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The numbers behind Powerball

Lottery fever has enveloped America, it seems. Convenience stores across the country have sold over 1 billion Powerball tickets, reported the Los Angeles Times. For most people, the act of simply purchasing a ticket will be the most exciting aspect of their Powerball experience. The odds are firmly stacked against those lusting after a chunk of the $1.5 billion jackpot. According to NPR, the odds are one in 292 million. Most people are more likely to get struck by lightning.    

Winners wanted
The last Powerball drawing on Jan. 9 failed to produce a winner, reported The New York Times. The chances are better for the next drawing, which occurs on Jan. 13. According to FiveThirtyEight, there is a 97 percent chance that at least one person will capture a cut of the jackpot on Wednesday.

Death and taxes
According to Reuters, the current Powerball jackpot is the largest, single-winner lottery prize ever. However, if someone does manage to beat the odds and score the full amount, they won't be taking home a billion bucks. Federal and state taxes will trim the amount to around $587 million. Of course, this theoretical winner would only net this amount if he accepted the winnings in monthly installments over a period of 30 years. The lump sum payment amounts to a pre-tax total of $930 million, reported The Times. Despite the solid logic behind the monthly payment plan, many lottery winners choose the lump sum instead. Consequently, these individuals usually spend their money rather quickly. According to the Static Brain Research Institute, 44 percent of lottery winners spend all of their earnings within five years. Interestingly, 68 percent of past winners continue to play the lottery long after they've deposited their last monthly payment.

A Losing proposition 
The odds of winning are so slim that ticket buyers actually lose money when they trek down to their local bodegas. Each $2 Powerball ticket is actually worth around $1.32, reported The Federalist. Powerball players can take solace in the fact that lottery ticket sales help fund a variety of important state programs. For every dollar spent on lottery tickets, as much as 27 cents go to subsidize government education programs. For instance, public schools in the state of California have collected over $24 billion via lottery ticket sales since 1985, reported The Washington Post. The Florida lottery has contributed $29 billion to state education funds since its establishment in 1988. 

Know how to pick them
Most lottery participants choose meaningful numerical combinations like birthdays or anniversaries. According to mathematicians, this is a losing strategy for one simple reason: everyone does it. Additionally, many players favor odd numbers. So, savvy Powerball players should pick even numbers higher than 31. According to Wired, statisticians advise ticket buyers to take choice out of the equation all together and let the computer choose their numbers, a method known to lottery regulars as the "quick pick."     

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