Who Wants to be a Multibillionaire? Or, how to Choose which Lottery will (inevitably?) Make you Rich

28 April 2017

Who doesn’t love playing games? And it’s no secret that people love games they can win at, especially if they can win a considerable sum. Look at the gamification trend in general, for instance, or even the achievements trend in video games - they're all little prizes promised to their players for their efforts, and help motivate and entertain them. And then there's games you can actually win big prizes at. Hope and wishful thinking are traits we all share, so perhaps this collective optimistic predisposition is to account for the popularity of lottery games and the like. But are our hopes unfounded? Exactly how many chances have you got of purchasing the golden lottery ticket – and how much could you actually win?

Powerball makes history
On January 13th, 2016, the US Powerball jackpot awarded a staggering 1.6 billion USD – making it the largest jackpot in the world. The winning amount was split three ways, among two couples and 70-year old Maureen Smith of Melbourne Beach, Florida. She reportedly played the lottery for years, always betting on the same six numbers, before she struck gold.

Source: Powerball, via Facebook
Granted, Maureen’s story proves that sometimes all it takes is patience and devotion before you can be rewarded. But statistically speaking, what exactly are your odds of winning the US Powerball Lottery? Launched in 1992, Powerball was the first ever lottery game to use two drums to draw numbers from, allowing for more complex prize levels, low overall odds of winning and high jackpot odds. Powerball draws take place twice a week, and players are asked to choose five numbers from 1 to 69 and a "powerball" number from 1 to 26. Powerball itself explains that the overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 24.87 –fairly easy, right?– but the chances of winning the Grand Prize are 1 in 292,201,338.00. But don’t be disheartened – past winners come from all walks of life, so who knows if you’re not the next in line?

A Merry Spanish Christmas
If you find yourself on the other side of the pond, then keep this in mind: the Spanish surely know how to celebrate Christmas. The Spanish Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad (Spanish Christmas Lottery) or simply Lotería de Navidad is held annually since 1812. It even continued uninterrupted during the Spanish Civil War, when the lottery draw was moved from Madrid to Valencia, where the Republicans were forced to relocate their capital. After the overthrow of the Republican government by the Spanish General Franco, the lottery continued without break under the new regime that lasted 36 years, making it the second longest continuously running lottery worldwide.

Source: Lotteria de Navidad via Facebook
Nowadays, families around Spain gather around their TV sets each year on December 22nd to find out who is the lucky winner – set to have an unforgettable Christmas. It is widely considered to be the largest lottery game in the world, as measured by the largest prize payout and the largest first prize/jackpot. In 2015, the maximum total prize pool would be €2.52 billion Euros and the total prize for the first place jackpot –affectionately nicknamed El Gordo ("the Fat One" or “the Fatty”)– would be a €720 million Euros. In 2016, the total amount available for all prizes was a whopping $2.310 billion Euros – or 2.414 billion USD.

Whichever basket you choose to put your eggs in, remember – folk wisdom claims that there is nothing like the enjoyment you get when you’ve earned your money by working hard. Now go, prove them wrong!

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