How the Powerball jackpot grew so large and what to know

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Millions of lottery players across the country will try their luck again Monday night as they compete for an estimated $1.9 billion Powerball jackpot that dwarfs all previous winnings by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The jackpot is nearly $400 million larger than the previous record jackpot and will continue to grow until someone wins the prize. Only four previous jackpots have topped $1 billion, but none of them come close to the current haul, which started at $20 million on Aug. 6 and has grown even bigger in three months without a win.

A winner choosing a lump sum payment would receive about $929.1 million, with $1.9 billion for a winner choosing an annuity paid out annually over 29 years.

Even as more people, lured by the giant prize, throw $2 on a Powerball ticket, the game’s extremely long odds of 1 in 292.2 million mean there’s still a good chance another drawing will pass without anyone won the main prize. That would push the top prize for the middle drawing to more than $2 billion.

WHY SO LONG WITHOUT A WINNER?

Those who spend $2 on the Powerball ticket may wonder if there’s something wrong when 40 drawings go by without a jackpot winner, but that’s how the game is designed. With a chance of 1 in 292 million, this means that it is unlikely that anyone will win the prize until the growing jackpot attracts more players. And more ticket sales means the lottery can raise more money for public programs, which is what state lotteries are all about. Still, it’s been a long time without a jackpot and if there’s no winner on Monday night, a new record will be set: 41 draws without anyone matching all six numbers.

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YOU HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE PLAYING NOW, KANE?

Yes and no. Many, many more people are buying tickets now that the jackpot has reached nearly $2 billion. This is clear from the fact that when the jackpot started at $20 million over the summer, players only bought enough tickets to cover less than 10% of the 292.2 million possible number combinations. For Saturday night’s draw, that rises to 62%, with millions and millions of people playing. But this percentage is still less than the 88.6% coverage achieved for the previous record jackpot in 2016. And if 38% of the possible number combinations are not covered, there is a high probability that there will be no winner.

Players can choose the numbers themselves, but the vast majority let the machine pick the numbers at random.

That’s not the case for George Pagen of Brooklyn, New York, who always picks his numbers.

“I can’t let the machine make the choices for me,” he said. “I have numbers in my mind and I will win. I will win it and share it with all my friends, family and everyone.”

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WILL THE FINAL WINNER REALLY WIN $1.9 BILLION?

Too bad for the poor Powerball winner, because the lucky ticket holder won’t get anywhere close to $1.9 billion. The only question is how much less.

First, this $1.9 billion prize is for winners who choose to pay through an annuity, which has been sending a check annually for 29 years, with a 5 percent increase each year. But almost no winners take an annuity, opting instead for cash. For Monday night’s drawing, the prize money would be $929.1 million, or less than half of the annuity prize.

Given the difference between the two prize options, Daniel Law of Brooklyn, New York, said he would consult a tax attorney if he won.

“We’d figure out which one was better,” Law said as he bought tickets at the liquor store. “An annuity might be good because it would prevent us from spending, but it’s pretty hard to spend $2 billion all at once.”

Larry Evans, who bought Powerball tickets in Chicago, agreed that he would have to hire “a team of people” to handle his finances. He noted that it could be expensive, “but it makes no difference because I could afford to pay the team.”

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Regardless of whether the winners are paid, federal taxes would take an extra bite, cutting the payout by more than one-third, and many states tax lottery winnings so that would eat into the prize, too.

The gap between the annuity and the cash rewards has widened recently as inflation has driven interest rates higher, meaning the money invested in the annuity can grow.

DO I HAVE MORE CHANCES OF WINNING IF I BUY MORE TICKETS?

Yes, but your chances of winning are not significantly improved. Think of it this way: If you buy one ticket, you have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning the jackpot. If you spend $10 on five number combinations, your chances are better, but at 5 in 292.2 million you will still almost certainly not hit the jackpot. The same goes if you spend $100. Lottery representatives say that the average player buys two or three tickets, which means that he is investing money in a dream with a very low probability that it will pay off in rich reality.

WHERE IS POWERBALL PLAYED?

Powerball is played in 45 countriesas well as Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

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Associated Press writer Julie Walker in New York contributed to this story.

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