DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The mammoth Powerball jackpot escaped again Saturday night, heading even higher into record territory for the next lottery drawing.

Lottery officials estimated that Wednesday's Powerball jackpot will be worth an estimated $250 million.

``We consider $250 million to be the biggest jackpot for a weekly drawn lotto game ever in the history of the world _ and it is,'' said Doug Orr, production coordinator for the Multi-State Lottery Association that runs the game.

The winning numbers drawn Saturday night were: 3, 14, 17, 21, 23 and powerball 16.

None of the tickets sold matched all six numbers, but 56 matched the first five numbers to claim $100,000 each.

Only one lottery game has claimed a bigger purse. Last year's Christmas lottery drawing in Spain _ named ``El Gordo,'' or ``the Fat One'' _ had a $270 million purse, but the grand prize was only $2 million.

Wednesday's Powerball drawing represents the biggest jackpot available to one winner.

The West Des Moines-based Multi-State Lottery Association changed the Powerball rules in November to make the game harder to win. Officials had projected then that the changes would produce jackpots above $100 million twice a year.

Orr said early Sunday that the huge jackpots are simply following the laws of statistics.

``We know that when it comes to statistics, the odds fall as they fall,'' he said. ``Some years you're going to have feasts and some years you're going to have famine. We're very pleased to see this huge jackpot again, but then again, we could go some time now with smaller jackpots.''

Ticket sales for Saturday's game were strong, but did not compare to the frenzy seen for the Powerball drawing May 20, which had a $195 million jackpot, then the largest ever in America.

Lottery officials had predicted that Saturday's jackpot also would hit $195 million, but Joe Hrdlicka, spokesman for the Iowa Lottery, said sales did not meet expectations.

``Historically, this is the slowest lottery ticket time of the year,'' Hrdlicka said. ``People are out traveling and they're just not fully engaged. Our sales were great, but they weren't as high as we expected.''

Hrdlicka said $100.3 million in tickets were sold for Saturday's drawing, compared to $138 million for the record jackpot drawing in May.

If there was any tumult to be found, it was in towns bordering states that don't play Powerball. Anticipating a big rush, Rhode Island lottery workers on Friday installed extra terminals in nine locations where business is ordinarily the heaviest, most near the border with Massachusetts.

``It's a dream,'' said Ronald Brown, an employee at a Delta, La., Chevron station. The gas station was a popular place Saturday, being just across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, Miss., which is in a non-Powerball state.

``You take a chance and hope you have the right numbers and you hope you wake up the next morning and something happens. And if it doesn't, you go back to the same old grind,'' Brown said.

May's winning ticket was sold to an Illinois couple at the Pell Lake Country Store in Pell Lake, Wis. Some superstitious hopefuls trekked to the store _ including someone from Florida.

``Lines haven't been any longer than 15 people deep,'' said Mark Garapolo, whose father owns the store. ``Sales have been brisk, but we're not seeing the kind of lines that other stores are seeing.''

Those waiting in line pondered the best way of receiving the winnings. Pick cash, and get a one-time lump payment of $99.9 million. Choose annuities, and get 25 yearly payments of $7.2 million each.

``It depends on your situation,'' said Steve Roberts, who was buying two tickets at Tait's Foods in Des Moines. ``Perhaps you think you can do a better job with the money than the lottery, then you take the cash. It's probably six of one, half-dozen of the other.''

Roberts opted to take the cash.

In Powerball, players race 80 million-to-1 odds of winning the jackpot. They choose five white numbered balls from a pool of 49 and a red ball from a pool of 42 numbers. The game is played in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

The states are: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.