While paying for gas on Sunday, I did what millions of other people will do between now and Wednesday.
Buy Powerball tickets.
I contributed $10 to the fund of some retired longshoreman who will probably win Wednesday's mega jackpot, which is more than $400 million. The jackpot is the fourth-highest in the history of Powerball.
Of course, I didn't take the time to actually pick my numbers. Who does that anyway? Do those people who fill out the playslips actually have a better chance of winning than someone like me who lets the computer pick his numbers at random?
Your odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 146 million. Even the Chicago Cubs have a better chance of winning a World Series some time this century than any of us have of making off with that lottery haul.
But we've all filled out our own numbers at some point in lotteries. I've used the birth dates for people in my family as a combination. In the 1990s, I used to play the numbers of my favorite Chicago Bulls players with one spot reserved for a Chicago Bears legend -- 5 (John Paxson), 20 (Pete Myers), 31 (Granville Waiters), 33 (Scottie Pippen), 34 (Bears running back Walter Payton) and the Powerball was always 23 (Michael Jordan).
If you're into playing your own numbers, a professor at Southern University actually researched which numbers have been picked with the most frequency in the Powerball over the last 10 years. Min Su Kim found that the most frequently drawn number is 20. Others numbers that often pop up, he said, are 37, 2, 31 and 35. The most popular red Powerball number is 42.
"If you pick these numbers, there's probably more probability to win the grand prize," Kim told TV station WAFB in Baton Rouge, La.
The much greater probability is that your money is gone. I could have set my $10 bill on fire and had more excitement than handing it over to the clerk at the gas station.
It's interesting that the general public only gets interested in the lottery when the prizes are huge. After all, who would want to win a measly couple of million that the routine lotto prizes hand out. Why even bother pulling the money out of your wallet? Those tiny purses certainly aren't worth the time of filling out a sheet of picks.
Those of us who only play for the big money have had more chances than usual lately. The top four Powerball prizes have been handed out this year. The record Powerball jackpot of $590.5 million was awarded to Gloria C. Mackenzie of Florida on May 18. This is the first time in Powerball history that two consecutive jackpots have reached $400 million. On Aug. 7, the jackpot reached $448.4 million and was split between three winning tickets.
Should we all swing and miss on Wednesday night, there's a chance that this jackpot could challenge the record payout for any U.S. lottery. In March 2012, Mega Millions was worth $656 million. Three tickets shared that pot, including a person from Red Bud, Ill. The Mega Millions is worth $130 million right now, which is hardly worth mentioning.
If the Powerball jackpot rolls over to Saturday, I'm sure I'll buy some tickets.
Hopefully, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and my current favorite Bulls can bring luck.