You’re a Sucker for Chasing New Powerball Jackpots

… and so am I.

While news of the astronomical Powerball jackpots are showing up everywhere, little is mentioned of the Powerball game changes on October 7, 2015 that are driving them up.  At that time the game was modified from a pick 5 of 59 white balls & 1 of 35 power balls (59/35) to a pick 5 of 69 white balls & 1 of 26 power balls (69/26) an the odds of winning went from 1 in 175,223,510 to 1 in 292,201,338 respectively.  The $2 ticket you purchase today has less chance of winning than one purchased prior to October 7, 2015.  The changes to the game have also ensured higher jackpots given that the odds of winning were cut almost 60%.

Following a similar process described by Bill Butler here, I set out to determine what other impacts the new game rules had on the Powerball jackpot probabilities.  I plotted the probability of no one winning the jackpot, one ticket winning the jackpot, and two or more tickets winning the jackpot while varying the number of tickets purchased.  The solid lines represent the current 69/26 game and the dotted lines represent the old 59/35 game prior to the October 7, 2015 game changes.

PowerBall Probability Of Winning

This graphic shows that the October 7, 2015 Powerball game changes have increased the probability that there will be no jackpot winner within a particular drawing, decreased the probability that multiple players will win and share the jackpot, and increased the probability that a single player will take home the jackpot in games with higher participation (and likely higher jackpots).

Following the October 7, 2015 Powerball game changes, there will be larger jackpots and the occurrence of single jackpot winners will be more frequent.

In addition to us all being suckers for chasing these larger jackpots, I should also add that I’m a sucker that’s seeding those jackpots. Well, sort of.  I have a yearly Mega Millions subscription that plays my numbers every drawing.  Although I don’t have a subscription to Powerball (yet), I can imagine that many other people do.  Between those of us with automatic subscriptions and those that routinely purchase tickets while at gas stations, liquor stores, etc. we are regularly contributing to the growing jackpot while now purchasing fewer equivalent chances of winning. Once the jackpot increases significantly over the course of several games (due to those of us that regularly contribute and the decreased chance of winning) the jackpot begins to respond exponentially as those that do not purchase regularly begin buying tickets in mass.  The jackpot then increases to the point of being obscene.  The October 7, 2015 game changes appear to have targeted those that do not purchase tickets regularly in the hopes of converting them into regular subscribers.  If this tactic is successful, this conversion will in turn raise the initial and subsequent jackpots more quickly.

We are poised for some record setting single winner jackpots in upcoming years.

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