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  Real Letters - and Answers.

Here are some more questions and answers - not real common ones, but REAL ones nonetheless. Maybe you've had the same question too (well, maybe not).

FROM Debora W: i don't remember my powerball numbers. my name is debora w----

The number is on your Powerball ticket. Your ticket is under the seat of your car, between the seat and the car door.

FROM PJ: What is the strangest question you've ever received?

This one.

FROM ET: Send me something funny.

OK, maybe this one.

FROM BC: when a person wins the jackpot should they get a atternoy to deal with the state(s) lottery(IES) COMMISONS?

Yes. Ohhh, yes.

FROM Ron: I see no guarantee of an honest game on your website. Does Powerball guarantee players an honest game?

Anytime you see someone offer a guarantee of honesty, run.

FROM MR: On the FAQ page, it say an annuity is guaranteed. In this economy, how is it guaranteed?

The word "guarantee" is certainly overused from time to time, but if it can have any meaning in the English language, then it can be used with the Powerball jackpot. You can imagine some instances where even a Powerball jackpot will not continue:
(1) A meteor strikes North America, wiping out all life.
(2) The U.S. government is overrun by [insert name of feared enemy here].
Short of these events, the Powerball annuity prize will be paid on schedule. What we actually use for our investments is not important; the Powerball prize -- which pays a graduated annuity, rising at 4% per year to keep up with inflation -- is a contract between each of the lottery members (the states) and you. As long as the U.S.A is in business, you will be paid. If the U.S.A. fails, then you will have other things to worry about.

FROM BH: Hello Powerball Charles Strutt: Here is my updated powerball spreadsheet, hopefully not to many transcription errors, I'm running stats as well the current sort shows how many drawings out specific powerball numbers are for both wed and saturday also yellow = current, green 2 hits, red=3, blue=4 clear five or more. Having fun also sent the code to the NSA, I figure if there is a game within the game the NSA will help you all and me decode it, it seems like the right thing to do as sometimes it isn't about the money. ....I'm trying to help people out of the normal boring approach to the game may be it is the kabala or communications from the future or outspace , I put the grid on the keo sattelite due to return in 50,000 years and challenged them to try and send us messages through this game now that would be cool.

You are anything but boring. Please write again when the KEO satellite returns. [Note to readers: you have until December 31, 2009 to send in any four-page message that you would like to include on the KEO satellite].

FROM JB: Why are you guys stealing so much more money from the jackpot. The [other game] doesn't take as much when they pay out the after tax cash amount? Do you have different tax laws?

I can try to explain, but it usually takes about two or three notes to understand. I’ll see if I can do it in one long one. Here goes.

The problem is that persons who ask this question believe that they know how a lottery works. The first part of the explanation is to try to get them to forget what they think they know. We need to start with a Zen story.

An educated man went to visit a Zen master. He wished to learn what the Zen master knew. The master invited him in for tea and listened as his visitor told of his outstanding education. As the visitor talked on and on about his long and valuable education, the Zen master began pouring more tea for the man, until his cup was overflowing and the tea was spilling onto the man and onto the floor.

“Stop,” the man said, “My cup is already too full; it cannot hold anymore.”

“Yes,” said the Zen Master.

You likely believe that a lottery (either Powerball or that other game) begins with an annuity amount and then that we figure how much of a deduction to make to reach the CASH jackpot amount – for some reason “keeping” part of the prize if the winner wants it in cash. This is not correct. Here is how a lottery jackpot prize actually works.

Someone buys a ticket for $1. We take that $1 and set aside 50 cents for the lottery (money for the state lottery's costs - retailers, advertising, computer system, etc.) and for the lottery's good causes that the state lawmakers have established.

The remaining 50 cents is put into the prize pools. Powerball puts 30 cents into the CASH jackpot pool and 20 cents into the other lower prize level pools. So, if we sold one ticket, we announce to the world that the CASH jackpot is at 30 cents.

For simplicity, let’s assume that we have sold enough tickets so that our CASH jackpot prize is $100 million. That actually means that we might have sold a little over $333 million in tickets over a period of many draws. In reality, we must announce an ESTIMATED jackpot before sales start for the next drawing and so we are actually guessing what the sales will be; which means that we are guessing what the CASH jackpot will be.

