The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Powerball jackpot keeps going up-- now at $550 million, and more people are getting in on it in the final hours before the drawing-- despite pretty slim chances of winning.

Many people come up with their own formulas and secrets for how to select winning numbers, but Math instructor Paul Peeders with Madison College says it's all about the odds.

A person's chance of winning the $550 million jackpot are one in 175 million-- nearly half the entire U.S. population. That's because there are more than 5 million different combinations for the first five numbers, choosing from 1 through 59. That's then multiplied by 35 possible Powerball picks, so you actually end up with 175.2 million different combinations.

Peeders knows the math means it's unlikely he will win, but that didn't stop him from getting in on the action. He bought a ticket on Monday.

As more people buy tickets the jackpot increases, but it doesn't necessarily hurt your chances. Peeders says it's purely mathematical.

Peeders does have one tip for ticket buyers: with more people choosing special dates or anniversaries for their picks, he says to let the computer decide your fate.

"If you just went with a random set of numbers and stayed away from your birthdays and lucky numbers and things like that, then your odds would be a little bit better that you wouldn't have to split the jackpot," says Peeders.

Businesses will stop selling tickets at 9 p.m. for the drawing at 10 p.m.

Powerball officials believe there is a 75 percent chance that the winning combination of numbers will be drawn Wednesday night. If no one wins, the jackpot could go up again.

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