky enough to match all six numbers, you'll win the Powerball jackpot (which is based on revenue from ticket sales). If more than one ticket is matched, the jackpot prize is divided among the winning tickets.

For an additional amount, you can improve the result (jackpot) using the Power Play number, which multiplies everything you win by 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 (depending on the Power Play number drawn). In fact, that's how Fairfield University math professor Nicholas Kapoor turned the $50 he won in 000 into $2016.

Luck or strategy

Powerball is all about luck in the drawing, Capu said. Indeed, he never expected to win. “There are a fixed number of balls,” explains Kapoor, “which means a fixed number of possible combinations.”

The probability of hitting any given combination is always one of a fixed number of combinations.

“Every time you play, the probability remains the same. Even if you've won before, you still have the same chance of winning as anyone else who buys a ticket."

Another statistician, Matthew Luke Kovacs, who teaches at Purdue University, agrees that there may be a place for strategy in Powerball.

How You Can Increase Your Chances of Winning Powerball

The odds of winning any Powerball prize are about 1 in 25, which isn't bad. On the other hand, the odds of winning a big jackpot are closer to 1 in 292 million.

Buy multiple tickets

"Playing more than one ticket increases your odds because you're giving yourself more than one opportunity to win," Kapoor explains. But experts caution against treating lottery tickets as real investments, much in the same way they warn against cryptocurrency scams.

Distribute numbers evenly across even and odd numbers

Some Powerball veterans say that since there are an equal number of odd and even numbers on the Powerball line for every possible selection, it follows that the winning combination will consist of an equal number of odd and even numbers. The odd/even strategy can be especially useful for those who play Powerball regularly and often.

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Kapur and Kovacs, however, argue that the odd-even strategy is inconsistent with the laws of probability. That being said, if you were to do thousands of six number draws, you would end up seeing the same percentage of even and odd numbers. The fact is that Powerball only draws three times a week. And this is not enough to guarantee that such a model will eventually emerge, as Kapoor explains.

Avoid statistically least drawn numbers

Some Powerball veterans and lottery winners use a strategy of choosing numbers that lottery data sites define as statistically the "least likely to hit." The theory is that the numbers that are drawn the least number of times will end up in play.

For example, from data compiled by analytics site Lotto Numbers, the rarest numbers, based on all drawings in Powerball history, are in the range of 51 to 69. But if you look more specifically at the period between 2015 and 2023, the least drawn the numbers are different.

Choose frequently drawn numbers

Just as some Powerball numbers have historically been drawn less frequently, some are drawn with greater regularity. And some Powerball veterans swear that numbers that have already been drawn frequently are more likely to be drawn again.

While this strategy certainly won't hurt your chances, it may not help them either. According to Kapoor and Kovacs, in the context of a lottery there is no such thing as a "lucky" number. Every time a number is rolled, the probability of any number being drawn is statistically the same as any other. Of course, this does not mean that such a thing as a lucky number does not exist at all.

Should you use your lucky numbers?

As you've probably already guessed, using numbers that have personal meaning to you (like your birthday or anniversary) definitely can't hurt your chances of winning Powerball. This is true even though by using calendar dates you limit your choice of numbers to 1 to 12 or 1 to 31. Again, this is because all numbers have an equal chance of being drawn. In fact, Kovacs supports this strategy because it reminds you of the good things in your life. After all, Powerball is primarily a form of entertainment.

On the other hand, your own lucky numbers will not necessarily increase your chances. Moreover, if you win, you may have to share your prize with others who had the same ideas as you. To counteract this risk, if you're basing your choices on your personal set of "lucky birthdays," you might consider which of your birthdays are among the rarest and lean toward those.

Quick Pick or Smart Numbers Game

According to the laws of probability, the chances of winning Powerball are the same whether you choose your own numbers or leave it up to Quick Pick. But according to the Multi-State Lottery Association, the vast majority of Powerball jackpot winning ticket numbers were selected by computer using Quick Pick. In fact, only 18% of jackpot winning tickets had numbers chosen by players!

So how do we reconcile these seemingly opposing views? According to the Association, it's actually quite simple: "There are more Quick Pick winners simply because more ticket purchases are made using Quick Pick." In other words, the player's selection method does not affect the probability of matching the winning numbers.

In a similar vein, the Association notes that urban areas tend to have more winners than rural areas. It's not that luck favors cities, it's that cities sell more tickets. And according to statistics, more winners will come from regions where more tickets are sold.

How you can increase your Powerball winnings

Now that you know all about the strategies for winning Powerball, let's talk about how to increase the amount you actually take home.

As noted earlier, Kapoor turned his $50 Powerball winnings into $000 simply by purchasing a Power Play ticket. The bottom line is that if you have any legitimate option to buy a ticket that could potentially increase your winnings in any way, it's worth considering.

It may not answer the "how to win Powerball" question on its own, but it does ensure that if you win something (other than the jackpot prize), you will win more than if you didn't win that extra bonus. And that, of course, is a Powerball win in itself.

Powerball or MegaMillions

Like Powerball, MegaMillions is a multi-state lottery game with a huge jackpot where you have to pick six numbers and match as many as possible. But your odds of winning in MegaMillions are generally worse, for the simple reason that there are more possible numbers and therefore more possible combinations.

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The first five Powerball numbers range from 1 to 69, while the MegaMillions range from 1 to 70. The fact that Powerball numbers range from 1 to 26 and the MegaMillions equivalent (Megaball) ranges from 1 to 25 doesn't make up for much. Quite the opposite: The odds of winning the MegaMillions jackpot are 1 in 302, compared to 575 in 350 for Powerball.

Which lotteries have the best odds

Powerball and MegaMillions aren't the only lotteries, and many state lotteries and scratch-offs offer higher odds of winning.
Just keep in mind that these “better odds” almost always come with less prize money.

However, if you can win something, your bank account will be bigger than it is now. So why not try to make some money quickly?

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