March 30th, 2012
01:57 PM ET

You're not going to win Mega Millions jackpot

“Never tell me the odds.”
Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back"

Look. We know that you're aware the odds of winning Friday night’s record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, or any Mega Millions jackpot, are astronomical.

We also know that for the people who win it, the odds matter not one bit. Someone is going to win at least a share of the prize if not Friday, then in some subsequent drawing. But since we’re covering the historic jackpot and showing people in long lines giddily talking about how many cars or yachts or Dippin' Dots they’d buy if they win, we feel compelled to remind you:

It’s not going to be you.

The odds of a ticket winning a Mega Millions jackpot is 175,711,536 to 1. As Han Solo’s talkative robotic friend would tell you, you have a much, much better chance (1 in 3,720!) of navigating an asteroid field successfully. We didn’t exactly vet that, but you know you’d smash your ship into the rocks. And who are we to question protocol droids fluent in more than 6 million forms of communication?

To hammer home the point, here are a few other unlikely scenarios that, we’re sorry to say, are far more likely than you taking home a jackpot.

From the Harvard School of Public Health:

Chances of dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6.1 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

Chance you will be die from being struck by lightning: 1 in 3 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center:

Chance of having conjoined twins: 1 in 200,000. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From U.S. Hole in One, which insures golf prizes for holes in one:

The chance of an amateur golfer making a hole in one on a par-3 hole is about 1 in 12,500. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

The chance of a golfer hitting a hole in one on consecutive par-3 holes: 1 in about 156 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From a 2011 State Farm study on collisions between vehicles and deer:

 The chance of hitting a deer with a vehicle in Hawaii, the state where State Farm says deer-vehicle collisions are least likely, is 1 in 6,267. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the National Weather Service:

The chance of being struck by lightning over an 80-year lifetime: 1 in 10,000. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History, based on U.S. beach injury statistics in 2000:

Chance of drowning and other beach-related fatalites: 1 in 2 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

Chance of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

What are the odds you will win? Weigh in below, or on Twitter using #whataretheodds.

soundoff (1,701 Responses)
  1. Jon

    Chance of this story being completely irrelevant to at least one person who ignores your advice and purchases a ticket: 100%.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Actually, wouldn't be 100% since no one might hit it. Only be 100% if every number combination was purchased.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • situationalawareness

      – quote –
      Chance of this story being completely irrelevant to at least one person who ignores your advice and purchases a ticket: 100%.
      – end quote –

      There is no definite win. That is how the lotto pot got to where it is, now.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      LMAO!! For reals tho!!

      March 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suleiman the Magnificent

      May no one hire you again to write an article like this. You have proven beyond any doubt that when it comes to facts no one needs, you are King. So , as punishment, may the fleas of 40 thousand camels inhabits your underarms. (odds are one in 357,695,314,151,692,321,135,695.0769)

      March 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike in Oregon

    Actually the "asteroid belt" myth is a Hollywood thing – the odds of actually COLLIDING with a asteroid is worse than your odds of winning the lottery (about 1/1 billion)

    http://shrusti-t.blogspot.com/2012/02/6-space-myths-that-hollywood-movies.html

    March 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      That's our solar system though

      March 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    Eventually SOMEONE is going to win.

    Do you think it'll be the person that didn't buy a ticket or the persen who did?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe T.

      My office was going in on tickets and I told them I didn't want to put any money in so somebody bought a ticket in my name so I could win without buying a ticket. :)

      March 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. plush

    NONE OF THOSE OTHER ODDS SOUND AS FUN. HERE'S MY $5

    March 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Tell that to the guy who wins it. :-)

    March 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GBG

    The sad this is, it would take about 25 THOUSAND of these lotteries to pay off our country's debt.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      No, it would take more. The debt is almost all in bonds. In order to pay a bond off, the holder has to be willing to sell it back to the issuer. If it has not reached its final maturation, you need to buy it back for more than it is worth. Right now US treasuries are selling so high that the expected return is negative after predicted core inflation (further negative by any other measure of inflation), so you would have to pay back at close to final maturation value. This is why the Federal Reserve opposed using the surplus to pay down the debt in the late 90's.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. creation +

