Last Updated: April 20, 2002

HomeOkay, this is how I got started. I've always figured that one didn't get much of a return playing the lottery and so wanted to get some hard numbers on exactly what one can expect over the long haul. So I wrote a little program to simulate the Wisconsin multistate Powerball lottery drawing which is drawn twice a week, making 104 drawings per year. I originally intended on writing a web-based application (and still do), so that anyone could simulate multiple years in a few seconds, but I still haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

I kinda skipped posting the 13 and 14 million year marks, so here's 15. Interesting how I'm below average on the top 3 categories. Wonder if that reflects on the randomizer I'm using...

Below is a table giving all of the nitty gritty numbers, but the long and the short is that, on average, you can only expect a little more than 33 cents back out of every dollar you spend. We'll see what the next million years bring.

Summary - 15 Million Years
Amount spent:$1,560,000,000   
Predicted winnings:$519,006,94833.270%
My winnings:$492,286,96031.557%

15 Million Years - All The Details
MatchOddsYou WinPredictedActualPredict WonActual Won

Now for some other amusing statistics I've run across...
  • Heard on National Public Radio (05/04/01)
    If you drive 10 miles round trip to buy a Powerball ticket, you are 16 times likelier to be killed in the car getting the ticket then to win the lottery you just bought the ticket to.
  • You are 200 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the jackpot.
  • You are 29 times more likely to die by getting struck by lightning than to win the jackpot.
  • If every person in the state of Wisconsin bought 1 ticket, there would only be a 6.25% chance that one person matches the winning number.
  • If every man, woman, and child in the United States bought one ticket there would be only about 3.4 winners.
  • I read that while in the course of the human lifetime, you would swallow three spiders while sleeping. This makes it 8,433 times likelier that you will snack on a spider tonight than win the lottery.

Misc Odds
1 pair 12.1
3 of a kind 147.3
4 of a kind 14,063.5
Eating a spider while sleeping9,496.3
Straight Royal Flush 1649,731.0
Struck by lighning 2400,000.0
Killed by lightning2,750,000.0
Killed in plane crash 2700,000.0
Freeze to death 23,000,000.0

1 - Odds are calculated on getting the combination in 5 card stud poker
2 - NBC National news from 5/25/2000