Players will have a chance Wednesday night at an estimated $500 million Powerball jackpot, making it the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year.
The jackpot, which grew from $450 million earlier Wednesday, will be the largest since a Powerball prize that climbed to $564.1 million last February before it was won by players from North Carolina, Texas and Puerto Rico.
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Powerball is played 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The jackpot would be the sixth-largest ever in North America. It's been growing since the last Powerball jackpot winner on Nov. 4 and will keep climbing if no one wins the big prize on Wednesday. If there isn't a jackpot winner, the prize for Saturday's drawing would be significantly larger, but it would still take some time to grow beyond the record. That was a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot won in March 2012. The largest Powerball prize was a $590.5 million jackpot won by a Florida woman in May 2013.
The odds are one in 292.2 million, which means you're really, really, really unlikely to win. For some comparison, your chance of being struck by lightning in a year is about one in 960,000. But as lottery officials often note, you have no chance of winning if you don't buy a ticket.
Some players feel they increase their odds of winning by pooling their money with co-workers, with a promise to split the winnings. Joining with colleagues and friends can increase the fun of playing, but the odds of winning are so tiny that adding 50 or 100 chances doesn't matter much. Lottery officials recommend that if people pool their money, they put down rules in writing for splitting the prize, as it's easy for misunderstandings to crop up when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.