    I've taken statistics and understand probability, but if you don't by even one ticket, you will never win. As I see it the odds between 1 ticket and 100 are infinitesimal. So I bought 5, why not. Good luck to you all.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      No. If you buy 100 tickets, you have 100 times better chance of winning than if you bu one ticket. That's not infinitesimal.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey

      You understand probability and you wasted $4 on four more tickets?

      March 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jason

    Isn't your dream worth $1? Spending time fantasizing about what you would do with half a billion dollars, and yet having even an infinitesimal chance of winning is such a great pleasure. For $1, that feeling can be yours. It's called hope. I feel sorry for whomever wrote this article, you must be a glass half empty kind of person.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BubbleHeadedBallBag

    Well, Jason, Lindsay, and Lizzie; what are the odds of CNN firing you and hiring some real news reporters?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. itylhive

    Ah, lottery. The tax on not knowing math.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBG

      For those who spend hundreds of dollars I agree it is a less than intelligent purchase, but to spend $1 you purchase the right to dream. For hours you can just dream of 'WHAT IF'. People have no concerns about paying $12-$15 for a movie ticket and then spend 2 hours of entertainment, while $1 can give you many more hours than that (8 hours and 45 minutes as of this post).

      March 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      jesus, I suck a math, and I still know how ridiculous the lottery is.

      March 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Ah, the "the [insert insipid boring insult here] tax" saying. So old, so overused, so dull, so boring. Uttered by only the most head-up-own-assed morons on the planet. . .

      March 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. madmob

    what a stupid article. Of course we already know that their is hardly a chance of winning but playing a dollar or two is going to hurt anyone. Plus you will never win anyway if you never give yourself a chance. dumb ****

    March 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Notation

    Watch the notation

    3720! is not the same as 3720

    3720! = 1.06815631769210084545403323662836203231772544 × 10^11669

    That is quite a big difference

    March 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suleiman the Magnificent

      May Allah make it rain on your head for 60 days and nights. Your hair needs water.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Prediction

    The dollar ticket will get you a quart of gasoline or maybe a cup coffee.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suleiman the Magnificent

      My latte costs 3.99 plus tax. Not much left.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBG

      only a cheap cup of coffee from a truck stop. Starbucks would laugh at you.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Juss

    Conceding that the odds for a ticket are 1 in 175 million, the payout for the winning ticket currently $462 million for the cash option. So if those are the numbers, once the jackpot is over 175 million on the cash option, it doesn't really hurt to buy a ticket. Also, in theory, this is for schools, so I am going to pick a couple tickets up, even though I most probably won't win.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suleiman the Magnificent

      You are lucky that 40 thousand cows didn`t leave a deposit on your lawn

      March 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustinB

      Your comment clearly makes no sense. The odds and the payout are completely independent from each other. It makes no more sense to buy a ticket at $5 million jackpot than it does at $500 million. Unless (and you didn't specify as you said buy "A" ticket) you are referring to trying to buy ALL of the tickets. And it's been shown that can't happen, not even a significant percentage of all the tickets.

      Goes off to buy 5 bucks worth anywhoo....

      March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBG

      Actually Justin it does mean something. It's called return on odds. Basically if you have a chance to win more than the odds are against you, then it's a 'good' bet. Say you have a 5 to 1 chance to win something but the payout if you win was 10 times your wager, it's a 'good' bet. Meaning if you were to make the bet each and every time at this odds you would come out ahead.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ben

    Thanks a lot CNN, for days now I've been thinking I was a shoe win to win the jackpot. Then CNN has to come along and shot me down. Well this weekend is ruined now thanks to CNN.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
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