Powerball's jackpot rose last night by $19 million – a sign that lots of lottery players failed to recognize a better deal.
Mega Millions had more than triple the jackpot for half the price.
Per dollar, Mega Millions even has better odds.
And the two lottery games have identical territories: the same 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Before last night, the Powerball jackpot stood at $81 million vs. $257 million for Mega Millions through Tuesday, then vs. $291 million for Mega Millions on Wednesday.
The new Mega Millions cash payout of $157 million was nearly double Powerball's annuity, payable in 30 yearly installments.
And yet Powerball sold enough $2 tickets to nearly double its minimum $10 million increase and land at $100 million for the annuity, $56.1 million for the cash.
The rollover, of course, happened because no ticket matched all the numbers drawn last night: 6, 9, 11, 31 and 44, with a Powerball of 25.
Two players, in Missouri and Washington, D.C., won $2 million each for matching the first five numbers while having the Power Play prize-boosting option. Three Oklahoma tickets and one apiece in Indiana and California won $1 million apiece, for matching the first five without the Power Play.
Perhaps the news about October's overhaul of Mega Millions has yet to sink in.
For more than a year and a half, Powerball had been kicking Mega Millions' keister. Not one of Mega Millions' last 21 jackpots topped $200,000, but during the same period 10 Powerball jackpots did. Seven topped $300 million, with two surpassing $580 million.
So, on Oct. 22, Mega Millions made a bunch of changes. Longer odds, so jackpots were more likely to roll over. Higher second-tier prizes – a new minimum of $1 million, a new max of $5 million with the Megaplier option. A minimum jackpot of $15 million (up from $12 million), and minimum increases of $5 million when no one hits. Without raising the $1 price of a ticket.
The jackpot hasn't been hit since.
With odds of 1 in 259 million, it's quite likely to roll over again Friday night and zoom past that $300 million mark.
That's likely to attract a lot of attention.
On March 23, 2012, Mega Millions stood at $290 million, almost the same as the current jackpot. It rolled over to $356 million, and when that rolled over, and the country went nuts.
When the smoke cleared – after all, skyrocketing makes smoke – a new U.S. jackpot record was set: $656 million.
So a wild ride could be in store if no one hits Friday night.
Unless, we've all become jaded – or broke – because of gigantic jackpots.
By the way, there are a few reasons to keep playing Powerball at the moment.
(1) If you like to play a favorite set of numbers, your odds might be better with Powerball. The first five numbers in Mega Millions now go up to 75, diluting the chances of previously possible combinations.
(2) If you like to play a sixth number number higher than 15, you're stuck with Powerball. The Mega Ball now only goes up to 15.
(3) If you think, what's the difference – one snowball's chance in hell, or two snowballs' chances in hell? – well, you have a point.
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.