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Is the Powerball for the entire country?

The Powerball is one of the most popular lottery games in the United States. It is offered in 45 states, as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The key question many people have is whether the Powerball is played by the entire country or just certain states. The short answer is that while the majority of states do participate, the Powerball is not played nationwide by every single state.

Participating States

As mentioned above, the Powerball is available in 45 U.S. states currently. The states where the Powerball is not played include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Utah

The reason these 5 states do not participate is because they have their own state-run lottery systems and games. For example, Nevada has the Megabucks progressive jackpot game instead of Powerball. The lottery games available varies by state based on each state’s laws and lottery commission decisions.

National Reach

While 5 states is a considerable number, the Powerball is still played by a significant majority of the country. With 45 states plus additional U.S. jurisdictions participating, the Powerball has become America’s de facto national lottery game.

The reach across most of the nation is why the Powerball can offer incredibly large jackpot amounts. With players from many states all vying for the top prize, the jackpots build up quickly when there is no winner. Over the years, the Powerball has set new records with jaw-dropping jackpot amounts in excess of $1 billion.

History of the Powerball

To understand how the Powerball became the quasi-national lottery game requires examining its origins and history:

Predecessor Lottery

The story starts with the Lotto America game in 1988. This was the first U.S. lottery game that allowed players to pick their own numbers rather than having automatic quick-pick numbers. Lotto America was originally offered in 7 states: Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The game was a success and additional states began to join over the next couple years. By 1992, Lotto America was being offered by 15 different lottery jurisdictions.

Powerball Launch

In 1992, the Lotto America game transitioned to become the Powerball lottery with some revised rules and changes. The most significant change was the introduction of the Power Play multiplier feature which allowed players to increase non-jackpot winnings for an extra $1 per ticket.

The Powerball name was chosen to convey the sense of power and potentially life-changing winnings. The Powerball lottery built upon the success of Lotto America and began to expand across the country. By 1997, 20 states were participating. By the year 2000, 32 total lotteries had joined Powerball.

Recent Growth

Powerball continued growing in availability and popularity throughout the 2000s and 2010s. A few significant developments:

  • 2006: Powerball added the option for players to multiply non-jackpot prizes up to 5 times using the Power Play
  • 2009: The number of regular balls increased from 39 to 59, lowering the jackpot odds and increasing possible jackpots
  • 2012: Powerball made history with a $587.5 million jackpot split across two winning tickets
  • 2015: 10X Power Play multiplier introduced
  • 2017: Game expands to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Over its three decade lifespan, Powerball has continued evolving and expanding to become a lottery game played by nearly the entire country.

How the Powerball Works

The Powerball lottery follows a basic two-drawing format that players have become familiar with:

Choosing Numbers

To play Powerball, players select 5 main numbers from 1 to 69, and 1 extra Powerball number from 1 to 26.

There are a couple ways to pick numbers:

  • Quick Pick: Have the lottery terminal randomly select your 5 numbers + Powerball number
  • Manual Pick: Manually choose all 5+1 numbers on a play slip or tell the lottery retailer

Each Powerball play costs $2 per ticket. Players can multiply non-jackpot prizes up to 10 times using the optional Power Play add-on for $1 more per ticket.


Powerball drawings are held every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time. At each drawing, lottery ball machines select 5 main numbers and the Powerball.

To win the jackpot, a ticket must match all 5 main numbers and the Powerball number. Lower tier prizes are available for matching some numbers or just the Powerball.

Powerball Jackpots and Odds

The excitement surrounding the Powerball lottery is driven largely by the chance to win truly massive jackpot prizes. Let’s look at Powerball jackpots and calculate the odds.

Jackpot Amounts

How high can the Powerball jackpot climb? Powerball jackpots start at $20 million and keep growing each drawing until there is a winner. With so many players from multiple states participating, the top prizes can quickly reach huge numbers.

Here are some record Powerball jackpots over the history of the game:

Jackpot Amount Drawing Date
$1.586 Billion January 13, 2016
$768.4 Million March 27, 2019
$731.1 Million January 20, 2021
$699.8 Million October 4, 2021
$687.8 Million October 27, 2018

As you can see from the largest jackpots, the prizes can grow to unbelievable amounts approaching or exceeding $1 billion when the top prize rolls over many times.

Odds of Winning

The downside is the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are extremely long and unlikely. The odds are calculated as follows:

  • Odds of choosing the 5 main numbers correctly: 1 in 292,201,338
  • Odds of choosing the Powerball correctly: 1 in 26
  • Odds of choosing all 6 numbers correctly: 1 in 292,201,338 x 1 in 26 = 1 in 11,688,053,520

So the odds of matching the entire Powerball number combination are 1 in over 11 billion. For perspective, the odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime are around 1 in 15,000. You are about 787,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than win the Powerball jackpot.

This demonstrates why the jackpots can balloon into such astronomical figures before somebody finally hits the lucky numbers. With long odds and millions of players, it takes months sometimes for a jackpot winner to emerge.

