Hit the Jackpot: The Odds of Winning Mega Millions

The odds of winning Mega Millions can be confusing. Read on to learn what your chances are when you buy a ticket for the lottery.

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Adam Moelis
May 24, 2021
6 min read

Everyone knows the odds of winning mega millions is well... pretty slim, but yet millions around the country religiously pick up that ticket. In fact, Americans spend upwards of $70 billion a year on lottery tickets.

The lure of hitting a multi-million dollar jackpot is the stuff dreams are made of. When we buy a mega-millions lottery ticket, those that don't play say – "You can't win with those ridiculous odds. It is a waste of money." To which the lottery player says, your the one that can't win, I have a better chance than you because your chance is zero if you don't play.

Lottery players have a chance and to them daydreaming on that chance possibility is well worth a few bucks a week. But what exactly are the odds of winning mega-millions? Keep reading as we do the math and have some fun with the numbers and probabilities.

Odds of Winning Mega Millions

The odds of winning mega millions (Jackpot) is 1 in 302,575,350. The overall odds of winning a prize at all are 1 in 24, in which case you would have at least doubled your money. In order to truly understand your odds, you must first understand large numbers as a concept.

Strategy to Winning Mega-Millions

Let us be very clear about one thing, there is absolutely no skill or strategy to random number betting. Your odds are always the same no matter what numbers you choose. Although, we would love to think we can "make our own luck" when it comes to the lottery you are at the mercy of probability.

"What about playing numbers that come up most frequently?" – you ask. This is completely insane and you might as well consult tea leaves to predict the numbers as that would at least be a strategy that is mystical.

Imagine your watching the roulette wheel in a casino. The chances of the ball landing on a black number is 1 in 2. You have a 50% chance of betting on the right color. As you are watching black comes up 20 times in a row and you think there must be a much better chance of the ball landing on a red color next – nope, still 50/50.

Thinking in Big Numbers

Statistical impossibility in probability theory states that an event is so highly unlikely that it should be considered impossible in any logical discussion. There is no probability that sets the mark when something becomes a statistical impossibility but 1 in 10 to the 50th power is often used as an example.

It is difficult to wrap your mind around such large numbers but they are fun to think about. For instance, scientists have estimated that there are between 10 to the 78th power to 10 to the 82nd power atoms in the visible universe.

For the sake of clarity of large number probability, let's imagine taking all the stars in the heavens and putting them in a bag. We now have, by the lower-end estimate, 120 sextillion (that’s 1.2 x 10²³) stars in our bag. Now, let's add a star and call it the "power ball star".

The odds of you reaching into the bag and pulling out the power ball star are 1 in 120 sextillion. The probability here is so low that if we pulled out one star every second we would very likely never see the Powerball Star for billions of years.

However, if you put these numbers into the perspective of the expected time till universe death (10 to the 32,000th years in the future) you could expect to win this "Powerball star", playing only once a year, billions of times before the universe comes to an end.

But, let us look at a million first as millions of dollars is what we hope to win when we play and 1 in 302.5 million is our odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot.

How Much Is a Million?

There are an estimated 20 million millionaires in America or roughly 8% of the population (over 332.7 million at the time of writing). Yet, most Americans will earn over a million dollars in their lifetime. So, having a million dollars is not at all uncommon but having a million dollars is an insane amount of money.

In order to earn a million dollars in the average working life of 45 years (working 40 hours a week), you would only need to make $10.65 an hour after taxes (1,000,000 dollars / 45 years / 52.143 weeks / 40 hours = $10.65 an hour) As you can see, a million dollars is not such a large number that it is beyond what the average person can realistically achieve in their lifetime.

Another good way of comprehending the number million is to think of time. A second of time is nothing to us and even minutes seem to run by fairly quickly. A million seconds is approx. 16,666 minutes. A million minutes is approx. 694 days or 1.9 years.

If you play mega-millions once a day the odds of winning the jackpot in that year is now about 1 in 828,974 (302,575,350 / 365). If you play every day for 20 years your overall odds of winning the jackpot in that time frame is about 1 in 41,449 (828,974 / 20 = 41,449). When you look at it that way your chances are not as bad as they seem.

