Things to know about the $800M Powerball jackpot

powerball prize over $500 million
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Dreams of riches inspired a flurry of ticket-buyers, sending this weekend’s Powerball jackpot surging to $800 million even faster than lottery officials expected.

Lottery officials say sales have been robust since no one won Wednesday’s estimated $500 million jackpot, and the prize could grow even more. It will be the biggest U.S. jackpot ever, beyond the previous record of a $656 million Mega Millions prize won in 2012 by players in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland.

Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Ohio has sold three winning tickets since beginning to sell them in February 2010.

Here are more details about the giant jackpot:

The jackpot for the twice-weekly game started at $40 million on Nov. 4 and has been growing ever since. Because the payout is based on sales, the prize has grown more quickly as people rush to buy tickets.

A winner would have the option of being paid $800 million through annual payments over 29 years or opting for $496 million in cash.

The odds are one in 292.2 million, which means you’re really, really, really unlikely to win. To put those odds in perspective, they’re about the same as the chance of flipping a coin and getting heads 28 times in a row. But as lottery officials often note, you have no chance of winning if you don’t buy a ticket.

Some players feel they improve their chance of winning by pooling their money with co-workers, with a promise to split the winnings. While that can increase the fun of playing, the odds of winning are so tiny that adding 50 or 100 chances doesn’t change much. Lottery officials recommend that if people pool their money, they put in writing how they plan to split the prize – since it’s easy for misunderstandings to crop up when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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