A massive Powerball jackpot is on the line for lottery players and aspiring millionaires tonight, February 4, ending a stretch of almost a full year in which the nationwide lottery game has gone without a possible top prize of more than $300 million.
Wednesday night’s jackpot is estimated at $317 million, but if ticket sales top lottery officials’ projections, that sum could rise by several million by the time of the Powerball drawing, which will be held, as usual, at 10:59 Eastern Time in Tallahassee, Florida.
You can watch the Powerball drawing live online tonight — and every Wednesday and Saturday night — at the official Powerball Live site by clicking on this link, to find out right away if you’re the latest lottery multimillionaire.
UPDATE 2:45am EST: There were no jackpot winners in Wednesday’s Powerball drawing, but eight players matched the first five numbers, missing only the Power Ball, for a $1 million payout.
The winning Powerball numbers for February 4: 24 — 36 — 51 — 52 — 56 Power Ball 22
The jackpot for Saturday, February 7, now rises to an estimated $360 million.
The $317 million jackpot on the line in Wednesday’s drawing is the largest seen by the Powerball lottery in nearly a full year. It was February 19 of 2014 when northern California retiree Raymond Buxton won a $425 million jackpot, buying a ticket at a gas station in Milpitas, California.
That jackpot was the sixth-largest lottery prize in United States history. If someone wins the Powerball drawing on Wednesday night, the $317 million jackpot will rank as the 22nd-largest ever in the U.S.
The odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot are approximately 175 million to one. But those odds are actually favorable compared to the chance of winning the other nationwide lottery game, Mega Millions, which carries odds of almost 259 million to one.
However, the minimum Mega Million jackpot is just $15 million, while Powerball starts with a $40 million jackpot — and the Powerball game, in which tickets cost $2 instead of just $1 as in Mega Millions, tends to see the jackpot climb in larger increments than its counterpart lottery game.
The last Powerball jackpot was won on November 29, and totalled “only” $90 million. Since then, the game has gone 18 drawings with no winner, resulting in tonight’s $317 million jackpot.
Mega Millions saw a $270 million jackpot won by a single player in Illinois on January 16, but that new multimillionaire has not yet come forward to claim the big prize.
Wednesday’s $317 million jackpot total is the amount of the prize if a winner chooses to take the annuity payment option, which means that the full amount of the advertised jackpot would be paid out in 30 annual installments, starting with a check for a bit more than $10.5 million paid out right away.
But if there is a Powerball winner Wednesday night, and that lucky lottery player wants the cash in a single payment, the payout will total approximately $220 million — before taxes, of course.