What you don't know about Powerball

The one Powerball number that really matters
The one Powerball number that really matters

Dreaming of a nine-figure Powerball prize as you plunk out cash, again, for a ticket? You aren't alone.

Americans spend a lot on lottery tickets

The $73.8 billion spent on U.S. lottery tickets last year is more than Americans spent on music, movies, books, video games and sports tickets -- combined.

The biggest jackpot didn't produce the biggest single winner

You probably remember the Powerball jackpot in January that made it to $1.6 billion. That prize ended up being split between three winning tickets -- as often happens with large prizes.

Two other U.S. jackpots that topped $600 million were split between multiple winners.

But in May 2013, 84-year-old Gloria Mackenzie had the only winning ticket in a $590.5 million Powerball jackpot, giving her the most valuable U.S. lottery ticket in history.

Powerball and MegaMillions prizes are usually not as large as advertised

The size of the jackpot publicized by the lotteries is always the prize if the winnings are taken as an annuity -- meaning they are paid out over 29 years.

But most jackpot winners take a lump sum payment, which is roughly two-thirds the size of the annuity prize.

Most lottery bets are not on the biggest jackpots

Between 60% to 70% of the $73.8 billion spent on state lotteries last year went to instant games -- not Powerball or MegaMillions.

And these smaller-stakes games actually pay out more in total, even though the top prize can be as little as $5,000. Scratch-off games typically pay out about 70% of the money spent on tickets. Only about half the money spent on Powerball is distributed to winners.

Many million-dollar winners never claim their loot

The second place prizes on Powerball and MegaMillions -- which come from matching the five white balls -- are each worth at least a $1 million lump sum.

But many players, when they hear there is no jackpot winner, or hear that the winning ticket was purchased in some other state, never check their tickets to see if they won the smaller prize.

An estimated 114 prizes worth $1 million or more went unclaimed in 2015, according to Brett Jacobson. He developed an app called Lotto Lotto that alerts lottery players if they have a winning ticket.

The Powerball odds are really, really against you

We saved the best for last. The odds of winning Powerball stand at 1 in 292 million.

Consider this: You're more likely to be killed by an asteroid (1 in 700,000), be struck by lightning while drowning (1 in 183 million) or give birth to quadruplets (1 in 729,000).

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