Playing Strategies and Tips

Let’s explore some strategies and tips for playing the Powerball lottery:

Quick Pick vs Choosing Numbers

There is no apparent advantage between having the lottery terminal randomly quick pick your numbers versus choosing your own number combination. The odds and probability are the same. Some people believe that allowing quick pick numbers to be generated entirely randomly provides the best opportunity, since human players might unintentionally pick certain numbers more frequently (such as birthdays). However, the odds are the same either way you play.

Number Frequency Analysis

Some players like to run analysis on past Powerball winning numbers to see if certain numbers get picked more frequently. They will then play number combinations containing hot numbers that come up more often. This approach does not actually change the odds or probabilities at all. But it can help make number selection more informed.

Balanced vs Consecutive Numbers

There are different philosophies on whether choosing a balanced number spread or consecutive numbers is better. For example, a balanced play could be something like 2-18-23-38-51. A consecutive play could be 45-46-47-48-49. Some folks think balanced numbers produce more winners, while others believe consecutive numbers have the same chance. No approach has been proven statistically better.

Power Play Multiplier

Except for the jackpot, all prizes can have their winnings multiplied 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, or 10X by adding Power Play for $1 extra per ticket. This can significantly increase the payouts on smaller prizes. The Power Play multiplier number is chosen in a separate drawing after the main numbers. Power Play is a smart play for those looking to win big secondary prizes up to $2 million.

Play in Groups or Pool

Since the Powerball has such high jackpot odds, the best way to realistically take a shot at the top prize is to pool money with friends, family, co-workers, etc. By purchasing multiple tickets together in a group, your collective odds of winning go up. Even splitting one jackpot ticket dozens of ways means each person can take home millions. Playing the lottery in an office pool or syndicate is a popular option.

Consistency and Persistence

It’s important to have realistic expectations about your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. With odds at 1 in 292 million, a single ticket will likely not win big. However, consistently playing the lottery over many years does increase your lifetime chances of hitting it big. While success is not guaranteed, persistently playing Powerball can pay off for the luckiest long-time players.

Powerball Winners

Let’s take a look at some of the notable Powerball jackpot winners over the years:

The BIG Jackpot Winners

Here are some of the single ticket holders who won the very largest Powerball jackpots:

  • January 2016: $1.586 Billion split by 3 tickets in CA, FL, TN
  • March 2019: $768.4 Million won by 1 ticket in WI
  • January 2021: $731.1 Million won by 1 ticket in MD
  • October 2021: $699.8 Million won by 1 ticket in CA
  • October 2018: $687.8 Million split by 2 tickets in IA, NY

These lucky players instantly became billionaires or hundreds-of-millionaires with their historic jackpot wins.

Group Winners

Here are a few examples of big Powerball jackpots won by lottery pools and groups:

  • November 2012: $587.5 Million split by 2 tickets in AZ and MO, including a group of co-workers in MO
  • February 2015: $564.1 Million split by 3 tickets in NC, PR, TX, including a syndicate of co-workers in NC
  • August 2017: $758.7 Million won by 1 ticket in MA, purchased by a hospital workers group

For these winners, even splitting the prize dozens of ways resulted in huge windfalls for each member who pitched in on the tickets.

Repeat Winners

Incredibly, there have even been some repeat jackpot winners over the years. A few examples:

  • Lerynne West won a $343 Million jackpot in 2018, then a $1 Million prize in 2020
  • Richard Lustig won jackpots of $10 Million, $2 Million, and $842,000 across 7 years
  • Joan Ginther won 4 jackpots from 1993-2010 totaling over $20 Million

These persistent players beat the odds to win big more than once, proving it’s possible for lightning to strike the same person multiple times.

Taxes on Powerball Winnings

One aspect of playing the lottery that winners need to keep in mind are the tax implications. Powerball jackpots and prizes often have substantial taxes that must be paid.

Federal Tax Withholding

For U.S. citizens, federal tax law requires 24% of lottery winnings to be immediately withheld when the prize is more than $5,000. For jackpots in the hundreds of millions, tens of millions in federal taxes are withheld upfront.

The top federal individual income tax rate is 37%, so additional taxes may need to be paid at filing time if 37% of the total winnings is more than the initial 24% withholding. State income taxes also apply.

State Tax Withholding

State tax withholding on lottery winnings varies by where you purchased the ticket:

  • Some states take no withholding
  • Other states take 4-8% for state tax
  • A few states such as CA take over 10% in state tax immediately

Winners should consult a tax professional to determine their exact net take-home amount after federal and state taxes.

Lump Sum vs Annuity

For massive jackpots, players can choose to take a lump sum cash payout or annuity payments over 29 years. The lump sum is reduced somewhat from the advertised amount.

Those who believe they can earn higher investment returns long-term with a lump sum might choose that option and pay the taxes all at once. Other winners prefer spreading out the tax liability over 3 decades with the annuity.


In summary, while the Powerball lottery is not played in every single U.S. state, it is remarkably close to being a true nationwide game. Available in 45 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Powerball reaches over 80% of the American population. For Americans looking to play for gigantic jackpot prizes in the hundreds of millions, the Powerball is the de facto national lottery game. It provides excitement and abundant opportunities for players across most of the country to strike it rich and win life-changing amounts of money. With jackpots frequently hitting astronomical levels above $500 million in recent years, the Powerball delivers plenty of nationwide fun and fantasies.