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The Powerball prize has reached $1.23 billion due to very low chances of winning, as intended

Powerball will tie a record for lottery draws on Saturday night after more than three months without someone winning the jackpot.

Powerball will tie a record for lottery drawings Saturday night after over three months without a jackpot winner.

The game is working as planned, with slim odds leading to a huge jackpot of $1.23 billion, the 8th largest in U.S. lottery history.

This means people should not expect to match all six numbers and become rich, even though it's likely someone will eventually.

About those odds

The last winner of the Powerball jackpot was on New Year’s Day, when a player in Michigan won an $842.4 million jackpot.

Since then, there have been 40 consecutive drawings without a jackpot winner, matching the record for most drawings on Saturday night.

The lack of winners is not a coincidence. Lottery officials set the odds at 1 in 292.2 million in the hope that jackpots will grow with each of the three weekly drawings until the top prize becomes so huge that more people take notice and play.

The odds used to be better, at 1 in 175 million, but they were made harder in 2015 to create massive jackpots. Lottery officials also made it easier to win smaller prizes at that time, noting that the overall odds of winning something are about 1 in 25.

More about those odds

It's difficult to understand what odds of 1 in 292.2 million mean.

One way to think about it is if roughly 322 million people living where they can buy Powerball tickets each bought one, you would expect one person to win and millions of people to lose.

In other words, the odds of winning the jackpot are slightly worse than flipping a coin and getting heads 28 times in a row, according to Andrew Swift, a mathematics professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

A bit more about those odds

Out of all the people who purchased lottery tickets for the last drawing on Wednesday night, only 22.6% of the 292.2 million potential number combinations were purchased, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. This means that 77.4% of number combinations were not bought, which explains why jackpot wins are so rare.

Remember, the odds of an individual ticket winning never changes, but as more people play, more number combinations will be purchased and the odds of someone winning rise.

Even though the Powerball odds are low, they are slightly better than Mega Millions, the other nearly national lottery game, which has jackpot odds of 1 in 302.6 million. And, to be fair, someone won a $1.13 billion Mega Millions prize last month.

The payoff, and why it’s smaller than you think

Undoubtedly, the Powerball jackpot is a huge amount of money, but it's less than you might expect.

This is because while officials advertise the $1.23 billion prize, that is for a single winner who chooses to be paid through an annuity, with an immediate payment and then annual payments over 29 years. Winners almost always choose the cash option, which for Saturday night’s drawing would be an estimated $595.1 million.

No matter how the prize is taken, a large portion of the money won would be used to pay taxes, but the exact amount would depend on the winner's other money and if their state taxes lottery wins. Just remember that the highest federal income tax rate is 37%, so a significant amount of the prize would be paid to the government.

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