Powerball offers players two ways to select numbers for the draw - choose your own numbers, or opt for the faster Quick Pick (QP), also known as Easy Pick, where the lottery computer randomly generates the numbers.
The two options cost the same ($2 per play), are based on the same number pool (five white ball numbers from 1 to 69 and one Powerball number from 1 to 26), and the Power Play multiplier add-on is available with both.
However, some players believe the methods produce different chances of winning - usually in favor of choosing your own numbers. So, is there any evidence for this notion?
There are many colorful stories of how players chose the winning numbers that delivered that life-changing prize. Some have found their digits in a fortune cookie, or played the same sequence for decades before striking it rich, while others use numbers with personal significance, such as family birthdays.
If you've been playing for a while without hitting a prize, it may be tempting to blame Quick Pick - but actually, whether you choose your own numbers or use Quick Pick has no impact on your chances of winning. The two options have exactly the same odds.
"Statistically, 70 percent of winners are Quick Picks," says Emory University mathematician Skip Garibaldi. That tallies with the percentage of players who go for the QP option, demonstrating that no matter how the numbers are picked, they have the same chances of hitting a prize.
The Florida Lottery has also confirmed that Quick Picks provide just as much chance of success. Out of 12 winning FL Powerball tickets since 2009, 10 have been Quick Picks. Two Sunshine State tickets have won the Mega Millions jackpot - both Quick Picks. Lottery officials announced that every Florida draw game (except for the Daily Draw) has been won more often by Quick Pick tickets than self-selected numbers.
You may be wondering if more than one player can get the same Quick Pick numbers - and the answer is yes. Although unlikely, it is possible that multiple tickets could receive the same winning numbers and split the prize. Of course, this can also happen if you select your own numbers.
However, there may be an advantage to choosing your own numbers. Garibaldi notes that "any choice of numbers is equally likely to win the jackpot but you can pick numbers that other people won’t pick. The question is, what numbers do you pick?"
He suggests that if you do choose your own picks, you select higher numbers. It won't bestow any luck, but if you do win it could improve your odds of not having to share the prize. "A lot of people play dates, and numbers between 1 and 12 are especially popular so you might avoid those," he said. So, for the best chances of having the jackpot all to yourself, avoid numbers from 1 to 31 (that removes days of the month from the equation) and especially 1 to 12 (that takes care of months, and removes commonly-played "lucky" numbers like 7).
With that said, Garibaldi admitted that he himself goes for Quick Picks ... and he's in good company.
Biggest Quick Pick Lottery Winners
Many incredible lottery jackpots have been won by Quick Pick tickets, as you can see from the winner examples below.
- The largest lottery prize in history is a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot that was won by three tickets on January 13, 2016. John and Lisa Robinson from Munford, TN used Quick Pick to select their winning numbers. David Kaltschmidt and Maureen Smith from Melbourne Beach, FL had played the same random numbers for 30 years before their amazing win. It's not known how the owners of the third ticket, Marvin and Mae Acosta from Chino Hills, CA made their number selection. All the winners chose the cash option and split $983.5 million.
- The largest-ever Mega Millions jackpot, $1.537 billion, was won by a Quick Pick ticket on October 23, 2018. The South Carolina winner, who stayed anonymous, said that she purchased the winning ticket after letting another customer, who also bought a ticket, go ahead of her in line.
- Manuel Franco won a $768.4 million Powerball prize with a Quick Pick play on March 27, 2019. The 24-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin bought $10 worth of tickets from a Speedway in New Berlin because he had a "weird, lucky feeling" that day. He opted for the lump sum payment of $477 million.
- Two winners split a $687 million Powerball jackpot on October 27, 2018. Grandmother Lerynne West of Redford, Iowa purchased an Easy Pick ticket that turned out to have the lucky numbers, while retired government worker Robert Bailey had played the same numbers from a friend for more than 25 years before he hit it big. Both chose the cash option and received $198 million each.
- On May 18, 2013, Gloria Mackenzie of Zephyrhills, Florida, won a $590.5 million Powerball prize with a Quick Pick - the world's biggest jackpot won by a single ticket at the time. The 84-year-old purchased her ticket at a Publix supermarket and took the lum sum of $370.9 million. Her story was the reverse of the South Carolina Mega Millions winner - in this case, another customer, also waiting to buy a Powerball Quick Pick, let Mackenzie cut in line to buy her ticket first. Although federal taxes were withheld, Florida has no state income tax, so Mackenzie took home around $278 million. Unfortunately, there was trouble in paradise and Mackenzie sued her son in 2019, claiming he had mismanaged her winnings