The Mega Millions jackpot continues to grow and now the world record lottery stands at $640 million, so let’s how to play the odds.
It’s a Mega Millions dream and players are lining up for tickets and trying to guess how to play the odds, which seem very impossible. Well, actually, they are impossible if you agree with 1 in 176 million. But someone is going to win.
In fact, someone with enough money could theoretically buy up every possible number combination, thereby guaranteeing a winning ticket — but only if you suspended the laws of physics.
A $540 million jackpot, if taken as a $390 million lump sum and after federal tax withholding, works out to about $293 million. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $117 million — less if your state also withholds taxes.
But there are too many limitations. First, if it takes five seconds to fill out each card, you’d need almost 28 years just to mark the bubbles on the game tickets. You’d also use up the national supply of special lottery paper and lottery-machine printing ink well before all your tickets could be printed out.
With a jackpot this large, experts say, there also is a greater chance of multiple winners. If you have to share the jackpot with even one other winner, you’ve lost $30 million.
Mike Catalano, chairman of the mathematics department at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., concedes the math is clear: The more tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning.
So, if you buy 10 tickets filled out 10 different ways, your odds of winning the jackpot 10 in 176 million.
“You are about 50 times as likely to get struck by lightning as to win the lottery, based on the 90 people a year getting struck by lightning,” Catalano said. “Of course, if you buy 50 tickets, you’ve equalized your chances of winning the jackpot with getting struck by lightning.”
Based on other U.S. averages, you’re about 8,000 times more likely to be murdered than to win the lottery, and about 20,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than hit the lucky numbers, Catalano said.
Long odds have been little deterrence to players converging on convenience stores in 42 states and Washington, D.C., where Mega Millions tickets are sold.