How Powerball Drawings Work
In order to win the jackpot, players must correctly match all five white balls as well as the red Powerball.
There’s no guarantee that a jackpot will be awarded in every drawing. If no one picks all six winning numbers, the jackpot rolls over to the next drawing.
As jackpot values soar, more and more people buy tickets, so a larger percentage of the possible number combinations are sold. Eventually, it becomes nearly impossible for a drawing to occur without a winner.
The Powerball Lottery’s jackpot starts at $40 million and grows by at least $10 million each time the jackpot is not awarded. The jackpot can, and often does, reach values of hundreds of millions of dollars. As of 2016, the largest lottery jackpot in the history of the world was a Powerball jackpot worth over $1.5 billion dollars.
But there’s more to Powerball than just the jackpot prizes. In every drawing, other cash prizes worth between $4 and $2,000,000 are also awarded. The value of the prizes depends on how many numbers a player has guessed correctly, and the number of prizes awarded in each drawing is limited only by how many people make correct guesses.
How Many Balls Do You Need to Win a Powerball Prize?
To win a Powerball prize, you only need to pick one single number correctly: the red Powerball.
Picking the Powerball alone will award you a $4 prize, which means that with a $2 purchase, you have one in 26 odds of doubling your investment in your ticket (there are 26 red balls to choose from).
To win the Powerball Jackpot, you need to match all five white balls in any order, as well as the red Powerball.
Here are all the Powerball payouts:
Basic Powerball Payouts:
- 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot (starts at $40 million, has no upper limit)
- 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $1,000,000
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $10,000
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $100
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $100
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $7
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $7
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $4
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $4
Payouts for Powerball with PowerPlay:
- 5 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: Jackpot
- 5 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $2,000,000
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $20,000 — $100,000*
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $200 — $1,000*
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $200 — $1,000*
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: $14 — $70*
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: $14 — $70*
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: $8 — $40*
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: $8 — $40*
*The exact payout will depend on whether a 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, or 10X multiplier was drawn at random. The 10X multiplier is available only when the jackpot is worth less than $150 million.
How Much Does It Cost to Play Powerball?
Basic Powerball cards cost $2 apiece. For an additional dollar, you can add the PowerPlay option, which increases the size of your prize if you correctly guess one to five qualifying numbers. So the maximum cost of a single Powerball ticket is $3.
How Does PowerPlay Work?
If you purchase the PowerPlay option, the value of any prize you win for matching fewer than five balls will be multiplied by a randomly-drawn value between two and five. If the jackpot is worth less than $150 million, a 10x multiplier will be added to the mix.
For the payouts for matching five or six balls, the PowerPlay option works differently. The million-dollar prize that’s awarded for matching five white balls without the PowerBall is always doubled to $2 million with the PowerPlay option. The other multipliers don’t come into play.
The PowerPlay doesn’t affect the size of the jackpot, which is fixed whether you purchase the PowerPlay option or not. No multipliers apply to jackpot payouts.
How to Play
While picking numbers every week is one way to play, it’s not your only option. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways to play the game.
First, you have Easy Pick, which lets the computer choose six random numbers for you. You can also do a combination; you select some numbers, and the computer picks the rest.
You also can purchase Power Play. For an additional $1 per play, you can earn between two and 10 times more money if you win a non-jackpot prize. The Power Play can multiply your winnings by two, three, four, five or 10 times based upon the Power Play ball that is drawn in a given drawing. There are 24 2x balls, 13 3x balls, three 4x balls and 5x balls each and one 10X ball.
A Multi-draw play means you’re playing with the same numbers over and over again. You can play up to 26 times in a row with the same six numbers.
A Repeat play means you’re getting the same numbers repeatedly for one drawing. You can purchase the same numbers up to 20 times per drawing.
There are Game Machines in 1,500+ stores across Virginia that allow you to skip the checkout lines and get your Powerball tickets without the hassle of going to a cashier. You can also create a Virginia Lottery account and purchase your tickets online while you are anywhere in Virginia.
What Are the Odds of Winning Powerball?
Powerball.com lists the odds of winning a Powerball prize. As of February 25, 2020, the odds were listed as follows:
- 5 White Balls and Powerball (Jackpot): 1 in 292,201,338
- 5 White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 11,688,053.52
- 4 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 913,129.18
- 4 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 36,525.17
- 3 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 14,494.11
- 3 Correct White Balls, but no Powerball: 1 in 579.76
- 2 Correct White Balls and the Powerball: 1 in 701.33
- 1 Correct White Ball and the Powerball: 1 in 91.98
- No White Balls, Just the Powerball: 1 in 38.32
- Overall Odds of Winning Any Prize: 1 in 24.87
How Will You Know When You Win the Powerball Lottery?
To find out if you’ve won a Powerball prize, you need to check your numbers. If you are contacted by someone telling you you’ve won a jackpot, you’re probably dealing with a lottery scam.
Many television stations broadcast the Powerball drawings live. You can also check your local newspaper or Google for the results online.
You can bring your ticket to a gas station, convenience store, or other location which sells tickets, to let them check your winnings for you. Just be sure to sign your ticket first, to avoid being scammed out of a win. It’s best to ask for the winning numbers and check yourself than to hand over your ticket and ask if you’ve won.
There are also lottery apps that make it easy to check winning numbers. Some will even notify you if the tickets you have purchased come up as winners.
If you want to check the winning numbers online, see my list of winning lottery numbers by state for the right links.