How Powerball Works and What You Need to Know to Win
The Ultimate Guide to Playing and Winning the Powerball Lottery
Do you have questions about Powerball? Read this guide to learn what it is, how you enter, how to boost your odds of winning, and much more.
What Is the Powerball Lottery?
Powerball is a multi-state lottery. It runs in all but six of the US states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
It replaced the Lotto*America lottery in 1992, becoming the first lottery game to use two drums to draw winners. One drum is used for the white balls and one for the red “Power” ball, which gives the lottery its name.
It offers one jackpot, which increases every time that no winning jackpot ticket is sold, and a variety of smaller cash prizes.
How Powerball Drawings Work
Winners are drawn on Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10:12 PM Central Time. The drawings are conducted at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The winning numbers are announced on television, on the Powerball website, in newspapers, and online.
In order to win the jackpot, players must correctly match all five white balls as well as the red Powerball.
There’s no guarantee that a jackpot will be awarded in every drawing. If no one picks all six winning numbers, the jackpot rolls over to the next drawing.
As jackpot values soar, more and more people buy tickets, so a larger percentage of the possible number combinations are sold. Eventually, it becomes nearly impossible for a drawing to occur without a winner.
The Powerball Lottery’s jackpot starts at $40 million and grows by at least $10 million each time the jackpot is not awarded. The jackpot can, and often does, reach values of hundreds of millions of dollars. As of 2016, the largest lottery jackpot in the history of the world was a Powerball jackpot worth over $1.5 billion dollars.
But there’s more to Powerball than just the jackpot prizes. In every drawing, other cash prizes worth between $4 and $2,000,000 are also awarded. The value of the prizes depends on how many numbers a player has guessed correctly, and the number of prizes awarded in each drawing is limited only by how many people make correct guesses.
How Much Does It Cost to Play Powerball?
Basic Powerball cards cost $2 apiece. For an additional dollar, you can add the PowerPlay option, which increases the size of your prize if you correctly guess one to five qualifying numbers. So the maximum cost of a single Powerball ticket is $3.
How Does PowerPlay Work?
If you purchase the PowerPlay option, the value of any prize you win for matching fewer than five balls will be multiplied by a randomly-drawn value between two and five. If the jackpot is worth less than $150 million, a 10x multiplier will be added to the mix.
For the payouts for matching five or six balls, the PowerPlay option works differently. The million-dollar prize that’s awarded for matching five white balls without the PowerBall is always doubled to $2 million with the PowerPlay option. The other multipliers don’t come into play.
The PowerPlay doesn’t affect the size of the jackpot, which is fixed whether you purchase the PowerPlay option or not. No multipliers apply to jackpot payouts.
How Do You Play Powerball?
Powerball is a two-drum lottery game. One drum holds 69 white balls, while the other drum holds 26 red balls. Only one red ball will be drawn, and that red ball is called the Powerball.
When you buy your ticket, you select five numbers, which will be drawn from the first drum with the white balls, and one Powerball number. The winning Powerball number will be drawn from the second drum with the red balls.
You can choose your Powerball numbers or you can use Quick Pick, which draws your numbers for you at random.
Do Powerball Numbers Have to Be In the Right Order to Win?
The order of your first five Powerball numbers doesn’t affect your chances of winning. If you pick the numbers 1 3 9 13 17 and the Powerball 6, and the winning numbers come up 17 9 1 3 13 (6), you’ll still win the jackpot.
However, you must correctly guess the Powerball to win the jackpot. So in the example above, if the winning numbers come up 17 9 6 3 13 (1), you would not be a jackpot winner.
How Many Balls Do You Need to Win a Powerball Prize?
To win a Powerball prize, you only need to pick one single number correctly: the red Powerball.
Picking the Powerball alone will award you a $4 prize, which means that with a $2 purchase, you have one in 26 odds of doubling your investment in your ticket (there are 26 red balls to choose from).
