The Powerball lottery went without a jackpot winner for the fourth drawing in a row Saturday, though two tickets out of the 12,655,777 sold matched the first five numbers to win their lucky holders a second prize worth $1 million.
Actually, one of those two tickets — the one purchased in Colorado — was bought with the Power Play option activated, which is accomplished by paying $3 for the Powerball ticket rather than $2. The prize on that ticket is doubled — bringing the Powerball player who bought it $2 million.
The other second-prize ticket, worth the standard $1 million, was purchased in Kentucky.
Overall, however, Powerball ticket sales remained sluggish, failing to crack the 13 million barrier for the 10th time in the last 13 drawings, though there have been two Powerball jackpot winners in those 13 games.
But the frequency of winners could actually be keeping sales low, because the more often jackpots are won, the lower the totals of those jackpots. Ticket sales generally do not start to soar until jackpots move well into the nine-figure stratosphere.
But since June 11 when one Tennessee player won a $257 million jackpot — the largest lottery prize in that state’s history — the Powerball lottery has experienced only two drawings with jackpots topping $100 million.
The Powerball lottery has seen eight jackpot winners in 2014, out of 1,179,820,599 tickets sold. That’s a rate of one jackpot winner for every 147.7 million tickets sold. The actual chances of winning the jackpot are one in 175 million — which is the total of possible Powerball number combinations — so the game is producing winners somewhat faster than the odds would predict this year.
Even buying one ticket with those odds is an act of incredible optimism. Keith Devlin, a statistician at Stanford University, explained the chances of winning a Powerball jackpot like this:
“Imagine a standard NFL football field. Somewhere in the field, a student has placed a single, small, common variety of ant that she has marked with a spot of yellow paint. You walk onto the field blindfolded, and push a pin into the ground. If your pin pierces the marked ant, you win. Otherwise you lose. Want to give it a go?”
And yet, people do win! Of course, the jackpot is not the only prize offered by the Powerball game. Saturday’s drawing saw 371,533 tickets winning lower-level prizes worth a total of $5,548,122.
Is any of that money yours? Check your August 23 Powerball ticket against the following numbers, drawn at 10:59 pm in Tallahassee, Florida.
28 — 32 — 35 — 36 — 52 Powerball 31
The “cash value” of Wednesday’s jackpot, to a winner who takes the money is a single payment, will be an estimated $48.8 million.