Statistics expert weighs in on $450 million Powerball

The Powerball Jackpot continues to increase as Wednesday's drawing inches closer ... but a statistics expert believes, that's not necessarily a reason to run out the door and buy a ticket. 9NEWS at 6 p.m. 01/05/16.

KUSA - The Powerball Jackpot continues to increase as Wednesday's drawing inches closer ... but a statistics expert believes, that's not necessarily a reason to run out the door and buy a ticket.

The Powerball Jackpot is now an estimated jackpot of $450 million, which ends up being a lot less than that once taxes and other fees are taken out.

Although the dream of winning millions of dollars to pay off credit card bills or other debts seems great, a probability and statistics professor at Metropolitan State University doesn't think you should get your hopes up. The odds of winning are about 1 in 292.2 million. Dr. Ben Dyhr put that statistic into perspective, using the Denver Broncos as an example.

"Even the Broncos, who I think most of us would assume are better than mediocre, it's really hard to imagine them winning six Super Bowls in a row," Dr. Dyhr said. "Even five Super Bowls in a row would be much more probable than winning the lottery. Six Super Bowls ... you're getting in the same ballpark as winning the lottery. But there's a very, very low chance of that happening."

Dr. Dyhr believes there are better things to spend the $2 per ticket on.

"It's a very bad investment, and there are probably much better investment opportunities out there, even for people with just a little bit of money, I think," Dr Dyhr said. "First of all it's extremely unlikely. You do have a big jackpot but you might be better off investing in a better insurance policy. Because that, in some sense, it's a little morbid, but you could have a big jackpot, in that case too ... there are actually better odds, unfortunately, of getting really hurt, than winning the lottery."

Instead of investing your time and your energy into winning the lottery, Dr. Dyhr recommends working on another goal.

"There's a higher likelihood of becoming rich from a good idea, or working hard at something, than there is, in some sense, to win the lottery. At least you have some control," Dr. Dyhr said.

He put together some calculations for those 9NEWS viewers who enjoy statistics, which you can see here.

However, if you do decide to purchase a ticket for Wednesday's drawing, you have better odds of winning if you let the computer pick the numbers for you. The Multi-State Lottery Association said about 75 percent of winning tickets are computer picked. Dr. Dyhr agreed.

"I would actually encourage people to randomly pick the numbers, because that's another problem with expected value calculation. Not only do you not actually get $400 million, but very often, and this is an interesting phenomenon, when people do win a large jackpot, they have to share it with other people who have the same numbers," Dr. Dyhr said.

Full disclosure: Dr. Dyhr said he has never actually purchased a lottery ticket.

Wednesday's drawing is scheduled for 9 p.m. Mountain Standard Time Wednesday. If no one comes forward with winning numbers, the jackpot will continue to increase until the next scheduled drawing, which is Saturday.

(© 2016 KUSA)


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