U of L mathematician says odds of hitting $500 million Powerball - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L mathematician says odds of hitting $500 million Powerball are not good

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- By Thursday morning, someone in Kentuckiana could be half a billion dollars richer.

You've probably heard the saying “you can't win if you don't play”, and that's why millions of people bought Powerball tickets Wednesday night praying for a payout of $500 million.

It's a number that's getting a lot of attention and inspiring millions of dreams.

"Our General Mills plant is closing so I'm getting this ticket and maybe I can split it with the 500 people there who are losing their jobs," said one woman.

"Put investment in my son, get his college funds ready, get us a better home and a better car," said another man.

Both were waiting in line at a Circle K in Clarksville where workers were handing out 500 free tickets for Wednesday's drawing.

Ray Gamez was the first in line.

"Some to charity and then I'd probably just enjoy myself for the rest of my life," said Gamez.

That's just wishful thinking according to University of Louisville mathematician Jake Wildstrom. He says the odds of matching all six numbers are about one in 175 million.

"Most people aren't buying millions of tickets and they're gonna end up losing two dollars," said Wildstrom.

Based on calculations he says there is one way to hit it big.

"The only way to guarantee you'd win would be to spend $352 million dollars buying one of every single ticket."

The odds are not in your favor.

In fact you've probably heard you're more likely to be struck by lightening at some point in your life -- about one in 12,000 if you lived to be 80, according to the National Weather Service.

Ever dreamed of hitting a hole in one? Amateur golfers can, roughly once every 12-500 tries.

Or what about getting the highest hand in poker? You're more likely to hit a royal flush. Odd of getting the highest five cards in one hand? One in nearly 650,000.

But it's a chance the Kentucky Lottery relies on for funding college scholarships. From July through December of 2014 sales were down $15 million.

"The budget number we have to hit Powerball was down 16.4 million below budget,” said Chip Polston with the Kentucky Lottery. “So there's a gap to be made up so this run will hopefully help with that but it's not going to close the entire gap."

Wednesday night's drawing is at 11 p.m.

If nobody win's, there's a good chance Saturday's drawing could set a new US record at more than $656 million.

Facts and tips from the Kentucky Lottery:

The $500 million jackpot is the 5th largest jackpot in the country and the 3rd largest ever for Powerball.

The largest ever was $590.5 million won back in May of 2013.

Largest U.S. jackpot was the Mega Millions in March of 2012 at a whopping $656 million.

From 2/2/2015 to 2/7/2015 Kentucky Lottery sold $2 million in tickets.

The largest jackpot ever won in Kentucky was a $126.8 million dollar ticket sold in Georgetown.

Because of state laws in Kentucky, if you win, you cannot remain anonymous. You do not have to attend the public press conference, but news agencies can file for an Open Records Request since it's a state agency and lottery officials will have to release your name and city.

You have 180 days to claim your prize – and it's a good idea to hire a lawyer and financial planner before making any major decisions.

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