Powerball is one of America’s top lotteries that began as the name Lotto America in 1988 and officially changed its name to the current name of Powerball.  This multi state lottery has changed many lives and has awarded billions of prizes to winners since the beginning of the game’s release to date.

Powerball is an American lottery game sold by 45 lotteries as a shared jackpot game. It is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), a non-profit organization formed by an agreement with lotteries. Since the format change on January 15, 2012, Powerball’s minimum advertised jackpot is $40 million (annuity) with a potential of nine-figure prizes. Its annuity option is paid in 30 graduated installments; winners may choose a lump sum cash payment instead, but with a substantial discount. Powerball drawings are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m. Eastern time. The game uses a 5/59 (white balls) + 1/35 (Powerballs) matrix from which winning numbers are chosen. Each play costs $2, or, with the Power Play option, $3. (Prior to January 15, 2012, games cost $1 each, or $2 with Power Play; that option was added in 2001.) The official cutoff time for ticket sales is 10 pm ET; some jurisdictions cut sales earlier.[1] The drawings usually are held at the Florida Lottery’s high-tech studio in Tallahassee.


Powerball’s predecessor began in 1988;[4] it was known as Lotto*America. The game, and name, were changed to Powerball on April 19, 1992. Powerball’s first drawing was held on April 22.

Maine joined MUSL in 1990, dropping out when Powerball began; it did not rejoin MUSL until summer 2004.

Powerball begins

8246188054_257f0debc2_zWhen it was launched Powerball became the first game to use two drums. Using two drums offers more manipulation, simultaneously allowing high jackpot odds, numerous prize levels, and low overall odds of winning. (As explained later, a Powerball ticket can win by matching only one number.) The two-drum concept was suggested by Steve Caputo of the Oregon Lottery. The two-drum concept has since been used by The Big Game (now Mega Millions) in the US, Australia’s Powerball, Thunderball in the United Kingdom, and EuroMillions. (Unlike most two-drum games, Euromillions selects two numbers, called “Lucky Stars”, from the second drum; jackpot winners must make a total of seven matches).

Through 2008, Powerball drawings usually were held at Screenscape Studios in West Des Moines, Iowa. The drawings’ host was longtime Iowa radio personality Mike Pace, who had hosted MUSL drawings since Lotto*America began in 1988. In 1996 Powerball went “on the road” for the first time, holding five remote drawings at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Ironically, weeks later, the Georgia Lottery became the only lottery to leave Powerball (Maine, which joined MUSL in 1990, left when Powerball began). In August 1996, Georgia joined the then-new The Big Game (now Mega Millions), then the other major US lottery group. It planned to sell tickets for both games for the rest of 1996; however, within a few days, Georgia was forcibly removed from MUSL, not to return until the 2010 cross-sell expansion.

On November 2, 1997, the annuity was changed from 20 to 25 yearly payments; the cash option was added. Currently, the annuity consists of 30 graduated payments (increasing 4% annually) over a period of 29 years.[5]

In 1998 Florida was given permission by its government to participate in a multi-state game. It was set to offer Powerball; however, in early 1999, the new governor, Jeb Bush, prevented Florida from joining since he believed Powerball would hurt the existing Florida Lottery games. In 2008 Gov. Charlie Crist finally allowed Florida to join MUSL, on January 4, 2009.

On March 7, 2001, an optional multiplier (called Power Play) was added, allowing players to multiply non-jackpot winnings by up to 5 by paying an extra $1 per game. A wheel was introduced to select the Power Play multiplier for each drawing. (On October 9, 2002, the 1x was removed from the Power Play wheel.)


Powerball members

US states with lotteries. As of May 15, 2013, all states with lotteries offer both Mega Millions and Powerball.

Powerball replaced Lotto*America in April 1992; Mega Millions replaced The Big Game in May 2002 (see below for the evolution of the name Mega Millions).

