Nerdy Powerball FAQ

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

The Powerball FAQ was most likely written by a slightly annoyed statistician. You’d think the FAQ would be full of legalese and vague statements, but it reads more like notes from the know-it-all in your Stat 101 class. The answer to, “Your odds and probabilities are wrong.”:

Are not. Sure, the odds of matching 1 red ball out of 26 are 1 in 26, but we are not giving the odds for matching a red ball. We give the odds for winning a prize for matching one red ball ALONE. If you match the red ball and one or more white balls, you win some other prize, but not this prize. The odds of matching one red ball ALONE are harder than 1 in 26 because there is some risk that you will also match one or more white ball numbers – and then win a different prize.

Some persons who enjoy statistics (they do really exist) will come up with odds of 1 in 17 billion for the jackpot prize. Remember that you don’t need to match the numbers in exact order – we use combinations to determine the probabilities for the first five white balls and not permutations.


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