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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/saintseminole

Everything you need to know about the $1.4 billion Powerball jackpot

By
Will Gleason
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Have you come down with a case of lottery fever over the last few days, but don’t know the difference between a Powerball and a golden ticket? We’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about the current multi-state Powerball drawing that the entire country's buzzing about.

How much money are we talking about here?
Powerball drawings have been going on since November 4 with no winning tickets. As a result, the jackpot has grown to an unbelievably large $1.4 billion, the largest lottery payout in the world. If you decide to get all your money up front—which all but one of the 102 Powerball winners in the last seven years have chosen—you’ll get a single check for $806 million (before taxes). The previous lottery record was set by a Mega Millions payout of $656 million in 2012. So… a lot of money. 

Is it true that if we just split the jackpot between everyone in America, we would all get $4.33 million?
No. Your Facebook friends are lying to you.

OK. And how do I enter this magical game of chance?
Go to a nearby bodega and ask to buy a ticket. Each ticket costs $2. You can either pick a set of six lucky numbers you want to play or just have the computer pick the numbers for you. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference what you decide. About 75% of tickets are computer picks and, in the past, 75% of winners have been computer picks. To win, you have to have to match all five white balls that are drawn (in any order) and the red Powerball that’s drawn.

Cool, that takes some pressure off. What exactly are my odds of winning?
The Multi-State Lottery Association currently estimates the odds of winning at about 1 in 292.2 million. So less likely than getting bit by a shark or struck by lightning. Or about the same as flipping a coin and getting heads 28 times in a row. 

Oof. That doesn’t sound too good. Are there any second place prizes?
Yes! In fact, the odds of winning any prize are just 1 in 24.87. Runner-up prizes range from just getting the Powerball right (which will net you $4) to getting all five white balls right and just the Powerball wrong. That will get you a cool million. A lottery player in Queens won that prize on Saturday. 

Is this happening everywhere or just New York?
It’s a countrywide lottery with forty-four states involved. (Nevada, Utah, Mississippi, Alaska, Hawaii and Alabama don’t participate) The lottery headquarters where the actual balls are drawn is randomly located in Tallahassee.

Huh. Fun fact. So when is the next drawing?
The next drawing is at 10:59pm this Wednesday so you’ll want to pick up your tickets before early Wednesday evening. You can watch the Powerball drawing and see the winning numbers on the Powerball’s retro chic website.

Perfect! That gives me some time to prepare. What should I do when I win?
Hire a lawyer.

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