To win the Powerball Jackpot, you need to match all five white balls in any order, as well as the red Powerball.
Here are all the Powerball payouts:
Basic Powerball Payouts:
- 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot (starts at $40 million, has no upper limit)
- 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $1,000,000
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $10,000
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $100
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $100
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $7
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $7
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $4
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $4
Payouts for Powerball with PowerPlay:
- 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot
- 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $2,000,000
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $20,000 – $100,000*
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $200 – $1,000*
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $200 – $1,000*
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $14 – $70*
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $14 – $70*
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $8 – $40*
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $8 – $40*
*The exact payout will depend on whether a 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, or 10X multiplier was drawn at random. The 10X multiplier is available only when the jackpot is worth less than $150 million.
What Are the Odds of Winning Powerball?
Powerball.com lists the odds of winning a Powerball prize . As of February 25, 2020, the odds were listed as follows:
- 5 White Balls and Powerball (Jackpot): 1 in 292,201,338
- 5 White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 11,688,053.52
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 913,129.18
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 36,525.17
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 14,494.11
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 579.76
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 701.33
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: 1 in 91.98
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: 1 in 38.32
- Overall Odds of Winning Any Prize: 1 in 24.87
What Is Powerball Multi-Draw?
Powerball Multi-Draw lets you easily play the same numbers on up to 26 consecutive drawings at the same time. Using Multi-Draw helps ensure you don’t miss a drawing.
You can also choose the Future Drawing option on your Powerball ticket to play on specific dates. So if you feel like an upcoming date will be particularly lucky for you (maybe a birthday, anniversary, or a date containing a lucky number), you can be sure you won’t forget to play on that day.
Is There a Secret to Winning Powerball?
The Powerball.com FAQ Page points out that if you buy a Powerball card for every possible red ball, you’ll be guaranteed to win at least the small prize. Of course, you’ll have spent $52 to guarantee a $4 win, but if you match some of the white balls on those 39 cards as well, your total winnings will be higher.
Other than that, there’s no secret to choosing winning numbers that will improve your odds. The number draw is totally random. Some people enjoy trying to work out a lottery strategy, but don’t put too much faith in them.
However, read these lottery-winning tips that really work to find no-nonsense tips that can raise your chances of winning.
If you have friends or coworkers who enjoy playing the lottery, you can also join together to increase your odds of winning without paying more money by using a lottery pool.
Is Playing Powerball Worthwhile?
Whenever the Powerball jackpot gets really big, tons of people start entering for the chance of winning hundreds of millions of dollars. After all, about one in five people believe that the best way to get rich is to hit a lottery jackpot. But does it make sense to play Powerball?
There’s no definitive answer to that question. But statisticians have devised a formula to help you determine whether the risk is worth the potential payoff. To find out what that formula is and how it works, read the entertaining and informative article, Is Powerball a Mug’s Game? from Slate.
Which States Do Not Participate in the Powerball Lottery?
The Powerball Lottery is not available in Nevada, Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, and Hawaii.
How Will You Know When You Win the Powerball Lottery?
To find out if you’ve won a Powerball prize, you need to check your numbers. If you are contacted by someone telling you you’ve won a jackpot, you’re probably dealing with a lottery scam.
Many television stations broadcast the Powerball drawings live. You can also check your local newspaper or Google for the results online.
You can bring your ticket to a gas station, convenience store, or other location which sells tickets, to let them check your winnings for you. Just be sure to sign your ticket first, to avoid being scammed out of a win. It’s best to ask for the winning numbers and check yourself than to hand over your ticket and ask if you’ve won.
There are also lottery apps that make it easy to check winning numbers. Some will even notify you if the tickets you have purchased come up as winners.
If you want to check the winning numbers online, see my list of winning lottery numbers by state for the right links.
What to Read Next?
Want to know more about winning the lottery? Check out How to Play the MegaMillions Lottery.
