Unless you’re incredibly lucky, playing the lottery (financially speaking) is a risky business. Of course, there’s the thrilling and fun aspect of playing Powerball, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Whether you have a flutter with Lady Luck every once in a while, or regularly play the same numbers twice a week every week, there’s a case to be made for when to play the lottery.
In fact, there are times when it is mathematically in your favour to roll the dice on those Powerball tickets. For example, when the jackpot grows and grows, it brings up the value of that $2 ticket. That’s known as an expected value. You can find it by multiplying the advertised payout by the probability of winning the jackpot.
Let’s use an example to better explain it.
If Powerball tickets cost $2, and 200 people play, a jackpot over $200 means your ticket is worth more than the $2 you paid for it. If you bought all the tickets for a total of $200, you’d scoop the jackpot and take home more than what you paid for your tickets.
So, theoretically speaking, one of the best times to play the lottery is when a ticket is worth more than what you pay for it.
Of course, there are other prizes besides the big jackpot. For the sake of simplicity, let’s work with a ballpark figure. To figure out how big a jackpot you would need to earn the equivalent or more than the cost of your ticket, you need to divide the cost of probability by the odds.
In the case of Powerball, that sum looks like this: 1/292,201,338. That’s about $548 million. That’s what the jackpot needs to be to make it worthwhile playing.
Now, if we add the 39.4% in federal income taxes, and assume you don’t need to pay state income tax and divide by 0.606, we get the sum of $974 million. That’s the pre-tax sum for the jackpot.
Then, you need to think about the fact that you might have to share the prize with multiple winners, which is entirely likely. If for argument’s sake, 500 million tickets are sold worldwide, the jackpot’s value will drop around 37%. So, take that $974 million and divide it by 0.63. That gives you a pre-tax lump sum cash prize of $1.5 billion, or a jackpot grand total of $2.6 billion.
Remember, it’s a ballpark sum to help you figure out the best time to play the lottery!
As you can see, it’s often best to purchase tickets when the jackpot is higher than the odds of winning. Does that mean you should wait all year and then go out and spend your savings on lottery tickets? No.
We absolutely agree that spending $2 for a few minutes of dreaming is great, inexpensive fun. The mere idea of hitting a big jackpot, the thrill of watching the numbers being drawn – it’s simply exhilarating. But it shouldn’t rule your pocket or your life.
Winning the lottery is certainly a life-changing event and dreaming about winning is itself a lot of fun, but don’t let lottery mania become all-consuming. Playing a few tickets now and then is a great way to spend a couple of dollars. But obsessing with when to play is another story.
There’s no concrete answer to this one. If you’re feeling lucky and want to play a draw that lands on your birthday, or perhaps you think your anniversary is a lucky day and a draw happens to fall then, go for it. But the best time to play is mathematical – it comes down to odds and jackpot sizes.
If we’re pushed to answer when the best time of year to play the lottery is, we’d have to say it’s when you can comfortably afford to purchase tickets for fun.
Find all the latest Powerball information at Powerball.ca today.