You only need one $2 ticket to play.
The jackpot is won by matching all five white balls in any order, and picking the red Powerball number. Jackpot winners can either have their winnings paid out over 29 years in 30 payments or a lump sum payment.
When the Powerball climbs this high, it brings out a lot of people who don't normally play, said John Hagerty, spokesperson for the Virginia Lottery. (Virginia is one of 43 states that play; Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands play too.)
"We caution people to play responsibly — it only takes two dollars to play," he said. "Have some fun with it."
Higher jackpot amounts also mean more play by office pools, he noted. "We see a lot of friends getting together, pooling their money, it's that shared experience."
On the day of the next drawing, Wednesday (you'll have until 10 p.m. to buy a ticket before the 11 p.m. drawing), Virginia alone will sell 1.9 million tickets that day, Hagerty said. That's about 3,900 tickets per minute statewide.
Hagerty says that even if you don't win the jackpot, check your numbers for lesser prizes. Last year, Virginia saw $11 million in lottery winnings go unclaimed. Winners have 180 days from the day of the drawing to claim their prize.
Some people choose their Powerball numbers using all sorts of lucky numbers, using birth dates, ages, anniversaries and other numbers with special meaning, while others let the machine ("easy pick" in lotto lingo) do the number-choosing for them.
(the state got into the game three years ago), let the machine do the picking when he bought a ticket in February at the airport in Richmond on his way out of town on a business trip. The next morning, at his hotel in Denver, he checked the numbers for the $217 million jackpot.
"I think my heart has started beating again," he told lottery officials.
"I thought he might be having a heart attack," his wife said.
On Feb. 14, the Honeywells returned to the spot where Dave bought the winning ticket, to receive their check. They had a choice of taking the full jackpot in 30 annual payments or a one-time cash option of $136.4 million before taxes for the $217 million jackpot. They chose the cash option.
The Powerball drawing on Nov. 28, 2012, produced the largest jackpot (annuity and cash values) in the game's history, $587.5 million annuity, or $384.7 million cash value.
In case you're wondering: The cash option for $350 million is $222.8 million.
What are your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot? One in 175.2 million. You're more likely to get struck by lightning (one in 700,000) or get fatally attacked by a shark (one in 3.7 million).
But, somebody's gotta win.
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