# Why Most Of Your Powerball Tickets Are Total Fucking Duds

Seriously, you guys are so fucked. There’s no way you’re beating me tonight. I did my homework (292 million possible combinations!), came in with a meticulously prepared game plan (all prime numbers greater than 40!), and now sit here just minutes away from wiping the floor with your sorry, broke asses. Basically I’m like Wesley “Two Scoops” Berry, and you’re like that poor British guy who took a shot to the gut from Hawk and collapsed in a heap. But we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to help you amateurs figure out what went wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistakes next time around.

If you’re playing the Powerball this week, chances are you’re in some sort of lottery pool. For once, you’ve actually stumbled upon a solid strategy. Buying one measly ticket on your own only gets you a one in 292,201,338 chance of hitting the jackpot. But if you join forces with nine other people, now you’re looking at a TEN in 292,201,338 chance. That’s like 8x the odds right there, and that’s just if each of you only put in 2 bucks. However, chances are you have little to no self control, so each of you probably put in 10 bucks, which gives you 50 goddamn draws. Practically a guaranteed win, you tell your coworkers. So imagine the surprise on your stupid faces when, after hours of checking and re-checking your ridiculous stack of tickets against the winning numbers, it turns out almost none of them have even one number right. The fuck?

Basically, here’s what you did. You played a game where you have to get the one correct ball out of the red bucket and the five correct balls out of the white bucket. The hard part is, the red bucket has 26 total balls in it and the white one has 69 balls. I repeat: 69 balls. Only 5 of the white balls and 1 of the red ones are actually good news for you, which leaves 64 white balls and 25 red ones that don’t help at all. That’s a shitload of possible combinations consisting solely of numbers that fail to appear on your ticket. How many?

This many. Let’s say you want to find all the possible combinations that don’t include any of your dumb numbers. (Oh, you have 1, 13, and 16 for today’s date? Cool. Thanks for your 2 dollars.) When you pick your first white ball, there are 64 numbers you could possibly pick that aren’t on your ticket. (69 total minus your 5, c’mon man.) Once that one’s out of the bucket, there are 63 left that don’t help you. And so on: 62, 61, and finally 60 on the last draw. Multiplying 64 x 63 x 62 x 61 x 60 gives you 914,941,440, which is the total number of permutations of white balls that include none of your five. But we don’t care about permutations because the order in which the numbers are drawn doesn’t matter in Powerball, making it a game that literally any idiot could win. We’re only interested in the total number of possible combinations, which means we have to divide that ridiculously huge number by the number of possible ways we could arrange the five balls we just picked. If we order the balls into five “slots,” any of the five balls can go in the first slot, but then only four can go in the second, then three, then two, then the last one is automatically assigned to the last slot. So the number of possible arrangements of our five winning numbers is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120. Dividing 120 into our 914-million-ish number from earlier now gives us 7,624,512 possible combinations of white balls that don’t include any of the numbers on your ticket.

Not so bad, right? Haha idiot, you forgot about the NAME of the GAME! There’s still 25 possible Powerballs that aren’t on your ticket. So you have to consider each of those 7.6 or so million combos of white balls 25 times each, once for every losing red ball. Multiplying by 25 jacks us up to 190,612,800 total scoreless combinations. Dividing by our friend 292,201,338 shows us that 65.2% of the possible combinations will yield exactly ZERO correct numbers. So going back to your office pool with the 50 tickets, you can expect to get completely shut out on roughly 33 of them. The other 17 are almost certainly some bullshit combination of “Hey, a number!” (\$0 value) and “Holy shit, TWO numbers!” (still a \$0 value) and, if you’re lucky, “WE HIT THE POWERBALL!” (but only the Powerball and no other numbers; \$4 value, netting you each 40 cents OR two more tickets in next week’s drawing and another shot at greatness). But such is life when you don’t have the winning ticket like I do. Better luck next week, losers.