So, where does the ANNUITY jackpot come from and why is it offered? The annuity jackpot is simply the CASH jackpot PLUS all of the interest that we can earn from investing the cash amount (or most of it since we actually pay some amount to the winner right away). The annuity option is offered in the U.S. because the federal government and most states tax a lottery prize as ordinary income (I know, the whole idea of a lottery is to raise money for the government - but what are ya gonna do?). When we guess what sales will be for the CASH jackpot, we also guess what kind of interest we can earn by investing the cash to come up with the ANNUITY jackpot.

So, now you can see that it is NOT that the Powerball CASH amount is less, it is that the Powerball interest earnings are MORE – which means that there is a bigger difference between the two amounts. Instead of starting with the same annuity amount, start with the same cash amounts and then consider that you get more interest earnings from the Powerball jackpot.

Why is that so? I believe that the other game folks invest their money and pay it out in equal installments over 24 years (25 payments, with the first payment immediate). Powerball invests the money and pays it out over 29 years (30 payments, with the first payment immediate) so that the annual payments increase by 4% every year.

Although the two games could make different investments and may use different sources or methods to buy their securities, I suspect that our returns would be very close if everything else was equal. But, everything else is NOT equal. We are actually investing more money for a longer period and so the earnings are higher. The person who takes the annuity gets the cash plus all of the interest earned. All of it.

FROM DONNIE W: when can i see [tonight's] power ball numbers on line pls. my emails -----@--- ok ?

The numbers will be up about ten minutes after the drawing.

you mean tonight?

Yes. Every Wednesday and Saturday around 10 minutes after the draw.

i just cant see all the red numbers how do i do that pls?

If your system does not display the numbers properly, you can look look here for the numbers:
It should work for just about every kind of computer set up.

it worked that time but whens the next drawing pls?

Every Wednesday and Saturday night.

i cant see the whole line why is that pls?

What is your operating system? What browser are you using? What is your screen resolution set at?

im not sure howdo i tell?

. . . .

ok i could see them then, but what do i do next time an whens the next drawing?

Okay. Am I on Candid Camera? Am I being punked?

FROM DP: you wanna know some inside info about the powerball?

Umm. Sure.

FROM JOHN V: If my numbers match another state's drawing and not the state I'm in, do I win that lottery?

You must match the numbers for the game that you are playing.

FROM TIM S: Can I use numbers on the tickets owned by other family members to match?

Sorry, the matching numbers must be on the same ticket and the same line; for the same drawing. You can't even use some of the numbers from a close neighbor's ticket.

FROM STEWART N: What do you think about the number 19?

I like it. An odd mix of the smallest number and the largest - together in one package. It speaks to the extremes of the Universe and yet shows how they can be inexorably tied.

It is also unique in that both numbers are formed by a single constant line (using standard type). One line straight; the other curving before coming down to the base line - not so distant cousins - and neither one having a family relation with any other number. The "4" has mutliple stops and abrupt changes in directions with its multiple line formation and the "2", "3", "5", and "7" have their sudden starts and stops.

Although a mere number, as humans, we can't but help to tie it to other numbers by which we judge ourselves. As an age number it is greatly important; the first step from being a "teenager" to becoming a "young adult". In fact, the shapes of the numbers suggest a relationship between youth and age - the straight erect youth next to the bent and wizened old-timer standing together - as if sharing the secrets of life (though "1" will certainly not listen).

I would have to put "19" up there as a major number; a number among numbers. Yes, I definitely like "19".

FROM JIM S: How can the overall odds of winning be better than the best odds of winning the lowest odds prize? i. e., 1 in 36 vs 1 in 69. This appears to defy statistical theory.

Consider this little exercise. Imagine that you have nine boxes filled with marbles. All of the boxes contain lots of black marbles and each box contains one white marble. It doesn’t really matter, but let’s say the first box has 30 black marbles (and one white); the second box has 200 black marbles (and one white), the third box has 2,000 black marbles (and one white) and so on.

Assuming that the first box has the lowest number of black marbles, your odds of picking the white marble (blindfolded) are 1 in 30. If you can only pick one time, from one box, then your odds of picking a white marble could NEVER be less than 1 in 30. This is the logic approach you are using for a lottery game.

However, in a lottery game, you can buy one ticket and match any of the prizes. That is like drawing one marble from every box. If you do that, your odds of drawing the white marble are BETTER than 1 in 30. To step through this, draw a marble out of the first box – odds are 1:30. But now, you get to go to the second box and draw again. Even though the odds are now 1:200, you have just improved your chance of getting the white marble (from these two boxes) to something better than 1:30.

FROM LEONZO R: Please settle a dispute between my brother and I. Can a convicted felon participate in and win the "Powerball" lottery. I read that this response would be funny so go ahead be funny. By the way, neither of us are felons.

