Calculating the odds of winning $550 million Powerball jackpot - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Calculating the odds of winning $550 million Powerball jackpot


The jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball drawing is now at $550 million. That's driving many people to try their luck at winning the lottery.

"This afternoon, I have extra people coming in to cover this so we can take care of our customers," said Waterloo Kwik Star manager Steven Tupy.

Tupy said, just about every one of his customers is adding a Powerball ticket to their purchase.

"It's the dream of having that kind of money. I dream to win it myself," he noted.

Everyone knows the odds of picking the right numbers are slim. But, just how slim, you ask? According to University of Northern Iowa Professor Doug Shaw's calculations, about 175 million to one.

"If you round it to the nearest ten millionth of a percent, your percentage of winning is zero," he said.

Think of each possible combination as a piece of paper.

"I want you to picture a stack of this paper eleven miles high. An eleven mile high stack of paper. Get on an elevator or a ladder, whatever, pick a sheet at random. One of them has an 'X' on it. That's your chance of winning Powerball," said Shaw.

Shaw said, statistically, there are dozens of better ways to get rich quick. Like, poker.

"The odds that I'll deal you a royal flush are 650,000 to one," he said.

He promised an "autographed copy of my pre calculus book" if we won. While tempting, that doesn't exactly compare with $550 million.

With that said, we went against Shaw's advice and purchased a ticket. But we did use Shaw's recommended numbers -- Powerball 1, the rest, 2,3,4,5,6.

"The odds of your number coming up are the same as 1,2,3,4,5,6. If you can't conceive of that ticket winning, you shouldn't be able to conceive of your ticket winning," Shaw said.

But here's one statistic that doesn't need a long equation to prove -- if you don't play, your odds of winning are zero.

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