Applied Mathematics

How Much Can You Expect As A Return On That $2 Powerball Ticket?

As has been widely advertised, the jackpot for tonight's Powerball drawing is $250 million. Later today, I'll head out to a store in my Chicago neighborhood to buy a $2 ticket, then spend the rest of the day as I always do before a drawing, daydreaming about what I would do with all that money: A house across the street from Lambeau Field (perhaps attainable without winning the lottery), villas on the beach, bottles of Pappy van Winkle 23-year. The works. Top shelf everything. Living easy.

While I know that my odds of actually winning the jackpot—1 in 175,223,510 to be exact—are essentially zero, I never bothered to [...]