Funny? Like I can turn it on and off like tap water? Just the sort of thing a felon would say.

An ESCAPED convicted felon could play and win. But, as far as I know, there are no lottery terminals in the hoosegow [now THAT is a funny word].

A felon legally out of prison can also play the game and win, though there was some talk of laws that would allow the state to recover the cost of his/her upkeep. I don’t believe that it ever passed anywhere, but perhaps it will rise again as a burning issue this November.

Hoping for such a bit of luck, by the way, is why victims of felons sometimes sue the criminal in civil court. It is fairly easy to get a civil judgment following a criminal conviction and if the felon should ever come into some money, either by a lottery win or inheritance or some other means, then the victim can go collect it.

FROM DAVID R: The cord of my power ball has become tangled inside the unit. I have removed the protective rubber belt and two baby screws and the lid. I can't pry the two halves apart. Please help me solve this problem.

I would recommend running down to your local convenience store to buy $10 worth of Powerball lottery tickets. Then, if you win, you can buy a new one. You might also try this site for help.


[two days later]

Your advice is of limited use. Please put me in touch with your firm's technical department if it has one.

I am the technical department here. Really, try the link (note the "s"). That is the company that sells the gryro Powerball. We sell Powerball lottery tickets here.

FROM JOY C: I am having a discussion with my fiance and he seems to think that you can purchase different numbers for different drawings at the same purchase time. If this is a confusing statement, I am trying ask if you can have the computer quick pick 10 different numbers and each different number correspond for each consecutive drawing? He swears he did this for the National Powerball, bought in Oklahoma. Can you solve this arguement please.

You really don’t want to get into this, do you? Better to wait until after the wedding before you start proving to him that are always right.

Because I am also a man and do want to provide some support for the whole sex, I can say that in some states, you can technically purchase different numbers for different drawings into the future. You would have to find a state that sells “advance” draws. This is an option where you can purchase a play for some draw in the future without buying tickets for all of the drawings up to that point. Most states only sell “multi-draws” which start at the next drawing and run for some period. In an advance play state, you can do what your fiancé insists can be done “at the same purchase time” meaning the same day or part of the day. You cannot do it at one time, on one play slip. You would have to purchase each advance play separately. So, "technically", in a perfect man-centered universe, he "might" be right at some point in space-time.

Now for the tough part (but be gentle with him), Oklahoma does have multi-draws, but not advance plays. He was undoubtedly thinking of some other state, but momentarily confused by the rush of feelings that comes from being near you.

FROM CAROLINA B: Hi, I understand that if you win, and you've bought a powerplay, then your winnings will be multiplied by the powerplay number. BUT, this is what I do not understand. Suppose that I buy a powerplay of 5, but the powerplay number for the week is only 2. Would I still get up to 2 x my normal winnings OR would my powerplay number have to match the powerplay number exactly to win the multiples. Please respond like you're talking to a little child, because in this instance, I need for you to place the info on the lower shelf so I will understand. Many thanks for your time.

Ok, here goes.

Imagine that you are walking through the woods on a nice bright sunny day. The birds are singing and you are chasing a flutterby (that’s really what they used to be called and I like it better than the new name – butterfly) and, all of sudden, you find yourself standing in front a dark cave.

The cave is as dark as your scary closet was when you were a child and you can see nothing at all – even though you squint really hard. You move a litle closer until you can feel the cool air coming the cave and you are suddenly filled with fear. You think that there is a dragon in the cave. Your fear takes over and you run home, as fast as you can, looking behind you every few steps to see if there is a dragon getting closer.

For years, you think about the dragon in the cave. Finally, as you get older and a little braver, you get up enough courage to go into the cave, and you find . . .


There is no dragon. Nothing. It was just an idea that you had somehow. No one else believed there was a dragon. No one else told you there was a dragon. You just thought it up and that thing you just thought up kept you from going into the forest. Sometimes, people think of things that stop them from going somewhere or even from understanding something. They invent a brick wall that they cannot get by. To move forward or to understand, they must first forget what they "know".

Just like you worrying about picking the correct PowerPlay number. There is no dragon, there is no PowerPlay number that you need to pick. There is nothing to worry about.

You only buy the option and then your ticket says something like “PowerPlay Option: YES”. Just before the Powerball drawing, we draw the multiplier number. There is an equal chance to draw 2X, 3X, 4X, or 5X (and sometimes a 10X). You don’t have to match the PowerPlay number at all. You just multiply your prizes by whatever number we draw.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

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