Someone’s 2016 is going to get off to a great start.

Make that a fantabulous-beyond-imagination start.

Yes, after Saturday’s $334 million Powerball prize was unclaimed, the next chance for the almost-nationwide jackpot moves to Wednesday (January 6, 2016). About $400 million is expected to be handed over should the fates fall in the right way.

With that in mind, here are a lucky-10 questions about Powerball:

How does this prize stack up against previous winning amounts?

If the jackpot reaches $400 million – which lottery officials are predicting – it will exceed the size of the sixth-largest prize in Powerball history. That was a $399.4 million payout won in 2013 by someone from South Carolina.

What are the odds of winning?

According to Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the game, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million. In other words, you might as well wave goodbye to the $2 you hand over for each ticket. Of course, as the New York Lottery says, you must be in it to win it.

What states participate in Powerball?

The shortest way to answer this is to say what states are NOT in Powerball. Forty-four states (plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) participate in the game. The ones that do not are Nevada, Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska and Hawaii.

Do you have to live in one of the participating states to win?

No. You can even be a tourist from Toronto. Or Timbuktu. According to the Multi-State Lottery Association, there is sometimes talk of limiting wins to U.S. citizens, but no laws have passed so far.

Which way of picking wins the most? People’s “magic numbers” or random-number computer drawing?

According to the Multi-State Lottery Association, about 75% of tickets are computer picks. And about 75% of winners are computer picks. So your favorite aunt’s birthday probably won’t make a dime’s worth of difference.

How does your $400 million win measure up?

Well, it’s more than the gross domestic product of about half a dozen nations. According to 2014 figures from the International Monetary Fund, that means you would have more money – before taxes (and maybe after) than:

Sao Tome and Principe ($338 million GDP)
Micronesia ($308 million GDP)
Palau ($249 million GDP)
Marshall Islands ($191 million GDP)
Kiribati ($181 million GDP)
Tuvalu ($38 million GDP)

By the way, all except Sao Tome and Principe are tiny nations in the Pacific. Sao Tome and Principe is a tiny nation in the Atlantic. If the ticket-buying frenzy is particularly fierce, the winnings could even exceed that of Tonga, which had a GDP of $438 million in 2014. It also is a tiny nation in the Pacific.

How much tax you will you have to pay?

That depends on where you live. The federal government will get its cut in all cases (and automatically takes 25% even before you file your tax return). Perhaps needless to say, it is at the highest rate. If you are lucky enough to live in a state without income taxes, there’s nothing more to pay. For the rest, it depends on your local income tax rate.

Where and when is the draw done?

Tallahassee, Fla., though sometimes, according the Powerball folks, the lottery drawings go on the road and are done at special events around the nation. Drawings are at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Who’s watching to make sure there aren’t any shenanigans?

It could be you. The numbers are drawn in the presence of Multi-State Lottery officials, an independent auditor, a security official and – here’s where you come in – members of the public. According to the Powerball people, the draw equipment – that plastic-tube thing – is kept in a double-locked alarmed vault and the balls sets are sealed by the auditors. Meanwhile, all events are audio- and video-recorded when the vault is opened. The equipment, lottery officials assure us, is tested regularly (measurements, X-ray and statistical tests for non-random behavior). You can also watch it: Powerball draws can be seen on hundreds of TV stations nationwide and the draws can be seen on YouTube and the Powerball website.

What if no one wins on Wednesday?

Like last Saturday, the can gets kicked down the road. If no ticket – or tickets – match the numbers spit out by the lottery’s machine, there will be another draw on Saturday. And an even bigger prize.

Good luck!


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