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Powerball expert: 'I'd rather play blackjack'

Odds expert Mike Orkin  

HAYWARD, California (CNN) -- As the estimated jackpot for the multi-state Powerball lottery reached the $200 million mark this week, a nationally-known expert on odds and gambling, California State University Prof. Mike Orkin, spoke with CNN anchor Daryn Kagan about the chances of winning.

KAGAN: You've come up with a lot of different ways to put into perspective the enormous odds of winning this lottery. For example, what if a ticket buyer drives 10 miles to buy a ticket?

ORKIN: If you have to drive 10 miles to buy a lottery ticket, you are about 16 times more likely to get killed in a car crash on your way to buy the ticket than you are to win the Powerball jackpot.

Powerball odds:
If you buy 50 tickets a week, the odds are that you would win once every 30,000 years.

If every Canadian's name were in a hat, you would be 2 1/2 times more likely to pick a particular name than to win the lottery.

KAGAN: Let's move onto people who might be buying a number of tickets. They think, well one ticket isn't enough. So, what if they bought 50 tickets?

ORKIN: Yes, if you buy 50 tickets a week, you will win the Powerball jackpot on the average of about once every 30,000 years.

KAGAN: Now, let's borrow from our friends in Canada. You've come up with an analogy using the entire Canadian population.

ORKIN: Let's say you have one friend in Canada, and you put everybody in Canada's name on pieces of paper, and put them in a giant hat and draw one out at random. Then, you are 2 1/2 times more likely to pick your one friend's name than you are to win the Powerball jackpot if you buy a single ticket.

KAGAN: Again, not very likely. Now we're going to go to the moon on this next analogy. If you drive only one mile to buy a ticket?

ORKIN: Let's say that every time you drive a mile, you buy a Powerball ticket. Well, then you'll have to drive an average distance of 167 round trips to the moon before you win the Powerball jackpot.

KAGAN: The odds aren't very good, but someone's got to win.

ORKIN: Someone's got to win. Luck is a group activity and given enough opportunity, namely, lots people buying tickets, then weird things happen. Namely, there's a winner even against such big odds.

KAGAN: Would you buy one though, Mike?

ORKIN: To tell you the truth, I prefer to play blackjack.

• Multi-State Lottery Association

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