Want to hear about some lottery winners you definitely won’t envy? Read about these Lottery Curse Victims. Then find out how to avoid becoming one yourself by reading How to Win the Lottery Without Losing Your Shirt.
If you are hoping to become a jackpot winner, find out what you should consider before claiming your prize?
And if you are wondering how states use the money they bring in from their tickets, read where does lottery money go? Good luck!
How does Powerball work? How do you play Powerball, how much does it cost, and what's a guaranteed (yes, guaranteed!) way to win it? Find out here.
Powerball is played across 48 US states and juristictions each Wednesday and Saturday. Find out everything you need to know about how to play this record-breaking lottery. Get information on the latest Powerball numbers and prizes on offer, as well as details on the history of the game and previous jackpot winners.
Due to stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus outbreak, Powerball will change the starting jackpot to $20 million after the current jackpot is won. You can find updates on our dedicated Coronavirus Lottery Updates page.
How to Play Powerball
This is how you can play Powerball:
- 1. Choose five main numbers between 1 and 69.
- 2. Select a Powerball number between 1 and 26.
- 3. Choose whether to add Power Play, offering the chance to multiply non-jackpot prizes.
- 4. Purchase your tickets by the cut-off time in your state or online. This ranges from 6:45pm PST in Washington to 10pm EST in New York and Florida. Players in Puerto Rico can play until 10:59pm when the clocks switch forward an hour over winter.
What is Power Play?
Power Play is an option you can add to your ticket that multiplies the value of the non-jackpot prizes you win. Visit the Power Play page for more information.
Powerball players can win prizes in nine different tiers, from matching just the Powerball right up to the jackpot for matching all five numbers plus the Powerball.
Aside from the jackpot, which starts at $20 million ( * During the Coronavirus pandemic, the starting jackpot may be lower than this) and keeps getting bigger until it is won, the prize tiers in Powerball have fixed cash amounts. Here’s a breakdown of the prize tiers and the odds for winning in that tier:
|Prize Tier||Odds of Winning||Prize|
|Match 5 + Powerball||1 in 292,201,338||Jackpot|
|Match 5||1 in 11,688,053||$1 million|
|Match 4 + Powerball||1 in 913,129||$50,000|
|Match 4||1 in 36,525||$100|
|Match 3 + Powerball||1 in 14,494||$100|
|Match 3||1 in 579||$7|
|Match 2 + Powerball||1 in 701||$7|
|Match 1 + Powerball||1 in 91||$4|
|Powerball only||1 in 38||$4|
|Overall odds of winning a Powerball prize are 1 in 24.87.|
The only exception to this chart is California, where cash prizes in lower tiers are pari-mutuel. Their values are determined by the number of winners in each tier and the number of tickets sold.
Powerball creates hundreds of thousands of winners in each draw, as players from across the U.S go in search of life-changing jackpots. The top prize starts at a minimum of $20 million ( * During the Coronavirus pandemic, the starting jackpot may be lower than this) and regularly grows into nine figures, sometimes even ten! The game has been responsible for many of the biggest winners in lottery history.
Here are the largest Powerball jackpots ever.
