Guaranteeing a Powerball win is both possible and unprofitable

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 19:33:09-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A very rich person could guarantee a Powerball win, but they'd lose money in the process.

That's according to a somewhat scientific attempt by a math-challenged reporter to crunch the numbers.

Take the basic facts:

1. There is no limit to the number of tickets an individual can buy.
2. There are 292 million possible number combinations for the Powerball prize.
3. Each ticket costs $2.00

If a person had and was willing to invest $584 million, they could buy every possible number combination.

But they'd have to do it one ticket at a time, meaning hiring a whole lot of people to fill out the forms.

If you estimate (unscientifically) that one person could fill out 1,000 tickets over three days between drawings: that means 292,000 workers could fill out every possible number combination in three days in between drawings.

At minimum wage, that would cost about $50.8 million.

Pay $10 million for the administrators and number-crunchers, and another $5 million for security, and you've spent nearly $650 million.

If you do it all right, you win and take the lump sum of $930 million.

The federal tax rate on that would be 39.6 percent.

That puts the total winnings at $562 million after taxes, meaning a guaranteed win had a total cost of $87 million--and that's assuming the rich player has the only winning ticket.