You can guarantee winning the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot — but you’ll need an army
One ticket is the difference between having a 1-in-292,201,338 chance of winning the now-$1.3 billion jackpot — or absolutely no chance.
However, the one-ticket, one-draw strategy makes no sense if you have millions and millions of dollars to spend.
That’s because there is a way to 100% guarantee you will hit the jackpot: Buy enough tickets to cover every possible number combination before a drawing.
Powerball recently changed its drawing setup. These days, a machine sucks up five white balls from a bin of 69 balls, each with a different number. It also sucks up one red Powerball from a bin of 26 different balls.
To take home the jackpot, your ticket must have the same five white numbers — order doesn’t matter — and the one red number.
If you do the math, there are 11,238,513 possible combinations of five white balls (without order mattering). Multiply that by the 26 possible red balls, and you get 292,201,338 possible Powerball number combinations.
At $2 per ticket, you’d need $584,402,676 to buy every single combination and guarantee a win.
But think this out for a moment.
The Powerball draws only twice a week: Every Wednesday and Saturday. So how are you going to print that many tickets in less than four days? Even if you can cram multiple picks onto one ticket? And just how do you plan to ensure each combination is different?
You’d need an army of trustworthy people at thousands of locations across the country, sucking the Powerball ticket-printing machines dry. You’d need state, regional, and local coordinators to keep everything streamlined, and good technology to verify every number requested is different. Plus scary-sounding contracts to make sure none of your workers walk off with your winnings.
Even then you’re not guaranteed to win the current estimated $1.3 billion jackpot (before taxes, that is).
You have to weigh the risk that one or more other people got the winning combination for that draw, too — forcing the lottery commission to split up the jackpot. Even though you’re raising the jackpot by buying so many tickets, one (very likely) fluke could leave you in the red.
At the end of the day, buying out the lottery isn’t practical. But buying just one ticket, especially now, does make economic sense.
You'll need an army. And you'd better trust that army, too.