The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292 million, and there isn't much a player can do to increase those chances, according to one expert.
Sure, buying multiple tickets at once does increase a player's odds slightly, but that strategy also requires spending more upfront while running the risk of having to split the payout with another winner, Harvard University statistician Mark Glickman told CBS News.
"Even if you're buying 50 tickets, the likelihood is that you're almost certain to still lose and not win the jackpot," Glickman said. "In fact, the chance at winning even $4 by playing is still pretty small."
No winning tickets were soldfor Wednesday night's top prize of $1.2 billion, so the jackpot for Saturday night's drawing will be at least an estimated $1.5 billion, Powerball officials said. That would be just short of the world record $1.586 billion Powerball grand prize shared by three winners in 2016.
There have now been 39 straight drawings without a jackpot winner since the last one was hit on Aug. 3. So another record is in sight: The Powerball mark for consecutive drawings without a grand prize winner is 40.
Jackpot winners can get their prize as an annuity paid out over 29 years or as a lump sum payment. The cash value of Saturday night's jackpot before taxes will be at least an estimated $745.9 million.
Of course, the likelihood of one person winning it all is vanishingly small. Statistically speaking, a Powerball player has a far better chance of being attacked by a grizzly bear at Yellowstone National Park — about 1 in 2.7 million, according to the National Park Service — or of finding a blue lobster in the ocean (1 in 2 million).
Massive lottery jackpots have become more common in recent years as lottery officials adjust game rules and ticket prices to pump up the top prizes. The most recent tweak came in August, when Powerball officials added an additional drawing day — going from two drawings a week to three — in an effort to boost prizes and lottery ticket sales.
Glickman said the best number-picking strategy is to have no strategy at all. A computer randomly generates the winning digits, so he suggests avoiding techniques such as picking numbers tied to a birthday or anniversary. It's better to use a random ticket number generator — also known as quick picks — because those machines better match what the Powerball might do, Glickman said.
"Really the best thing you can do is be level-headed about it [and] not buy too many tickets because you're throwing away your money," he said. "The key is to pick your picks at random because that will lower your chances of splitting the money with other people."