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Powerball jackpot hits $325 million: What you should know

February 11, 2012 |  9:00 am

Powerball
Powerball mania has begun: Saturday night's jackpot is already at $325 million and is expected to drive higher as Americans plunk down their hard-earned money in a bid to strike it rich.

No ticket-holder matched the six Powerball numbers Wednesday night. That means the top prize of $250 million went unclaimed, and rolls over. The Powerball jackpot is now up to $325 million, or a relatively paltry $202.9 million if the winning ticket-holder decides to cash out up front.

Powerball has been called "America's Game" and "America's Lottery," but that is a bit of a misnomer. You can't play Powerball everywhere -- the $2 tickets are sold only in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

The Powerball game itself is pretty simple. Five of the winning numbers are pulled from a drum containing 59 white ping-pong-style numbered balls, and one red ball is plucked from a drum containing 35 red balls. That red ball puts the "power" in Powerball. The jackpot goes to a ticket-holder who matches all five white balls in any order, plus the red Powerball. In all, there are nine ways to win.

In case you're wondering, the chances of winning that jackpot are said to be 1 in 175,223,510.00.

If you happen to live in a state like, say, California that is a total party pooper and does not participate in Powerball, you might be wondering whether you can buy Powerball tickets online.

We'll let Powerball.com answer that question so that there's no uncertainty: "No one can sell lottery tickets by mail or over the Internet across state lines or the U.S. national border. No one. Not even us. No one." (Some lotteries legally sell tickets online, but only to their in-state residents.)

You're probably too smart to fall for a lottery scam, but you might want to pass along this warning from Powerball to those who might not be as astute: A fairly common ruse is to send an e-mail or letter, or to use a phone call, to tell someone that he or she has won the lottery -- and needs only to make a small deposit to collect said winnings.

"NO. It is a common scam," says Powerball.com, adding: "You never have to send money to collect a legitimate lottery prize."

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-- Rene Lynch

Photo: A Powerball ticket in Sioux Falls, S.D. Credit: Amber Hunt / Associated Press

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