Disappointed about missing out on the $1.6B jackpot Wednesday night? If you bought a ticket, of course you are! Chances are good, however, that you won't have to wait terribly long for another opportunity.
The size of the jackpot is directly related to the number of Powerball tickets sold since the last jackpot winner. The jackpot grows with each drawing for which there is no winner. So far, there have been two jackpots in the new Powerball game. The first, with a cash value of about $90M (annuity $144M) came after nine failed drawings. And, of course, Wednesday's jackpot, worth about $980M in cash (annuity $1.6B) came after 19 consecutive failed drawings.
Let's put this short history into perspective. Under the old Powerball structure--as played from early 2012 through late 2015--with a one in 175M chance of winning the jackpot, there were 50 jackpots won. About half of the time, there were three or fewer weeks between winners. About one-fourth of the time, there were six or more weeks between winners. The longest drought was between November 29, 2014, and February 11, 2015--a period of 74 days.
The new Powerball has a one in 292M chance of winning. The times between jackpot winners for the two drawings in the new Powerball game: 35 days and 70 days. Only one drawing during the old Powerball lasted longer (74 days), and it had a jackpot annuity value of $564M. Sixty-three percent of old Powerball jackpots occurred in 35 or fewer days. And, in lottery terms, time really is money. Yes, Wednesday's jackpot was the largest ever, but the first winning jackpot under the new rules--back on November 4--was bigger than 60% of the jackpots won under the old rules.
The Mega Millions lottery gives us a hint of what might lie ahead for Powerball. You didn't forget about Mega Millions, did you? The probability of winning in Mega Millions is a mere 1 in 259M. There have been 19 Mega Millions jackpots won since October 2013 (when the probability decreased to this level). During that time, there have been four occasions on which there were 20 or more consecutive drawings between winners, each of those producing annuity jackpots of $250M and up.
Big jackpots were just what Powerball had in mind when creating this new structure. There are a variety of ways to estimate how long it will be before the next jackpot winner, and the one after that, and so on. I have not tried here to make such estimates, but simply to point out based on history that it won't be all that long before you'll have another chance to plunk down $2 (or much more) on a big jackpot drawing.
Unfortunately, your chances of winning will not have improved.