What happens if no one wins the Powerball?

The Powerball lottery is one of the most popular lottery games in the United States. The jackpot starts at $40 million and continues to grow until someone wins it. Tickets cost $2 each, and players choose 5 main numbers between 1-69, and 1 Powerball number between 1-26. In order to win the jackpot, players must match all 6 numbers. The odds of winning the jackpot are incredibly slim, at 1 in 292.2 million. This often leads to the jackpot reaching astronomical amounts in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. But what happens when no one wins?

The Jackpot Rolls Over

If no one matches all 6 numbers in a drawing, the jackpot simply rolls over to the next drawing. This means the jackpot amount continues to grow and grow, creating enormous prizes. The roll overs are what allow the jackpot to reach such huge amounts. For example, in January 2016, the Powerball jackpot reached a record $1.58 billion since no one had won the big prize in several months.

The jackpot rolls over until someone finally hits the lucky numbers. The next question is – does the amount a jackpot rolls over depend on ticket sales?

Jackpot Increases and Ticket Sales

To a certain extent, yes. The minimum jackpot amount is $40 million. Once someone wins the jackpot, it resets to that amount for the next drawing. For every drawing where no one wins, the jackpot increases by a minimum of $10 million. However, ticket sales also impact how much the jackpot increases between drawings.

Each Powerball ticket costs $2. Of that $2, 50 cents goes towards the jackpot prize pool. So the more tickets sold, the more the prize pool increases each drawing beyond just the minimum $10 million roll over. For example, if 50 million Powerball tickets are sold for a certain drawing where no one wins, the jackpot prize pool increases by $25 million (50 million tickets x $0.50 per ticket) plus the minimum $10 million increase. Therefore, the advertised jackpot would go up by $35 million instead of just $10 million.

The more tickets sold, the faster the already enormous jackpots grow. When the potential jackpots start reaching insane amounts, it often triggers a surge of ticket sales from people wanting to take a chance at winning hundreds of millions of dollars. This creates a snowball effect of ever-increasing jackpots when there are multiple drawings in a row without a winner.

Where Does the Jackpot Money Come From?

The money that funds these enormous Powerball jackpots comes from ticket sales. As mentioned earlier, 50 cents from every $2 ticket goes towards the jackpot prize pool. The other $1.50 funds the eight lower tier prizes.

Here is a breakdown of where the $2 ticket sales go:

Prize Pool Allocation
Jackpot Prize Pool 50 cents
2nd Tier Prize (5 numbers but missing Powerball) $1 million
3rd Tier Prize (4 numbers + Powerball) $50,000
4th Tier Prize (4 numbers) $100
5th Tier Prize (3 numbers + Powerball) $100
6th Tier Prize (3 numbers) $7
7th Tier Prize (2 numbers + Powerball) $7
8th Tier Prize (1 number + Powerball) $4
Remaining Funds Goes to jurisdiction operating Powerball

As you can see, 50 cents from every ticket builds up the jackpot over time. The pace it builds depends on how many tickets are sold for each drawing.

Winning Odds and Payouts

The reason the jackpot can grow so large is because the odds of winning it are 1 in 292.2 million. This makes matching all 6 numbers incredibly difficult. The odds for the other prize tiers are:

Prize Tier Odds of Winning
Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338
2nd Tier (5 numbers but missing Powerball) 1 in 11,688,053.52
3rd Tier (4 numbers + Powerball) 1 in 913,129.18
4th Tier (4 numbers) 1 in 36,525.17
5th Tier (3 numbers + Powerball) 1 in 14,494.11
6th Tier (3 numbers) 1 in 579.76
7th Tier (2 numbers + Powerball) 1 in 701.33
8th Tier (1 number + Powerball) 1 in 91.98

As you can see, matching just the Powerball offers the best odds but the smallest prize. The jackpot has by far the worst odds but life-changing payouts.

