At $500 million, the Powerball lottery has never been a better bet. Buying all 175,223,510 possible lottery tickets isn’t the worst idea you’ve ever had.
The jackpot in Wednesday’s Powerball lottery, a drawing across two-thirds of the United States, is up to a record $500 million. And while it’s never a good idea to buy a lottery ticket, if you insist, now may actually be the best time to go all-in on this investment. Let’s break down the odds.
Lottery players have long dreamed of making the perfect bet: buy every possible combination of numbers to guarantee yourself a jackpot and, if the pot is large enough, profit the difference. Powerball tickets cost $1 each, and you can play the numbers 175,223,510 different ways, so with a sizable but short-term loan, you ought to pocket about $325 million on this investment, right?
Well, no. There are taxes to consider, and prizes aren’t paid all at once, but more to the point: as jackpots grow and the number of tickets sold increases, so do the chances of multiple winners splitting the pot. Here’s a chart by Jeremy Elson showing a strong correlation between the jackpot size and ticket sales for a very similar American lottery, MegaMillions: [link to qz.com]