REVEALED: Is Powerball my best chance of winning big?

As Australians await the results of yet another sizeable Powerball draw, have you ever wondered if the popular game is your best bet of winning the jackpot of one of the many lottery draws around the nation?

The chances of claiming a Division One Powerball prize are about 134.5 million to one – considerably worse than the 77 million to one odds pre-April 2018 when the game's format was changed.

To put that into some sort of context, the odds of being struck by lightning or being crushed by a vending machine are significantly lower.

Despite the mind-boggling odds, record jackpots can attract up to half of the adult population, according to The Lott.

Deakin University's Dr Paul Harrison, whose research focuses on the emotional and rational behaviour of consumers, says when an element of risk is involved, people struggle to make rational decisions.

The Lott have revealed the hottest and coldest Powerball numbers ahead of the huge draw. Source: The Lott
The Powerball regularly steals the limelight when it comes to Australia's lottery draws. Source: The Lott

"When it comes to lotteries or anything where there's risk, we're not very good at judging our own capacity," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"What lotteries do is it fires up the emotional parts of the brain as opposed to the rational parts of the brain."

The odds of The Lott's different games are buried on its website and they rarely venture further than that when it comes to promoting upcoming draws.

But Dr Harrison believes even if they were publicised more, or companies were forced to do so, there would be little change in the amount of people playing.

"I think the rational part of all of us would think [the number of players would decrease] but in reality humans are really bad at guessing probability and we also have an overinflated sense of our abilities to be smart," he said.

"These different institutions think as long as we give people the information they'll make better choices, when in fact what we know is even when you give people information to some degree it doesn't really have much of an effect on their very deeply ingrained processes, which include this idea of optimism and overestimating our odds of success."

What lottery draws have the best chance of winning?

Dr Harrison said it was clear the bigger the jackpot, the bigger the interest in the game, hence the furore surrounding the Powerball's larger jackpots.

There is less emphasis placed on the games with smaller jackpots by The Lott's marketing team.

Yet for the punters who simply want to win a life-changing amount of money and not chase the huge jackpots, some of their other offerings make better sense in terms of odds than playing the Powerball.

The Saturday Lotto for example, which has a guaranteed jackpot of $5 million this week, has Division One odds of just over 8 million to one – a fraction of the Powerball's odds.

Queues at newsagents are a common sight on the night of a big Powerball jackpot. Source: Tom Flanagan
Big Powerball draws brings in the crowds – up to 50 per cent of the adult population, according to The Lott. Source: Yahoo News Australia

The Monday and Wednesday Lotto has the same odds as the Saturday offering.

The Oz Lotto, which has a $5 million jackpot next week, and has previously rolled over to $100 million in the past, has odds of 45.4 million to one.

The Lucky Lotteries draws, which are a raffle-style draws, might have meagre $100,000 and $200,000 1st prize offerings, but players are entered into a separate draw for its jackpot.

In 2019, the Lucky Lotteries Mega Jackpot soared beyond $80 million after rolling over for more than two years.

The chances of winning the first prize in the Super game is 270,000 to one and for the Mega game it sits at 200,000 to one.

The corresponding jackpot odds sit at 18.4 million to one, and 9.5 million to one.

And the Set for Life game, which gives jackpot winners $20,000 a month for 20 years, a grand total of $4.8 million, has odds of 38.1 million to one, which gives players better odds than the Oz Lotto but has no potential to see its jackpot grow.

Why do I keep coming back for more despite never winning big?

And while week in week out the dreams of players are often dashed when they don't sweep the top prize, Dr Harrison says taking risks regardless of the outcome is "a really good part of life".

"Taking chances actually gets you places, and that's built into our evolution," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"When speaking to ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) we were talking about how risk can be a good thing because there can be positive outcomes when people take risks."

Those positive outcomes can come in the shape of smaller division prizes. For example, last week's Powerball Division 9 prize was a mere $10.90 yet more than half a million took the amount home.

Dr Harrison says such rewards are all part of a carefully thought out plan by gambling companies to bring you back for more.

"The human brain seeks reward and so what we're doing is constantly trying to get that buzz back," he said.

"With any kind of gambling, [the companies] know exactly the amount of winnings a person or the amount of times a person needs to win that will keep them coming back, and taking those risks and losing their money.

"There's lots of experiments constantly going on testing what works and what doesn't... we're just individuals with an over-inflated sense of self thinking that we're in control.

"These are highly experimental, scientific decisions being made based on return on investments."

Unsurprisingly, Dr Harrison revealed he does not play any form of lottery.

If gambling is a problem for you visit Gambling Help Online or call 1800 858 858.

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