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Why 1 Powerball ticket is enough

You have to be in it to win it. But you don't have to be in it twice.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 28, 2012 2:17PM

This post comes from Chuck Jaffe at partner site MarketWatch.


MarketWatch logoWith the Powerball jackpot at record levels this week -- $550 million as of midday today -- there's a rush to get tickets for a chance to become an instant centi-millionaire. And with all that hoopla comes chronic waste. Chief among it: the purchase of "extra" lottery tickets by many consumers looking to increase their odds of winning.


Man playing Lotto © Angelo Cavalli, Photodisc, Getty ImagesIt's not that the lottery has no benefit for the gazillions of losers who, statistically speaking, are in it so someone else can win it, and win it bigger than ever. There's some good that comes from playing what-if games, from doing something that gives hope and generates excitement in the middle of our mundane routines.


But it's important not to lose sight of the basic fact that the lottery is a loser's bet, and that the time spent asking "What would I do if I won the lottery?" should not undermine the more important, seldom asked question: "What should I do if I never win the lottery?"


For most people -- especially those who play only when jackpots are ginormous -- the lottery is a wishing well, a place where they throw money in the pool and hope for life-changing good fortune. If you're giving up a movie or a latte to buy a few extra Powerball slips, it's a transfer of one discretionary expense for another. The problem comes, however, when you pour money into the lottery pool at the expense of improving your life in other ways.


Consider just how bad the Powerball odds of 175 million-to-1 really are.

Think of a national drawing where, at the next State of the Union address, the president is going to randomly say the name of one American woman. With roughly 159 million American women, according to the last census estimates, there's a better chance that someone you know gets the presidential mention. Buying dozens -- even hundreds -- of tickets won't swing those kinds of odds in your favor. (Bought 10 tickets? Each has roughly a 0.000000005714 chance of winning.)


And as for excitement of being in the game, or the social benefits of participating in the office pool, many studies have shown that after you buy the first ticket, there are diminishing emotional returns. Increase your lottery purchase from a $2 ticket to a sawbuck and you don't get five times the rush of playing simply because you bought five tickets instead of one.


The buzz of the dream may last a little longer -- as you have more tickets to confirm as losers -- but the extra dollars did not buy you the same kind of goodwill and hope that you got from just the first ticket purchased.


So, go ahead: Play the game. But don't feed the ticket-buying frenzy when you'd clearly be better off feeding your piggy bank.


More on MarketWatch and MSN Money:


Nov 28, 2012 7:50PM
If I win..Just three words...SOLID GOLD TOILET!
Nov 28, 2012 6:35PM
If you're lucky, it only takes one.
Nov 28, 2012 6:26PM
Hey! I always buy the same number three times.  Just in case someone else hits too, I get three shares!
Nov 28, 2012 6:09PM
I bought 5 and am not even sure if I win I would turn it in, not sure I would like all my new friends. 
Nov 28, 2012 6:07PM
I always buy a second ticket - it's the cheapest way to double my chances
Nov 28, 2012 5:30PM
Multiple tickets do substantially change your odds. They are still astronomical but the orders of magnitude do change. 1 ticket approx 170 x 10**6, 10 tickets 170 x 10** 5, 100 tickets 170 x 10**4
Nov 28, 2012 5:24PM

Yup. . . one ticket is thoery

One winner is enough....but the more the merrier......

Invest in Wall Street and lose it all.......

.Put it in the it disappear -

Duh....What Happened ???   i  Don't Know Nothing...."the Jon Corzine defense???"

not me - must have been someone else - I'm innocent your honor.......

C H A R I T Y  -  B E G I N S  - A T  - H O M E  -   put it in my pocket - I'll take good care of it

Nov 28, 2012 5:17PM
I bought one ticket, the winning one, at least in my mind for a few hours, which is fun.  But to spend more than that trying to increase my odds clearly would be stupid and those who do are the ones who least can afford it.  Have fun by buying one ticket, dream for a few hours on how you would spend it, but know that once you check the numbers and they aren't the winning ones you will still be ok and not out more than you can afford to lose.
Nov 28, 2012 4:43PM
An Obama voter read that a lottery winner advocating avoiding the quick pick, and choose your own set of numbers. She promptly went out and bought twenty tickets with the same set of numbers. She thought she would win 20 times 550 million if her number was selected. 
Nov 28, 2012 4:16PM
No gambling for me period...the only one who really wins are those who are taking in the money. And the one who or several who do win, completely use it the wrong way. Money isn't what it's cracked up to be. It's just a piece of paper, used to separate people; those who have it from those who don't.
Nov 28, 2012 4:12PM

Yes before purchasing ticket(s) one should consider what other deal(s) worth $550M they currently have as work in process.



Nov 28, 2012 4:10PM
Ya can't win if you don't play...I'll get my ticket or two...and chuckle as I always do when I don't score one single number!
Nov 28, 2012 3:48PM
Are you serious!!
If it were fixed these random morons wouldn't be winning I can guarantee that!
Nov 28, 2012 3:47PM
I would really like to test the theory about whether winning this much money would make me happy or not....let me win and I will let you all know how it turns out.
They have a trick to picking the winning numbers, it's all a set up ! I won the Washington state lottery when it first started but I only won $128.00 because so many people had my numbers. But they soon fixed that kind of winning. Now you only see one winner and some times two and very seldom three but you never see a winning drawing where there are more then that, Why because it's rigged.
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