The Powerball payout structure is pari-mutuel. This means that prize payouts are based on a percentage of total ticket sales. If no one wins the jackpot, the prize pool keeps growing. If multiple people hit the jackpot, the massive prize is split evenly amongst them.

Here is an overview of the prize payout percentages:

Prize Tier Payout Percentage
Jackpot 68.01% of prize pool
2nd Tier (5 numbers but missing Powerball) 8.55% of prize pool
3rd Tier (4 numbers + Powerball) 5.00% of prize pool
4th Tier (4 numbers) 1.00% of prize pool
5th Tier (3 numbers + Powerball) 0.50% of prize pool
6th Tier (3 numbers) 3.00% of prize pool
7th Tier (2 numbers + Powerball) 3.00% of prize pool
8th Tier (1 number + Powerball) 10.94% of prize pool

The jackpot gets 68% while the smaller prizes share the remaining 32%. Keep in mind the prize pool grows based on ongoing ticket sales. If no one wins for many drawings in a row, the prize percentages stay the same but the actual dollar amounts grow tremendously.

Largest Jackpots in Powerball History

With so many roll overs over the years, Powerball has produced some truly massive jackpots. Here are the 5 biggest annuitized jackpots in Powerball history:

Rank Jackpot Amount Date Won
1 $1.586 Billion January 13, 2016
2 $768.4 Million March 27, 2019
3 $758.7 Million August 23, 2017
4 $731.1 Million January 20, 2021
5 $699.8 Million October 4, 2021

As you can see, the top 2 biggest jackpots were over $1.5 billion and $768 million respectively. It took many months of rollovers for the prizes to reach such astronomical amounts.

What Happens if No One Ever Wins?

In theory, the Powerball jackpot could continue rolling over indefinitely if no one ever matched all 6 numbers. However, in reality, a jackpot winner is virtually guaranteed eventually, for two reasons:

Odd-Defying Jackpots Drive Ticket Sales

As mentioned earlier, once a jackpot grows to insane amounts, lottery fever kicks in. Hundreds of millions of people who ordinarily never play Powerball will buy tickets trying to win a massive fortune. A $500 million jackpot will sell significantly more tickets than a $40 million jackpot. At a certain point billions of tickets are being sold, making it statistically very likely that there will be a winner.

Secondary Jackpot Caps and Guaranteed Payouts

Powerball has safeguards in place to make sure a jackpot is awarded in a timely manner, even if no one wins it outright. There are two mechanisms in place:

1. Secondary Jackpot Cap

Powerball has a secondary jackpot cap that serves as an absolute cut-off point. If the published jackpot exceeds this cap, the excess funds roll down into the lower prize tiers to ensure better overall odds for players. The cap was instituted after the record $1.586 billion jackpot in 2016. Powerball has not publicly revealed the exact cap amount. Experts speculate it is between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

2. Guaranteed Jackpot Payout

If the jackpot exceeds $250 million, Powerball institutes a guaranteed payout mechanism. If no one wins the jackpot after multiple rolls, eventually there is a guaranteed winner selected separately using a random number generator. This ensures the huge jackpot is awarded even if no one matches all 6 numbers.

So in summary, between rapidly increasing sales driving up the chance of a winner and the secondary caps and guarantees, a Powerball jackpot cannot keep growing forever with no winners. Eventually it has to be awarded. The longest jackpot roll in Powerball history was 35 drawings over 3.5 months before a winner was drawn in 2021.

What Happens to the Jackpot Funds if No One Ever Claims the Prize?

For the sake of argument, let’s pose a hypothetical scenario where the over $1.5 billion record jackpot is never claimed. Perhaps the winner loses their ticket or decides not to come forward. What happens to the money?

The exact rules depend on the state, but generally there is a time limit for winners to claim their prize. For Powerball, winners typically have 180 days to one year from the draw date to claim. If the deadline passes, the funds that were allocated to that unclaimed jackpot are returned to the lottery members that contributed to it. The members can then decide how to use or redistribute the money, whether it’s towards future prizes, operations, or education programs.