|Amount||Cash or Annuity?||Date||Winner Details|
|$1.58 billion||Shared the cash option of $983.5 million||January 13th 2016||The largest lottery jackpot of all time was shared by three ticket holders. John and Lisa Robinson from Munford in Tennessee quickly came forward, telling the world about their win on the Today show. David Kaltschmidt and Maureen Smith from Melbourne Beach in Florida soon claimed their share of the money, but it was another six months until Marvin and Mae Acosta from Chino Hills in California made themselves known to lottery officials.|
|$768.4 million||Took the cash option of $477 million||March 27th 2019||Manuel Franco from Milwaukee claimed a gigantic $768.4 million when he matched all the numbers to end a three-month wait for a jackpot winner. It was a new record for the largest prize ever won on a single ticket and the 24-year-old said that he had just felt a вЂreally lucky, weird feelingвЂ™ when he bought his ticket. He gave up work straight away and announced that he wanted to вЂhelp out the worldвЂ™.|
|$758.7 million||Took the cash option of $480.5 million||August 23rd 2017||A player from Massachusetts banked an incredible $758.7 million in August 2017, the biggest jackpot ever won on a single ticket at the time. Mavis Wanczyk came forward the next day to claim the prize, revealing that she had already quit her job in a hospital and would celebrate by going to вЂhide in bedвЂ™.|
|$687 million||Both winners took the cash option of $198 million each||October 27th 2018||The jackpot was split by two winners, Lerynne West of Redford, Iowa and Robert Bailey of New York City. West almost lost her ticket in her sister’s pickup truck. She later launched a charitable foundation named for her grandson, The Callum Foundation. Retired government employee Bailey played the same numbers for over 25 years after being given them by a friend, and has no plans to stop.|
|$590.5 million||Took the cash option of $370.9 million||May 18th 2013||Gloria MacKenzie of Zephyrhills, Florida, had previously held the record for the biggest prize won on a single ticket when she landed $590.5 million on May 18th 2013.|
|$587.5 million||Shared the cash option of $384.7 million||November 28th 2012||This gargantuan jackpot was split between two winning tickets after a drawing on November 28th, 2012. Both Matthew Good of Arizona and Missouri grandparents Mark and Cindy Hill chose a lump sum payout of $192 million before taxes.|
|$564.1 million||Shared the cash option of $381.1 million||February 11th 2015||Three ticket holders from North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas split a Powerball jackpot of $564.1 million, with each receiving a $188 million share. The Puerto Rican winner remained anonymous, while the Texan player claimed their massive windfall through a trust in March 2015. Only Marie Holmes of North Carolina came forward to the press.|
|$559.7 million||Prize not yet claimed||January 6th 2018||The winner bought their ticket at Reeds Ferry Market in Merrimack, New Hampshire.|
|$488.4 million||Shared the cash option of $258.1 million||August 7th 2013||Three winning tickets shared this fantastic jackpot. Paul White from Ham Lake in Minnesota bought one of the winning entries, while the other two prizes were claimed in New Jersey. A 16-strong lottery pool from Oceans County, known as вЂOceans 16вЂ™, took one of the prizes, while the other went to Mario Scarnici from Monmouth Junction.|
|$487 million||Took the cash option of $341.7 million||July 30th 2016||A family from New Hampshire became $487 million richer in July 2016 after matching all the numbers drawn. Claiming the prize through the Robin Egg 2016 Nominee Trust, they promised to support good causes in the Granite State.|
|$447.8 million||Took the cash option of $279.1 million||June 10th 2017||Jeff Lindsay and his family took home a monstrous jackpot in June 2017 after buying a ticket from the Marietta Liquor and Deli store in the Sun City area of Menifee, California. He later revealed that he only bought the ticket on a whim when he went to the store to cash in a scratcher ticket.|
|$435.3 million||Took the cash option of $263.5 million||February 22nd 2017||IndianaвЂ™s proud record as the most successful Powerball state continued when one lucky player picked up the first jackpot of 2017. The winner opted to stay anonymous but it was revealed that he was a Purdue graduate who worked at a Lafayette manufacturing plant.|
Powerball is famous worldwide for its record-breaking jackpots. This trend towards sky-rocketing prizes began in July 2013 when Colleen DeVries and Leslie Robbins of Wisconsin claimed $111.2 million, the first nine-figure top prize pool, and new highs have been reached regularly since.
Powerball is one of the biggest lottery games in the United States and regularly boasts eight, nine or even ten-figure jackpots. Read on to discover more about how this multi-state game came into existence and how changes in format have made Powerball one of the most popular and exciting lotteries in the world.
Powerball is the most popular multi-state lottery in the USA, if not the World. This page details how to play, Powerball Winners, Powerball Prizes and more.