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California’s New Powerball Game: Analyzing Your Odds

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A Powerball lottery ticket is printed for a customer at a 7-Eleven store. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A Powerball lottery ticket is printed for a customer at a 7-Eleven store. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — On Monday, lottery retailers across the state began offering Powerball. Californians no longer have to drive across state lines to join the frenzy of the multistate, multi-million dollar lottery game.

But with the dizzying array of game choices, which one has the best odds? Dr. Michael Orkin, statistics professor at Peralta Community College compared the games with the biggest prizes, Powerball and MegaMillions.

“It turns out taking five numbers from 1-59 and one number from 1-35 gives you a total of about 175 million number combinations,” Orkin said.

In both games, where players pick five digits and one extra, the odds of winning are pretty much the same.

Putting that number in perspective, Orkin said, “You’re 72 times more likely to be killed by riding an animal or animal drawn cart than you are to win the jackpot.”

But with Powerball at $2 a ticket, players can double their odds by playing the $1 MegaMillions game. SuperLotto Plus is another option, where the odds are 1 in 41 million, for a smaller jackpot starting at $7 million.

For any of these games, as jackpots grow, so does the winner’s circle. “The more people who buy tickets, then the greater the chances are that if you do win, you’ll have to split the pot with somebody,” Orkin said.

If you are one of those people who play with favorite numbers, such as your birthday or how many cats you have, go ahead and use them on Powerball as well, because playing with patterns does not impact your odds.

Any way you pick them, the only guaranteed winners are the State of California, which could net $90-120 million a year, and ticket sellers who hope to sell snacks along with millionaire dreams.

“I’m sure it’s gonna be more business,” said Steve Ragh of Ashby Super Market in Berkeley.

Powerball jackpots start at $40 million. The largest jackpot was $587 million, which was shared by two winners last year.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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