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What You Should Know About the Powerball Jackpot

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Have you bought a ticket yet? 

    The jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball drawing is estimated at $400 million, and it's considered the nation's fifth-largest ever.

    Powerball is played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. Tickets cost $2 each.

    Back in May, a record $590.5-million winning Powerball ticket was sold in Zephyrhills, Fla., supermarket to 84-year-old Gloria MacKenzie. She opted for a $371 million lump sum payment. 

    Should tonight's prize remain at $400 million, the lump sum cash value would be $223.6 million, NBC Connecticut reported.

    The largest recent Powerball jackpot was $448 million on Aug. 7. It was divided among the holders of two winning tickets in New Jersey and one in Minneapolis. Six members in an office poll who had been afflicted by superstorm Sandy were among the winners in that drawing.

    Here are some things to keep in mind about winning a Powerball jackpot ahead of Wednesday night's drawing at 10:59 p.m. ET (7:59 PT).

    THE ODDS

    Remember, a person's odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175 million. That's how many combinations are possible with the game's five white balls and one red ball. In this case, there have been 11 drawings since August 10 without a winner.

    BIG JACKPOTS

    A major revamp in January 2012 increased the cost of a Powerball ticket from $1 to $2. It also led to larger jackpots in smaller amounts of time. Of the top 10 Powerball jackpots of all time, nearly half have been recorded after the game change.

    CONSOLATION PRIZE

    Since the revamp, a secondary $1 million prize has made some losers happy anyway. More than 730 people have won $1 million, and more than 120 people have won $2 million through the Power Play option.

    WHY WAIT FOR THE HYPE?

    There's technically no need to wait for a larger jackpot. Whether the jackpot is $40 million or $400 million, your odds of winning the top prize are the same. Whether you buy 1 ticket or 10 tickets, your odds are pretty much the same. A higher jackpot just means there's a higher chance there will be more than one winning ticket.

    SOMEONE IS GOING TO WIN

    The chance of a person's combination being selected remains astronomically high, though the chance that some set of six numbers will be selected is 1. That means even though your chances of winning are slim, the chances that someone else will win are high. Ronald Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association, said that's what makes people think it could be them. When it's probably not.

    AGAIN, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO WIN

    Remember, you're probably not going to win. Wasserstein said it's hard for people to grasp how small their chances actually are, since no one can really see 175 million of anything. Wasserstein tries to break it down. Take 175 million one-dollar bills and lay them out. Pick one lucky dollar bill that will win you all $175 million. You can line up those dollar bills twice along the edges of the continental United States. Or you can cover 380 football fields. Imagine picking the one lucky dollar bill from those fields, and that's your chance of winning the Powerball jackpot on a single ticket.