(NEW YORK) — 5-23-16-22-29-Powerball 6: Those are the winning numbers for a $579 million Powerball jackpot — the biggest in history.
After a feverish day that saw hopeful players buying tickets at the rate of 131,000 every minute, lottery officials in Orlando, Fla., drew the winning sequence shortly after 11 p.m.
The results likely will be announced sometime after 2 a.m. Thursday morning.
Identifying the winner, however, could take days — if there is a winner.
A prior drawing last Saturday night produced no winner. That fact, plus the doubling in price of a Powerball ticket, accounted for the unprecedented richness of the pot.
“Back in January, we moved Powerball from being a $1 game to $2,” said Mary Neubauer, a spokeswoman at the game’s headquarters in Iowa. “We thought at the time that this would mean bigger and faster-growing jackpots.”
That proved true. The total, she said, began taking “huge jumps — another $100 million since Saturday.” It then jumped another $50 million.
The biggest Powerball pot on record until now — $365 million — was won in 2006 by eight Lincoln, Neb., co-workers.
As the latest pot swelled, lottery officials said they began getting phone calls from all around the world.
“When it gets this big,” said Neubauer, “we get inquiries from Canada and Europe from people wanting to know if they can buy a ticket. They ask if they can FedEx us the money.”
The answer she has to give them, she said, is: “Sorry, no. You have to buy a ticket in a member state from a licensed retail location.”
About 80 percent of players don’t choose their own Powerball number, opting instead for a computer-generated one.
Asked if there’s anything a player can do to improve his or her odds of winning, Neubauer said there isn’t — apart from buying a ticket, of course.
Lottery officials put the odds of winning the $579 Powerball pot at one in 175 million, meaning you’d have been 25 times more likely to win an Academy Award.
Skip Garibaldi, a professor of mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta, provided additional perspective: You are three times more likely to die from a falling coconut, he said; seven times more likely to die from fireworks, “and way more likely to die from flesh-eating bacteria” (115 fatalities a year) than you are to win the Powerball lottery.
Segueing, then, from death to life, Garibaldi noted that even the best physicians, equipped with the most up-to-date equipment, can’t predict the timing of a child’s birth with much accuracy.
“But let’s suppose,” he said, “that your doctor managed to predict the day, the hour, the minute and the second your baby would be born.”
The doctor’s uncanny prediction would be “at least 100 times” more likely than your winning.
Even though he knows the odds all too well, Garibaldi said he usually plays the lottery.
“When it gets this big, I’ll buy a couple of tickets,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting. You get this feeling of anticipation. You get to think about the fantasy.”
So, did he buy two tickets this time?
“I couldn’t,” he told ABC News. “I’m in California” — one of eight states that doesn’t offer Powerball.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio