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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 Pennsylvania

Five numbers and a little red ball have the power to change lives. Since 1992, Powerball has been making millionaires out of hard-working, day-dreaming lottery players throughout the nation, Pennsylvania included.

Powerball is a draw game offered in 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) is a nonprofit organization formed by US lotteries. The group manages the national Powerball operations. The Pennsylvania Lottery manages tickets sales and payouts in the Keystone State. It is also one of few states where you can purchase Powerball tickets online in addition to through live retailers statewide.

Powerball’s minimum advertised jackpot is $40 million. That amount continues to increase until the jackpot hits. So, just how tall is $40 million?

According to the Powerball website, $40 million worth of stacked $100 bills would be as tall as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Now you know.

When Powerball sales dipped due to coronavirus-related closures throughout the country in spring of 2020, the Lottery instated a temporary reduction of the base jackpot to $20 million, with roll increases based on ticket sales and interest rates.

How to play the Powerball

Powerball players select five white ball numbers from 1 to 69 and then choose one red Powerball number from 1 to 26.

Each ticket costs $2, or $3 when choosing to add the $1 Power Play option.

Power Play is a Powerball feature that multiplies non-jackpot prizes up to 10 times. The Power Play is randomly selected just before each drawing.

Are you a player that chooses the same sentimental numbers every time you play? Well, the Powerball has a fun feature that allows a player to see if their favorite numbers have ever won.

Players indicate their numbers by filling out a play slip found at any of the over 9,000 Pennsylvania lottery retailers. Not particularly sentimental about a group of numbers? Well, then, the lottery terminal can randomly choose the numbers for you.

The Powerball and Power Play fine print:

  • There are nine ways to win
  • The 10X Power Play is only possible with jackpots of $150 million or less
  • The Match 5 Power Play prize is always $2 million

Your odds of winning the Powerball

The odds of winning the big jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338. The overall odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24.87. Those odds do not change based on the jackpot size or the number of tickets sold.

All prizes except for the grand prize are set amounts. Here are the odds for a standard $2 ticket:

Numbers Matched Prize Amount Odds of Winning
5 + Powerball Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338.00
5 w/o Powerball $1 million 1 in 11,688,053.52
4 + Powerball $50,000 1 in 913,129.18
4 w/o Powerball $100 1 in 36,525.17
3 + Powerball $100 1 in 14,494.11
3 w/o Powerball $7 1 in 579.76
2 + Powerball $7 1 in 701.33
1 + Powerball $4 1 in 91.98
Powerball $4 1 in 38.32

Power Play prize chart

# of matching white balls # of matching red balls 2x Power Play 3x Power Play 4x Power Play 5x Power Play 10x Power Play
5 0 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000
4 1 $100,000 $150,000 $200,000 $250,000 $500,000
4 0 $200 $300 $400 $500 $1,000
3 1 $200 $300 $400 $500 $1,000
3 0 $14 $21 $28 $35 $70
2 1 $14 $21 $28 $35 $70
1 0 $8 $12 $16 $20 $40
0 1 $8 $12 $16 $20 $40

The Power Play odds

Power Play Odds with 10x Power Play Odds without 10x Power Play
2x 1 in 1.79 1 in 1.75
3x 1 in 3.31 1 in 3.23
4x 1 in 14.33 1 in 14
5x 1 in 21.5 1 in 21
10x 1 in 43 N/A

Weekly Powerball drawings

Drawings are held every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. ET. Ticket sales end at 10 p.m. ET on drawing days although some state lotteries close down ticket sales earlier. Pennsylvania Lottery stops selling tickets at 10 p.m. ET.

Most drawings take place at the Florida Lottery’s studio in Tallahassee. The draw produces five out of 69 available white balls and one out of 26 red balls, or the Powerball.

How to find out if you are a winner

The PA Lottery app is available in iTunes and the Google Play store. The app includes the Ticket Checker feature, which allows a player to scan tickets, except for Xpress Sports tickets, to determine if they are winners.

Simply find the barcode which is located at the bottom corner, or under the “Scratch to Cash” area on scratch-offs. Another benefit of Ticket Checker is it automatically enters the player into eligible second-chance drawings.

The Ticket Checker’s hours of operation are 6:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. daily. Ticket Check is unavailable from midnight until 5:59 a.m. for system checks and upgrades.

How to use Ticket Checker:

  1. Choose Scan Ticket inside the app
  2. Use your phone’s camera to scan the large corner barcode
  3. The results appear immediately

The PA Lottery app does more than just identify a winning ticket. PA Lottery players can also:

  • Play iLottery games
  • Purchase Powerball and Mega Millions tickets, up to 13 weeks in advance of drawings
  • View the latest scratch-offs and prizes remaining, and demo these games
  • See the remaining progressive top prizes for Fast Play tickets
  • Watch Keno and determine if your ticket is a winner
  • Gather all the latest Xpress Sports results
  • Find the nearest PA Lottery retailer

Players without the PA lottery app can compare their numbers to the official numbers drawn on the Pennsylvania Lottery website. Several local PA television stations carry the result live, including:

  • WJET Channel 24 at 11:20 p.m.
  • WGAL Channel 8 at 11:20 p.m.
  • WTAJ Channel 10 at 11:20 p.m.
  • WTXF Channel 29 at 11:00 p.m.
  • WPXI Channel 11 at 11:11 p.m.
  • WNEP Channel 16 at 11:00 p.m.

How to claim your Powerball winnings

There are two key amounts that help determine the process for claiming a prize: $600 and $2,500.

A prize of less than $600 can be redeemed at any Lottery retailer or office. Prizes are usually paid immediately unless the retailer does not have enough cash on hand to pay. If that is the case, the player can go to another retailer or mail in their claim.

For prizes of $600 or more, a claim form must accompany the signed lottery ticket before the retailer pays out the prize. Forms are available online, at Lottery retailers, or at Lottery offices.

Once the prize amount reaches $2,500, the Lottery pays the prize money at a Lottery office or by mail. All Powerball jackpot ticket holders must take their winning ticket to Lottery headquarters.

A player lucky enough to win the jackpot will have to choose between to prize distributions:

  • One-lump sum
  • Annuity

The lump-sum option is just that, one lump sum that is less than the advertised jackpot. The annuity option guarantees the winner 30 payments over 29 years. Each payment increases by five percent and the sum of all payments will equal the advertised jackpot minus taxes.

Officially, the Lottery states that prize checks will arrive in four to six weeks after the claim. The time allows the Lottery to validate the winning ticket and make the necessary arrangements.

There may be a delay in processing claims submitted in December. To ensure prize money and tax forms are issued in the same year, the Lottery reserves the process some claims until January.

Check your Powerball tickets

In PA, Powerball tickets expire one year from the drawing date. After 180 days, however, lottery players must redeem tickets worth more than $100 at a lottery office and submit a claim form.

Players, including those from out of state, also have the option of claiming their prize via mail.

Sign and complete the information on your winning ticket. Make a copy of the ticket, both front and back. Complete a claim form if the prize is over $600 and submit it with your ticket.

The address for making a claim by mail is:

Pennsylvania Lottery
ATTN: CLAIMS
1200 Fulling Mill Road, Suite 1
Middletown, PA 17057

Note: The Pennsylvania Lottery will only pay prizes on tickets sold in the state of PA.

Biggest Powerball jackpots

On Jan. 13, 2016, Powerball awarded the largest lottery jackpot, not only in Powerball history but in lottery history. The $1.586 billion jackpot stayed on top even after a run towards the record by a Mega Millions $1.537 billion jackpot in Oct. 2018.

The historic Powerball jackpot was split between three lucky lottery players in:

  • Chino Hills, California
  • Munford, Tennessee
  • Melbourne Beach, Florida

The largest Powerball jackpot in Pennsylvania hit in March 2018 for $456.7 million. The ticket was sold at a Speedway store at 675 Lancaster Road in Manheim.

The Emerald Legacy Trust came forward to claim the prize and opted for the cash option of $274 million. In total, Pennsylvania is home to 18 Powerball jackpot winners.

To date, the Powerball produced seven of the top ten lottery jackpot prizes. Mega Millions holds the other three.

Since 1992, the Powerball has been making millionaires out of hard-working, day-dreaming lottery players across the United States, including Pennsylvania.