Physically possible to cover every PowerBall number?

So PowerBall is up estimated to be \$\$1.3 billion.

If I had started buying tickets as soon as ticket sales for the next drawing opened last night, would it even be possible to physically process the 292 million tickets required for a guaranteed win?

What would it take to do so?

Probably, except you’d need to take advantage of every sales outlet available. After an attempt to buy out the Florida lottery years back (it did succeed) the lotteries established rules limiting the number of tickets purchased by an individual at one time to prevent locking everyone else out of the system. Some lotteries allow you purchase entries ahead of time, in theory you may be able to purchase every number. However, you risk sharing that prize among many other people with the same number, and if you miss a number or lose a ticket you could be SOL. The Florida case was unusual because you only needed to pick 5 numbers and the pot had grown over time so that a win paid off well even if every number was purchased. They got lucky because they weren’t able to buy every number. In this case the cash value is only now exceeding the cost of buying every ticket.

ETA: I’m sure the Powerball operator can process the 292 million numbers through their computers in enough time. You don’t need the physical ticket. But they may not allow it.

I think your math is off. I calculate ~27 billion possible numbers, meaning ~5 billion tickets required at five different picks allowed per ticket. How are you calculating?

I didn’t calculate at all. I heard 1:292,000,000 chance of winning and just assumed that was the number. If it’s up in the 27 billion range why would anybody bother?

I believe your math is wrong. The first 5 numbers are drawn from the same pot of numbers, and they don’t have to be in the same order. So it’s combinations, not permutations. The powerball is chosen from a separate pot.

There used to be syndicates that did this. Sample story here. When lottery jackpots got sufficiently high, they bought every ticket. While they were guaranteed a win, they weren’t guaranteed that they would be the only winner, so the the possible win had to be at least twice the maximum odds, multiplied by the cost of the ticket. Lottery organisations soon spotted this and capped jackpots. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been done in America. Of course, to be guaranteed of winning the Powerball, you’ll have to spend \$584M, and the \$1.3B is before taxes etc, but it’s getting there.

I’ve tried explaining this to *sooooo *many people. The winning numbers have literally NO relation to each other whatsoever. This is why 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 has the same chance as any other set. Imagine instead of numerals the lottery balls had pictures of animals on them. This way Elephant, Giraffe, Bear, Cat, Horse, Snake coming out would seem as random as Rhino, Squid, Mouse, Fish, Bird, Whale etc. And the integer numerals work exactly the same way…

If that’s how you explain it, I can see how you get frustrated. Next time just say “you win by getting the same group of numbers, not a specific ordering of those numbers.”

If you spent \$584M buying tickets then that is an expense you can deduct from your winnings. Leaving you \$716 of taxable income if you are the sole winner. If there are 2 winners then your taxable would be \$66M. If there are 3 winners you have a \$150 M loss that you can not take off your taxes.

How much else would one win though? You get money for getting 5 numbers right, 4 numbers right, plus there’s money for getting the powerball and other numbers, plus all the buck and two buck winners, that’s got to help out quite a bit as well.

Has anyone ever tried to figure out what the absolute payout would be by buying ever number there is?

Ballparking how the jackpot has been climbing from one drawing to another it seems pretty obvious the lottery *industry *can sell 292 million tickets in either 3 or 4 days depending on whether it’s Wed-Sat or Sat-Wed. I’d bet nationwide they could sell that many in just a few hours.

So the limiting factor is you and your team being able to make 292 million purchases. If you’re trying to cover all the choices without repeats you’ll need to fill out the mark-sense sheets with your picks and use those to buy your tickets.

The good news is those mark-sense forms aren’t specific to a particular drawing. I think they hold about 10 picks each. So you and your team could spend weeks pre-filling out the 29 million mark sense forms.

Then all you need to do is spread them out enough to get them all purchased. If you have 4 days you need to convert about 7.5 million forms to tickets per day. At one minute per completed purchase, that’ll take 7.5 million man-minutes. There are 86400 minutes in a day. So if they’d let you, you could use 86 people per shift working in shifts monopolizing just 86 lottery terminals for the whole time.

As others have said they won’t let you do that. But it’s pretty obvious that with enough helpers you could do this pretty easily. If each outlet only let you make one purchase every 10 minutes you’d need enough people to camp out at 860 outlets. Figure 3 shifts of 8 hours each and you’re talking about 2500 paid ticket-buyers. Pretty trivial to set that up. Events like conventions or major sporting events often have hundreds of temps. There are even companies that specialize in providing these mass armies of almost unskilled labor.

I doubt it’ll be profitable, but it’s logistically feasible.

I’ve read that syndicates pre-printed them all - much faster.

If you bought \$584 million in tickets, wouldn’t the jackpot increase by that amount, thus making the jackpot 1.3 billion + 584 million that you bought tickets for? Although roughly half that would go towards taxes…

I’m trying to imagine what happens if someone actually did this. They’d have to collect, sort and file all those millions of tickets in a way that they could locate the winning one among all of the others.

(69 choose 5) * 26 = 292 201 338, which is, of course, the odds on the back of the ticket.

I figured the expenses would start adding up fast, but even with the money to do it I couldn’t see a physical way of making it happen. And it sounds like it would be pretty near run thing.

So I can pre-print them! Good deal, 10 numbers per page, will two playslips fit onto a standard letter page? So at 2 per page I need to print some 14.5 million pages?

My printer is good for about 15 pages per minute and it looks like the cartridge (large capacity) is good for about 385 pages. That’s 37,662 ink cartridges. I wonder if I can get a bulk discount on that in the drum. Uh oh, at 15ppm, looking at 670 days to print? Can I get a bulk discount on some higher speed printers as well? Probably going to need about 1000 printers to get it done in a day since having to change out ink cartridges and reload paper pretty constantly. How fast would printers break down under constant use like that?

Heavens no! If every dollar used to buy tickets went to the jackpot (and not into the pockets of the government, retailers, ticket makers, regulators, etc much less the down ticket prizes) there’d be no reason to have a state-sanctioned lottery in the first place!

Nobody says a single person can possibly do this alone using home equipment. But it’s completely trivial for any kind of organized operation run like a business.

The slips can be printed on the same kinds of high speed printers any big business uses to print tens of thousands of phone / electric / credit card bills per hour. A million credit card bills is all in an ordinary day’s work for some companies.

The playslips could also be printed up months in advance then warehoused. You just get ready in advance, taking as many months as necessary for your smaller crew to finish the work, and then wait until the jackpot gets big enough to warrant putting your master plan into action. IMO It’s actually a good bet there are several such operations in action this week, each unaware of the others.

You will need a small army of mules to fan out and exchange cash and playslips for actual lottery tickets. And another small army to collect and catalog all the tickets. And secure storage for quite a pile of paper. But all this is within the reach of an ordinary small to medium-sized business.

But having \$584 million in cash to pay for the tickets is not.

You don’t need to to buy every ticket.

Lotteries do not just pay out on (say) 6 numbers. They pay out on 5, 4 and maybe 3 numbers. So you cover all the 3 and some (if not all) of the 4 number combinations. In general, you should win enough to cover the cost of all the tickets from the 3 and 4 combo wins. It also costs a whole lot less than buying all the 6 number combinations.

Your profit comes from any 5 or 6 combo wins you also collect.

I did the maths once for the New Zealand lottery which was a Pick Six plus bonus ball, but it was a long time ago, and I don’t feel like doing the math again.