Advice from 2 number crunchers: Don't spend that $340 million just yet
Randy Furst
Star Tribune
Published October 19, 2005

If you're hoping to win tonight's $340 million Powerball jackpot, consider what the mathematicians are saying:

"I don't buy," said David Bressoud, DeWitt Wallace professor of mathematics at Macalester College in St. Paul. "I know the odds myself, and I know how terrible they are."

Douglas Arnold, director of the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications at the University of Minnesota, is equally dismissive.

"I am not a lottery buyer, and I think you will find most mathematicians are not," he said. "Most of the time the odds are against you, so if you play it many, many times, on the whole, you will end up losing."

Still, people are lining up throughout Minnesota and elsewhere for their shot at the largest Powerball jackpot in the history of the game. The previous record was $315 million, which was won by a West Virginia man in 2002.

Just what are your chances? Literally, they're about 146.1 million to 1.

What does that really mean?

Bressoud: "If you buy 10 tickets a week, every week, it would take you 280,000 years before you could expect to win."

Arnold: "If you were to select a group of Powerball numbers every minute for 138 years, you would have about a 50 percent chance of picking the winning Powerball ticket."

Slim enough for you?

Arnold adds that you have a seven times better chance of becoming a saint.

And Bressoud notes that you're six times more likely to get elected president of the United States.