Powerball Up to $550 Million; Experts Refute Winning ‘Strategies’
(NEW YORK) -- The Powerball jackpot, now a record $550 million, has led to a lotto fever as millions rush to buy tickets ahead of the 11 p.m. ET drawing. Still, mathematicians and experts warn that strategies will do little to enhance your chance of winning.
Even Richard Lustig, seven-time lottery winner who has written the book, Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery, says there is no sure-fire way to win.
"I don't guarantee or make promises to anybody that by following my method you're going to win the lottery," he previously told ABC News.
Lustig advises lottery ticket buyers to set a budget and not to overspend, thinking it will increase your chances of winning.
While the odds of winning the jackpot are one in over 175.2 million, the odds of winning any of the smaller prizes from $4 to $1 million are one in 31.85.
The $550 million prize has a cash option of $360.2 million, the estimated jackpot based on national sales up to the time of the drawing, according to the official Powerball website.
Matthew Vea, an army reservist and programmer, created a website four years ago that has tracked some of the Mega Millions and Powerball numbers that have and have not been drawn.
With the bulging jackpot, Vea said he couldn't resist buying some tickets Tuesday night.
"I did a few quick picks, used some fortune cookies but also grabbed some numbers based on my site's number profiling," Vea said.
However, even Vea is realistic about his chances of winning.
"With true random odds at 1 in 175 million though, even having a 'strategy' isn't likely to make a difference," he said. "But it can sure make you more hopeful than just sticking your finger in the wind with a quick pick."
Lustig advises against using the "quick picks" or numbers picked by the lottery's computer, while Michael Shackleford, gaming mathematician and actuary who specializes in studying casino games, prefers it.
Still Shackleford, admits he has not purchased a lotto ticket in 25 years, "because it's a sucker's bet."
If you want to have a slightly smaller chance of sharing your winnings with others who chose the same numbers as you, he offers a few observations.
People often choose familiar numbers, including birthdays, which, if chosen, means you could share your winnings.
"Everyone was born in a month from one to 12 and days are one and 31, ignoring the late 30s and 40s. If someone were picking birthdays, they have a greater chance to split it with other birthday pickers," he said.
Shackleford has also said many people choose geometric progressions.
The most popular selection for a Quebec lottery drawing in January 2010 were numbers in multiples of seven.
In particular, 824 wagers chose 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 42. The second most popular selection, chosen by 424 wagers, was the consecutive numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The third most popular selection was the mysterious set of numbers in the television series, Lost. According to the Quebec lottery, 377 wagers chose: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.
Another consideration, Shackleford has said, is when to play the game.
"It's good for you when the jackpot increases but it also induces more people to play, increasing your chance of sharing it," he said.
But at an estimated $550 million, sharing might not be such a bad thing.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio