The Powerball jackpot for Wednesday, Oct 26 would have been for an estimated $700 million. No one held the winning ticket and the next draw, on Saturday, Oct 29, will be for $800 million.
Even if someone holds the winning numbers this time, it will be in the top five all-time US lottery jackpots. However, if no one wins, the jackpot will climb higher still.
There has only ever been one Powerball jackpot over $1 billion, in 2016. However, Mega Millions has had three billion-plus jackpots, two of those in the past year.
It has taken 85 days for the jackpot to reach this point, so one billion might seem far away. In all likelihood, however, the jackpot will have crossed that milestone sometime next week. Unless, of course, someone wins it first.
Powerball draws three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. History shows us that, at this point, we should expect that each draw without a winner will add almost $100 million to the top prize, maybe more.
If you want to get in on the action, you’re probably good to go. Forty-five states plus DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands all participate. Residents of Alabama, Nevada or Utah will have to cross the state border to buy their tickets, while those in Hawaii or Alaska are sadly out of luck unless they want to board a plane.
Depending on where you are, you may even be able to buy your Powerball ticket online. Fourteen states plus DC allow the sale of draw tickets online. There are also over a dozen where you can order your tickets through Jackpocket, a lottery courier service.
We even have a Powerball number generator to help you pick your (hopefully) winning combo.
Why the Powerball Jackpot is Growing so Fast
If the first $800 million took 85 days, why should we expect the next $300 million to come within a week? Because of the hype.
Every time someone buys a Powerball ticket, the jackpot grows. When the jackpot is small, those purchases trickle in. As it grows, it becomes more enticing to jackpot hunters, leading to more ticket purchases.
At a certain point, the media gets involved. Big numbers make for good headlines, especially once the jackpots start approaching historic levels. That adds to the hype and drives even more sales.
That’s the sort of dynamic that drives exponential growth. Looking at the past ten years of Powerball history, that’s exactly what we see.
Most jackpots over the past decade (the graph shows those since Jan 1, 2012) have fallen along an exponentially-growing curve. The current one happens to fit it neatly.
With each draw, the jackpot grows a little faster as excitement builds and more people rush out to buy tickets. By the time that curve hits $800 million, it’s so steep that it will hit $1 billion within one or two more draws.
This jackpot has already grown by about $300 million in the past week. It’s now looking very likely that next Wednesday’s draw will be for ten figures if no one wins on Saturday or Monday.
A Winner is Likely in the Next Week
That said, if you want a chance to win a huge jackpot, waiting for $1 billion might not be the best bet. Although it’s probably less than a week away, the odds are against it getting there.
Exponentially growing ticket sales cut both ways. On the one hand, they cause the jackpot to grow faster. At the same time, however, they increase the chances that someone will be holding the winning numbers.
It’s impressive enough that the jackpot has grown as far as it has. Of nearly 200 jackpots in Powerball history, this will be one of only four to exceed $700 million. Only one of those reached $1 billion.
Looking at the graph, it’s evident that it thins out considerably after $500 million or so. That’s no coincidence, as that’s the level at which jackpots start getting a lot of media coverage. Already, this one is catching the attention of even the Canadian media. (The very biggest jackpots tend to attract some cross-border ticket buyers.)
Even with 292 million possible combinations of numbers, there are now so many people buying tickets that the odds of everyone missing are dwindling with each draw.
Why Some Jackpots Grow Much Faster or Slower
The exponential curve in our graph fits most jackpots but not all of them.
Over the past decade, there have been about ten jackpots that grew to large numbers unusually quickly and a similar number that remained small after longer periods of time.
The biggest outlier also happens to be the biggest jackpot of all time – Powerball or otherwise. On Jan 13, 2016, three lucky ticket-holders split a record-setting $1.6 billion. Amazingly, it only took 70 days for the jackpot to reach that total, less than the current run.
At the other extreme, the longest run without a win in the past decade was 126 days, ending Jan 20, 2021. Although that jackpot was substantial, at $731 million, the exponential growth projection would have predicted it to be over $3 billion by that point.
Part of this is just the nature of exponential growth. Slight deviations early on will also grow exponentially, leading to long-term results that are far off from what you expect.
Any number of factors can cause the original deviation. For instance, a huge jackpot often creates slower growth for the next few, as they seem less exciting in comparison. Conversely, a slow news week might lead to reporting on a jackpot a little earlier than usual, which could, in turn, drive an early surge in sales. The prevailing economic climate also matters, and so on.
That said, the current jackpot seems right on course. It might still take off and become an outlier in the positive direction, but with hype building, it’s unlikely to slow down at this point.