Mega Millions and Powerball

Lottery Powerball Mega Millions
Arizona 1994 April 18, 2010
Arkansas October 31, 2009 January 31, 2010
California April 8, 2013 2005
Connecticut 1995 January 31, 2010
Colorado April 2001 May 16, 2010
Delaware 1991 January 31, 2010
Florida 2009 May 15, 2013
Georgia January 31, 2010 1996
Idaho 1990 January 31, 2010
Illinois January 31, 2010 1996
Indiana 1990 January 31, 2010
Iowa 1988 January 31, 2010
Kansas 1989 January 31, 2010
Kentucky 1991 January 31, 2010
Louisiana March 1995 November 16, 2011
Maine 2004 May 9, 2010
Maryland January 31, 2010 1996
Massachusetts January 31, 2010 1996
Michigan January 31, 2010 1996
Minnesota 1990 January 31, 2010
Missouri 1988 January 31, 2010
Montana 1989 March 1, 2010
Nebraska 1994 March 20, 2010
New Hampshire 1995 January 31, 2010
New Jersey January 31, 2010 1999
New Mexico 1996 January 31, 2010
New York January 31, 2010 2002
North Carolina 2006 January 31, 2010
North Dakota 2004 January 31, 2010
Ohio April 16, 2010 2002
Oklahoma 2006 January 31, 2010
Oregon 1988 March 28, 2010
Pennsylvania June 29, 2002 January 31, 2010
Rhode Island 1988 January 31, 2010
South Carolina 2002 January 31, 2010
South Dakota 1990 May 16, 2010
Tennessee April 21, 2004 January 31, 2010
Texas January 31, 2010 2003
US Virgin Islands October 2010 2002
Vermont 2003 January 31, 2010
Virginia January 31, 2010 1996
Washington January 31, 2010 2002
West Virginia 1988 January 31, 2010
Wisconsin 1989 January 31, 2010
Wyoming None None

Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah do not have laws establishing a state lottery. Although Puerto Rico has a lottery, it does not participate in either Mega Millions or Powerball; it does not plan to join either game yet. On March 14, 2013, Wyoming became the 44th state to establish a state lottery. However they do not offer any games yet.

Playing the game

Basic game

5829931114_92fab46c49_zThe minimum Powerball bet is $2. In each game, players select five numbers from a set of 59 white balls and one number from 35 red Powerballs. The number chosen from the red Powerballs may be the same as one of the numbers chosen from the white balls. Players can select their own numbers and/or have the terminal randomly select numbers (called “quick pick”, “easy pick”, etc. depending on the state ). In each drawing, winning numbers are selected using two ball machines, one containing the white balls and the other containing the red Powerballs. Five balls are drawn from the first machine and one from the second machine; these are the winning numbers. Games matching at least three white balls and/or the red Powerball win.

The drawing order of the five white balls is irrelevant; all tickets show the five white ball numbers in ascending order. Players also cannot use the drawn Powerball number to match one of their white numbers, or vice versa.

Two identical machines are used for each drawing, randomly selected from four machines. The model of machine used is the Halogen, manufactured by Smartplay International of Edgewater Park, New Jersey. There are eight ball sets (four white, four red); one set of each color is randomly selected before a drawing. The balls are mixed by a turntable at the bottom of the machine that propels the balls around the chamber. When the machine selects a ball, the turntable slows to catch it, sends it up the shaft, and then down the rail to the display.

The double matrix has varied:

Starting date Pick 5 of Pick 1 of Jackpot odds Power Play multipliers
April 22, 1992 45 45 1:54,979,154 none†
November 5, 1997 49 42 1:80,089,127 none†
March 7, 2001 49 42 1:80,089,127 1×, 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×
October 9, 2002 53 42 1:120,526,769 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×
August 28, 2005 55 42 1:146,107,961 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×
January 7, 2009 59 39 1:195,249,053 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×
January 15, 2012 59 35 1:175,223,510 none

Power Play was introduced in 2001.

