I play the lottery once in a blue moon – usually only when the prize gets to about $50,000,000. I figure if I’m going to waste a dollar on something this foolish, it ought to be for something big – something I can REALLY retire on in style without any regard for frugality. It seems that a lot of Powerball players are of the same mindset, and in reaction, Powerball is changing the rules. According to the South Carolina Education Lottery website, jackpots will now start at $15,000,000 instead of $10,000,000, and will increase more substantially each time the jackpot rolls over. If the prize money accrues faster, then those that play like I do will be more likely to plunk down their dollars, and do so more frequently.
Of course, with an increase in payout must come an increase in the odds against winning. Instead of drawing five balls with no chance of duplicates and a sixth "powerball" that can duplicate one of the five, drawings will have four balls drawn without duplicates, and two powerballs. I wonder if they will change the name, and what consequences that will have for a family-friendly ad campaign?
My higher math skills are a bit rusty, but what’s happening is that not one, but two of the balls are now based on factorials instead of permutations. The website phrases it thusly…
To increase the average jackpot size, two white ball numbers will be added, changing the jackpot odds to 1 in 146.1 million. The current game has jackpot odds of 1 in 120.5 million. The overall odds of winning a cash prize will remain virtually the same at 1 in 36.60 (up slightly from 1 in 36.06).
Notice that they use the word "million" instead of adding all the zeroes. The brain sees only the numbers, so it looks like the odds are only changing from 1 in 120.5 to 1 in 146.1. That’s also not too different from the overall 1 in 36.60 chance of winning any prize. I think I’ll bring it back to reality by adding the zeroes – that’s a 1 in 146,500,000 chance of winning.
Hey, I’ll probably still drop a buck or two every now and then.