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Powerball dates back to 1988 when it began as Lotto*America, but it was on April 22nd 1992 that the first true Powerball draw took place, and the first lottery draw in the world to use a second drum to choose a separate Powerball or 'bonus ball' type of number. It's billed as 'America's Game' and is played in 44 states, plus Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, with draws on Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10:59pm ET and usually held in Tallahassee, Florida. A single Powerball ticket costs $2, or $3 if you choose the Power Play add-on.

If you have a specific question regarding the Powerball game, check out the answers to common questions at the bottom of this page!

Powerball Number Generator

Number of Lines

How to Play

As of October 2015, Powerball players need to pick five white balls numbered 1-69 and one red ball numbered 1-26. This red number is the Powerball and matching it alone or with any number of white balls guarantees a prize. You can also win by matching three or more white balls without the Powerball.

Why to Play

Powerball combines record-breaking jackpots with good overall odds of winning, at about 1 in 24.87. Thanks to the Powerball itself, there are nine different ways to win, too - from matching just the Powerball, to matching three or more of the main white balls without the Powerball, right up to the jackpot for matching everything.

The other massive multi-state lottery is Mega Millions, which has slightly different rules and pricing, but overall quite similar odds and a similar expected win per every $2 you stake - so while Mega Millions is slightly better overall in the statistics, for most players it comes down to personal preference.

Supplementary Games

The Powerball itself is a kind of supplementary game, with its own prize levels, and must be matched to win the overall jackpot. There is also an add-on called Power Play that doesn't apply to the jackpot, but doubles the $1 million prize to $2 million and multiplies all lower prizes by 2, 3, 4 or 5 times, according to a multiplier number drawn separately. On jackpots below $150 million a 10x multiplier is also added to the draw.

Prizes and Odds of Winning

All prizes up to and including matching the five main draw balls are fixed, with a couple of exceptions:

  • Match 5 + Powerball to win the progressive jackpot, which has paid out over $1.5 billion in the past.
  • Choose the Power Play supplementary and the $1 million prize is doubled, with all lower prizes multiplied by 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 according to a randomly selected multiplier.

Overall you should win something, on average, once in every 24-25 draws. This is actually much better under the rules introduced in 2015 than it was before then, although the rule changes also made the jackpot harder to win. As a result, it pays out less often, but reaches the biggest total sums of money of any lottery in the world.

Match Prize Odds
5 + Powerball Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338
5 $1 million 1 in 11,688,053.52
4 + Powerball $50,000 1 in 913,129.18
4 $100 1 in 36,525.17
3 + Powerball $100 1 in 14,494.11
3 $7 1 in 579.76
2 + Powerball $7 1 in 701.33
1 + Powerball $4 1 in 91.98
Powerball only $4 1 in 38.32

Power Play Prizes

Match Original Prize 2x 3x 4x 5x 10x
5 + Powerball Jackpot Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged
5 $1 million $2 million $2 million $2 million $2 million $2 million
4 + Powerball $50,000 $100,000 $150,000 $200,000 $250,000 $500,000
4 $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $1,000
3 + Powerball $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $1,000
3 $7 $14 $21 $28 $35 $70
2 + Powerball $7 $14 $21 $28 $35 $70
1 + Powerball $4 $8 $12 $16 $20 $40
Powerball only $4 $8 $12 $16 $20 $40

Here are the odds of the Power Play multiplier

Power Play Odds (with 10x) Odds (without 10x)
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

Payment Options

Powerball jackpots have an annuity value and a smaller cash lump sum value. Choose the lump sum and you receive it immediately, but your prize is smaller overall. Opt for the annuity and you'll get an immediate instalment followed by 29 more annual payments, with a 5% increase in each payout designed to keep pace with the rate of inflation. The annuity also usually means paying less tax, as if you take the lump sum, you will have to pay Federal and (depending on your state) income tax on the full amount. By taking the annuity, more of your payout falls into a lower tax band, so you receive a bigger share of each payment.

History

Powerball was preceded by Lotto*America, but the first draw under the current brand was on April 22nd 1992, marking the first time a lottery anywhere in the world had drawn balls from more than one pot, drum or machine.

In March 2001, the Power Play option was added, multiplying lower-tier prizes in return for an increase in ticket price.

In January 2009, the location for the draws moved to Florida, and the number of balls in each pot was changed, to 5 from 59 white balls and 1 from 39 red balls (the 'Powerball').

As of October 2015, the draw is now 5 from 69 and 1 from 26, a format that produced a world record-breaking jackpot win of over $1.5 billion in early 2016 but also means improved odds of about 1 in 24.87 to win any prize in any given draw.

Where to Play

Participating states and jurisdictions include all 44 US states that sell any kind of lottery tickets, plus the US Virgin Islands, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, meaning you can buy Powerball tickets in any of:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

You can also buy tickets online: in some states residents can buy Powerball tickets online direct from the state lottery operator, while lottery courier services can be used by those outside of the participating jurisdictions to have a ticket agent within a Powerball state go out and physically buy a valid game ticket from a retailer.

To learn more about taking part in lottery games online, visit the How to Play.

Where the Money Goes

Each participating state lottery board has the option to put a share of its Powerball stakes towards community projects and charitable causes. These range from homeless shelters in Arizona to benefits for 99 towns and cities in Wyoming, with appropriate local initiatives selected in each state or jurisdiction.

FAQs

Should I choose Power Play?

Power Play adds 50% to the price of your ticket but, if you win, boosts your prize by at least 2x and potentially up to 5x or 10x. Overall this increases the average amount you're likely to win per $1 staked, making it statistically the sensible option, but it depends on how much you're willing to risk.

Should I choose my numbers from a fortune cookie?

In March 2005, by pure random chance a mass-produced fortune cookie correctly predicted five of the six main draw balls and 110 players won at least $100,000 each, with 21 who had chosen Power Play getting $500,000 instead. It's not likely to happen again, but it could - but remember if you win the main jackpot in this way, you'll probably end up sharing it with a lot of other winners.

How long is the claim period?

It varies from state to state, but winning tickets will expire after anywhere from 90 days to one year. If you win the jackpot, you may have to wait two weeks to claim your prize, as it takes this long for all the cash stakes to be collected from ticket sellers. Smaller prizes (up to $600) can usually be claimed from any participating retailer in the state where the ticket was bought, and there are also some 'super retailers' where you can claim prizes up to $25,000 immediately.

Do I pay taxes on my winnings?

Yes, 25% Federal tax applies to all Powerball prizes over $5,000, and state income tax applies to most states - even if you buy your ticket as a tourist or non-resident. Some states have specific rules to make sure they can collect the tax from your prize, even if you do not have a US Social Security number. Taxes are paid both on lump sum prizes and if you take the jackpot annuity option, although as the annuity pays smaller annual instalments in different tax years, overall this should mean more of your winnings fall into a lower tax band.

What happens to my annuity if I die?

The annuity option is treated as part of your estate like any other asset, meaning it can be passed on to your descendants if you die during the 29 years of instalments. If your beneficiaries can't pay the Federal estate/inheritance taxes on this, then the annuity can be sold off at an appropriate market price, the tax deducted from the sale price, and the remainder paid over to your beneficiaries as a lump sum.

If you have a question that isn’t about the Powerball game but about lotteries in general, head over to the FAQs page for answers to commonly asked questions.