The Odds of Winning One Million Dollars

I don't think anyone would be too disappointed if they missed the jackpot by one number and only won a million dollars. Your odds of getting 5 numbers in any drawing (but miss the Mega Ball) is 1 in 12,607,306. Much better odds than hitting the jackpot (5 numbers and the mega ball) by 24 times (302,575,350 / 12,607,306).

Watch what happens to your odds if you play 1 ticket a day for 20 years. Now your odds of winning a cool million dollars within that time period is about 1 in 1,727 (302,575,350 / 365 days / 20 years). Increase your odds even more by buying 2 tickets a day, 1 in 863 and if you were to buy 5 tickets a day for 20 years and your chance of hitting a million-dollar win would be 1 in only 345.

Let's take this concept of increasing your odds even further and say you and your wife both play 10 sets of the same numbers every day for 20 years. What are your chances of winning a million dollars now? tack-tick-tack on the calculator and your odds of winning within 20 years comes to roughly 1 in 86.

Keep in mind in order to enjoy these great odds you would need to buy 146,000 tickets at a cost of $2 a pop or $292,000 over 20 years ($2 x 20 tickets x 365 days x 20 years) Having a 1 in 86 chance of winning a million dollars might seem great but remember you have an 85 in 86 chance of not winning that million.

That is the thing about gambling. If you beat the odds and win – you appear clever, wise, and a lucky duck. If you always lose, it would have been much smarter to invest that lottery money in a less risky option – like a money saving challenge.

The Odds of Other Things

The best way to put the odds of winning the lottery into perspective is to compare it with the odds of other things happening. Of course, life decisions are not all rolls of the dice, so to speak. You do have a say in increasing or decreasing your odds with the decisions you make but fate does have a say in how likely you are to succeed.

Struck by Lightning

A popular comparison is the odds of being struck by lightning. According to the U.S. weather service, the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime (80 years) is 1 in 15,300.

In this comparison, you are 19,776 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your life than win the Mega Millions Jackpot with one ticket. However, playing once a day every day of your 80 years would increase your odds to 1 in 10,362 (828,974 / 80 years). Looking at it from this perspective you would be 1.47 times more likely to win the Jackpot than get struck by lightning in your lifetime.

Being Declared a Saint

Your odds of living a life the Pope of the Catholic church finds worthy of sainthood is around 1 in 20 million. In order to be declared a saint, called canonize, your confessors would need to provide proof you performed a miracle.

Getting persecuted and killed while spreading Catholicism will increase your chances considerably (sainthood by martyrdom) but you won't be around to know you beat the odds. You are 15 times more likely to be declared a saint than win the Mega Millions jackpot.

Live to Be 110 Years Old

Living to be 100 years old (centenarian) is rare, but to live 110 years (supercentenarian) is very rare. There are currently only 74 verified supercentenarians in the world. If you are female your chances are a bit better as 71 of the 74 are women.

You can increase your chances of living to 110 by living a healthy lifestyle, but your odds are still only about 1 in 106.3 million. This means you are 2.8 times more likely to live to be 110 than win the Mega Millions jackpot. However, if you were to live to be 100 and played every day the same numbers your chances of winning the jackpot in your lifetime would be reduced to 1 in 8,289.

Take On the Odds and Win Big

Yes, your odds of winning mega millions shouldn't have you confident that you're destined to win. Yet, if you do the math and you can afford your "pie in the sky" habit of believing in that lucky day, you might very well like your chances. At the very least you will enjoy thinking about what you would do with all that money if you win.

History is full of determined people that beat seemingly unbeatable odds. There is no reason why you can't be one of those lucky winners. After all, your odds are the same as everyone else's odds of winning.

Speaking of having a chance to win, get started saving with Yotta and have a chance at winning weekly prizes of up to $10 million. What odds of winning millions of dollars do you have with your current savings account? We venture to guess your odds are a statistical impossibility.

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