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$1.5 Billion Powerball, How 1:292m Odds Compare to Casino Games

The odds of winning the Powerball on Wednesday, January 13th are the same as they always are, 1 in 292,201,338. No matter how tickets are sold or how high the total rises, those odds will remain precisely the same. Likewise, buying more tickets, or repeatedly playing on different days, is not going to improve the odds of winning on any given, individual ticket. Now, if you are playing the lottery, there is a decent chance that you have a little bit of gamble in you. Even with the lottery jackpot being as high as it is, you may be surprised to learn that your odds are still much better to win the same amount through casino games.

If you are playing roulette, you have a total of 38 possible options. This includes 36 numbers and two green numbers, 0 and 00. Since your payback is only 35-1, and there are 38 total possible results, you can see where you are at a disadvantage. With that said, however, you are only expected to lose around 6% of your wager, assuming you are betting on individual numbers. In other words, you should expect to lose 6 cents for every dollar that you bet. Now, imagine you start with $2 at roulette and you bet on number 14, now, if you win, you will have 35*2=70+2 (your original wager, which is returned in the event of a win).

 

PB

So, for a 35 to 1 payout, you now have $72 from your original $2 that you had invested. What happens if you make the same bet again and win? Your $72 would then be 72*35=2,520+72 for a total of $2,592.

Pick the correct number and parlay your bet again and you will have…$93,312

Win a fourth time…$3,359,232

Win a fifth time…$120,932,352

Win a sixth time…$4,353,564,672

If you can win, and keep your bet going, for just six consecutive roulette spins, you will be able to turn a $2 wager into over $4.3 billion.

Now, don’t the odds of winning a billion, or even a million, sound much easier when playing roulette as opposed to Powerball? That’s because they are. Even when Powerball has jackpots that total hundreds of millions of dollars, the odds are still stacked against you in a number of ways. First, the jackpot is a number represented by an annuity payout, not the cash lumpsum as you are paid in casino games. Second, the taxes required (though also an obligation for casino games) drop off the expected net win substantially. Third, there is a potential for splitting your winnings with another player, which would then reduce your net by, potentially, several multiples.

All lotteries have very, very large house edges built into their odds. In a casino, you can play many different games with a house edge of around 1%, with even the worst of games rarely being over 10% in terms of player disadvantage. With lotteries, however, the state or agency running the game builds in an approximate 20-60% house edge. This means that for every dollar you are wagering, you are effectively giving away 60 cents right off the bat, just for the chance to play. That would be like only getting paid 10% as much as a standard roulette game pays! Would you be thrilled to win ~$7 for hitting a number in roulette with a $2 wager? Of course not, but this is what you would be paid if you were given the same odds as provided by many lottery games.

It is worth noting that, as the jackpot increases, the amount you are expected to lose does in fact decrease. A small jackpot will have a much worse return than a large one. So, if you are going to play Powerball, now is most definitely a better time than ever before in history, but don’t be fooled, because the odds will always be very, very stacked against you.

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