HUFFINGTON POST
11/27/2012 01:16 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2012

How To Play Powerball Lottery As Jackpot Reaches Record Highs [UPDATED]

As the Powerball jackpot climbs to new record highs, it's easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm and go in on a few tickets. When else can $2 magically transform into $550 million?

Before shelling out all your hard-earned Jeffersons, though, let's break down the basics of how to play Powerball:

First, buy a Powerball ticket. These are sold at nearly every convenience store in the 42 states that play Powerball, in addition to Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most grocery stores sell them, too.

Have a lucky number? Great. How about five lucky numbers? Next, jot down five numbers on the ticket between 1 and 59. These are the same numbers you'll hope to see on five white balls randomly drawn by lottery officials, so pick 'em wisely!

A second number (this time on a red ball) will also be drawn. Known as the "Powerball," its possible digits only go up to 32. Mark any number between 1 and 32 on the "power" section of your ticket.

Have performance anxiety? Don't worry: You can ask to have random numbers selected for you. This option is often referred to as a "quick pick" and greatly reduces the amount of time you might otherwise spend whittling down your selection of lucky numbers.

Players have a shot at winning the Powerball on the Wednesday or Saturday following their ticket purchase. On those days, officials draw numbers at 10:59 p.m. Players can watch the drawing live on TV, or check the winning Powerball numbers online the next day.

If you match any combination of two or more numbers, congratulations! You've won a Powerball prize somewhere between $4 and the full jackpot. Players win greater amounts the more numbers they match. And matching just the Powerball alone is worth $4.

Typically, winnings of under $600 can be redeemed at the store that originally sold the ticket, or at your state's lottery headquarters. (Just in case, here's what to do if you win the Powerball jackpot.)

The overall odds of winning a Powerball lottery prize aren't actually all that bad -- about 1 in 32. If you're after the jackpot, though, those odds increase to a more disheartening 1 in 175,223,510. But hey, someone has to win it, right?

Update: The Powerball jackpot increased to $550 million on Wednesday. This story has been updated to reflect this change.

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