That little ticket may seem like a long shot, but simple statistics can help you maximize your chances of winning a small fortune.
Step 1: Mix up your numbers When you're picking numbers, try to get a good mix of odds, evens, highs, and lows.
TIP: If you're playing Powerball, lows are numbers up through 27, and highs are 28 and greater.
Step 2: Pool with others People who pool their money have a wider variety of number choices and can afford to buy more tickets. But before laying out any cash, the group should sign a mutually agreeable contract.
Step 3: Don't play consecutive numbers Don't play consecutive combinations: It's extremely unlikely that four or five numbers will hit.
TIP: When playing a five-number game in which the numbers go up to 55, your picks should total between 104 and 176. Sums that fall within that range account for about 70 percent of all lottery jackpots.
Step 4: Vary your picks Don't pick all of your numbers from the same number group, like the tens or thirties, and avoid selections that all end in the same digit.
Step 5: Play smaller games For contests where there is always a winner, increase your chances by playing unpopular games and times -- like small payouts and on days like Friday the 13th.
Step 6: Consider scratch-offs Be smart about scratch-offs. They have better odds than the pick-a-number games, but the payouts are smaller.
TIP: Check your state's official lottery web site for information about payouts and how to claim winnings, or call the office directly to clarify.
Step 7: Go beyond the calendar People often play dates that are special to them, which means the numbers one through 31 get a real workout. It won't help you win, but if you do, choosing numbers over 31 will help you win bigger, because fewer people will be sharing the jackpot.
FACT: In 2002, a West Virginia man won a $315 million Powerball jackpot, then the largest jackpot ever awarded to a single winner. Oddly enough, he was already a millionaire before he won.