While Mega Millions and Powerball each have roughly the same jackpot odds despite having a different double matrix (Mega Millions is 5/56 + 1/46), since Powerball is $2 per play, on average, it now takes approximately $350,000,000 in wagers (not counting the extra $1 for each Power Play wager), on average, to produce a jackpot-winning ticket.

Power Play

5829382481_9d7a19564e_zFor an additional $1 per game, a player may activate the Power Play option. Prior to January 15, 2012, Power Play prizes were determined by a random multiplier.

The dilemma for players is whether to maximize the chance at the jackpot, or reduce the chance at the jackpot in exchange for an increase in lower-level prize(s).

The promotion was extended for the only time, as the 10× multiplier was not drawn until June 12. The second prize 5× guarantee continued; the 10× applied to all non-jackpot prizes, as in previous promotions.

Power Play’s success has led to similar multipliers in other games, such as the tripler in MUSL’s smaller Hot Lotto, called Sizzler; and Megaplier, available in all Mega Millions states except California. (Hot Lotto’s format will change in May 2013; it is not known whether the Sizzler option will continue as is.)

The 2012 game change resulted in all eight lower-tier levels having “fixed” Power Play prizes.[15]

Payout and odds

Payouts (on a $2 play) are:

Matches Prize Prize With Power Play[15] Odds of winning[16]
Powerball only $4 $12 1 in 55.41
1 number plus PB $4 $12 1 in 110.81
2 numbers plus PB $7 $14 1 in 706.43
3 numbers; no PB $7 $14 1 in 360.14
3 numbers plus PB $100 $200 1 in 12,244.83
4 numbers; no PB $100 $200 1 in 19,087.53
4 numbers plus PB $10,000 $40,000 1 in 648,975.96
5 numbers; no PB $1,000,000 $2,000,000 1 in 5,153,632.65
5 numbers plus PB Jackpot Power Play does not apply to jackpot 1 in 175,223,510.00
  • Note, all Prize amounts are variable in California as state law requires prizes to be pari-mutuel and may be higher or lower than the fixed amounts paid in the other states. Powerplay is not offered in California.

Overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 31.85. All non-jackpot prizes are fixed amounts; they may be reduced and paid on a parimutuel basis on a state by state basis if the liability exceeds the funds in the prize pool for that drawing in that particular state.[17]

Some may notice that the odds of matching only the Powerball (1-35) are 1:55.41, instead of 1:35. This is because there is a chance of matching at least one white ball in addition to the Powerball.

Jackpot accumulation and payment options

Jackpot winners have the option of receiving their prize in cash (in two installments; one from the winning jurisdiction, then the combined funds from the other 43 members) or as a graduated annuity paid in 30 yearly installments. Each annuity payment is 4% higher than in the previous year to adjust for inflation.

The advertised estimated jackpot represents the total payments that would be paid to a jackpot winner should they accept the 30-installment option. This estimate is based on the funds accumulated in the jackpot pool rolled over from prior drawings, expected sales for the next drawing, and market interest rates for the securities that would be used to fund the annuity.[1] The estimated jackpot usually is 32.5% of the (non–Power Play) revenue of each base ($1) play, submitted by game members to accumulate into a prize pool to fund the jackpot.

When the Powerball jackpot is won, the next jackpot is guaranteed to be $40 million (annuity). If a jackpot is not won, the next jackpot is guaranteed to be $10 million higher than the prior drawing. The cash in the jackpot pool is guaranteed to be the current value of the annuity. If revenue from ticket sales falls below expectations, game members must contribute additional funds to the jackpot pool to cover the shortage; the most likely situation is if the jackpot is won in consecutive drawings.

Claiming prizes

Although players may purchase tickets in other states, all prize claims must be made where the ticket was bought.

The minimum age to play Powerball is 18, except in Nebraska, where it is 19, and in Arizona, Iowa, and Louisiana, where it is 21.

Generally, Powerball players do not have to choose cash or annuity unless they win a jackpot (then they usually have 60 days to choose).