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Not Wanting to Share $1.5 Billion? Math Professor Says Powerball Players Should Avoid Birthdays & Lucky Numbers

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
John Mc Sweeney

John McSweeney

While your odds of winning Wednesday night's record-setting $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot are astronomical, there are ways lottery players can make sure they don't share their winnings with others. Mathematics professor John McSweeney, who specializes in probability theory, advises people to avoid picking numbers that others are picking, like birthday dates or lucky numbers.

"With a bigger jackpot, there will surely be more people playing, but you're no more or less likely to win - you're just more likely to have to share your winnings," McSweeney says.

And, the mathematics professor gives examples of how long the odds are against anyone being fortunate enough to a billionaire winner this week:

  • You're more likely to roll a die and see it come up with the same number 11 times in a row;
  • You're more likely to see 27 heads in a row if you start flipping a coin.

But enough with the math. McSweeney says ultimately a lottery player's decision depends on what else the person would do with $2 if you didn't buy the ticket.

"If you get more enjoyment out of dreaming about spending your lottery winnings than you do from a cup of coffee, then go right ahead. Just don't get too disappointed if (rather, when) you lose," the professor says.