State laws vary on exactly what share goes back to which members. But in general, the lottery members split the unclaimed funds proportionally based on each jurisdiction’s total ticket sales that went towards that particular jackpot. For tax purposes, since the prize goes unclaimed, the funds are no longer legally considered “prize money” once returned to the state lotteries.

The odds of a record-shattering Powerball prize going completely unclaimed past the deadline are astronomical. But if it ever did happen, the money would be redistributed back to the state lotteries rather than remaining indefinitely in limbo.

Longest Powerball Jackpot Rolls in History

While a jackpot winner is inevitable eventually, there have been some lengthy rolls in Powerball history before a winner is drawn. Here are the top 5 longest jackpot rolls:

Rank Drawings Days Jackpot Date Won
1 36 105 $731.1 Million January 20, 2021
2 35 104 $699.8 Million October 4, 2021
3 31 89 $1.586 Billion January 13, 2016
4 30 87 $758.7 Million August 23, 2017
5 29 84 $543 Million July 30, 2018

The top 2 longest rolls were over 3 months until a winner was finally drawn. But as noted earlier, guaranteed payouts and secondary caps ensure the suspense can’t last forever before someone takes home the enormous jackpot.


Here are some frequently asked questions about what happens when no one wins the Powerball jackpot:

What is the biggest Powerball jackpot ever?

The biggest Powerball jackpot to date was $1.586 billion on January 13, 2016. It took 195 days of rollovers to reach that amount, which is the largest lottery jackpot in world history.

Has the Powerball jackpot ever gone unpaid?

No Powerball jackpot has ever gone unclaimed past the deadline. A few moderate sized jackpots in the $1 million range have gone unclaimed over the years. But never one of the headline-grabbing 9-figure mega jackpots.

What are the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot?

Hitting the jackpot by matching all 5 numbers plus the Powerball is staggeringly difficult, with odds of just 1 in 292.2 million. No wonder the top prizes can grow so large when no one wins it for months on end.

Has anyone ever won the jackpot twice?

Incredibly, a few players have won the Powerball jackpot twice. The luckiest multi-jackpot winners are:

– An 89-year-old man won $1 million in 1998 and $3 million in 2008
– A 70-year-old won $10 million in 2010 and split a $50 million jackpot in 2011
– A 63-year-old won $1 million in 2013 and split a $447.8 million jackpot in 2018

Beating the odds once is hard enough, but multiple jackpot wins defy all probability.

What is the lump sum cash value vs. annuity for large jackpots?

Winners can take their prize as either a lump sum cash payment, or as an annuity paid out over 29 years. The lump sum is the present cash value of the full jackpot amount. For example, the $1.586 billion record jackpot had a lump sum cash value of $983.5 million, about 62% of the advertised amount. The cash value varies by jackpot size.

Has increased ticket sales ever made a jackpot grow by more than $10 million between drawings?

Yes, absolutely. While the minimum roll is $10 million, massive sales can make the jackpot jump by tens of millions more. When the jackpot nears record levels, the prize pools swell dramatically beyond the minimum increases.

Can Powerball ticket sales actually decrease when the jackpot gets very large?

Interestingly, yes. Once the jackpot exceeds a certain level, around $800 million, sales can plateau or decrease slightly. Experts think lottery fatigue sets in where people see the jackpots as excessive. Plus, the odds get worse when millions more play just for the huge jackpot.


The Powerball jackpot will continue growing after each drawing when no one matches all 6 winning numbers. The pace it increases depends on ticket sales, with minimum advertised jumps of $10 million between rolls. Jackpots frequently reach astronomical amounts in the hundreds of millions or billions. Secondary caps and guaranteed payouts ensure a jackpot is eventually awarded. While no prize has gone unclaimed long-term, there have been rolls lasting 3+ months before a winner. Powerball’s elusive grand prize intrigues players and fuels lottery fever across the country.

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