Powerball Jackpot at $360 Million Ahead of Tonight's Drawing

PHOTO: A customer purchases lottery tickets for the Powerball lottery at Foster Stationery in Bergenfield, N.J., Nov. 24, 2012.PlayDon Smith/The Record (Bergen County)/AP Photo
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The jackpot for tonight's Powerball drawing has swelled to $360 million, making it the third-richest for the multi-state lottery.

The price of a Powerball ticket doubled in January 2012. "We moved Powerball from being a $1 game to $2," says Mary Neubauer, a spokeswoman for the Iowa-based lottery. "We thought at the time that this would mean bigger and faster-growing jackpots."

It's proved true.

The largest jackpot to date, say Powerball officials, was $587.5 million last November, for a ticket split between a couple from Dearborn, Mo., and a man from Fountain Hills, Ariz.

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When pots reach record levels, say lottery officials, phone calls start coming in from all around the world to Powerball's Iowa headquarters. "We start getting inquiries from Canada and Europe from people wanting to know if they can buy a ticket," Neubauer told ABC News. "They ask if they can FedEx us the money."

The answer is: "Sorry, no. You have to buy a ticket in a member state from a licensed retail location."

About 80 percent of players don't choose their own Powerball number, opting instead for a computer-generated one.

Asked if there's anything players can do to improve their odds of winning, lottery officials say no -- apart from buying a ticket, of course.

They put the odds of winning tonight's Powerball pot at one in 195 million, meaning you are 251 times more likely to be hit by lightning.

Skip Garibaldi, a professor of mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta, provides additional perspective: You are more likely to die from all of the following than you are to win tonight's drawing: be hit by a falling coconut, be blown up by fireworks, or be eaten by flesh-eating bacteria.

Even though he knows the odds all too well, Garibaldi says that he has played past lotteries. "When it gets big, I'll buy a couple of tickets. It's kind of exciting. You get this feeling of anticipation. You get to think about the fantasy."

Writing for the New York Post, Garibaldi recently reviewed the book "Brain Trust," in which 93 scientists give advice on subjects that include how to win the lottery.

Their advice, he says, includes the following:

-Pick the most unpopular numbers. Avoid, for example, numbers thought to be "lucky," such as 7, 13, 23 and 32. -Don't pick the number 1. It's on about 15 percent of all tickets. -Do pick the "especially overlooked" number 46.

Garibaldi's own advice: Look for a jackpot that's rolled over at least five times yet still remains below $40 million. And be sure not to overlook state lotteries, which have fewer people competing for their pots.