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. SeaTurt1e

    On the other hand, my ticket's odds of winning are just as good as any other ticket. Gotta like those odds, right?

    March 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jen

    If we are going to speak in specific math terms, technically since the odds are 175,711,536 to 1 I could buy a 1 dollar ticket for each of the number options and guarantee a win. I would still have roughly 25 million dollars remaining (conservative estimate) after paying my taxes and the initial investment money for the lottery tickets. However, I would be out of luck if someone who only bought a few tickets got lucky. This is just a response to those who are pointing out how horrible the odds are. The odds are actually good for the pay off.

    March 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      But if I had that kind of money, I would probably not be wasting my time on a lottery.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan930

      One thing for sure , your odds of winning if you don't buy a ticket is 0.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Language

      There would be more than 25 million left. Problem is to get all of those tickets it would take you more than a couple of days to fill out let alone have them entered into the lottery system. So no this would not be feasible.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian

      Have fun trying to find a store capable of printing 175 million tickets....lets be fair and say the machines printed 5 number combinations a second, that still would take you over 400 days....well say you would have a "team" complete the work...you'd need approximately 135 people getting tickets printed day and night from Tuesday till Friday to complete that task.

      Lastly, have fun figuring out ways to obtain every number combination and having them manually filled out....you'd be mowing through quite a few mini-pencils for that task.

      I know it's been done before, but the process is brutal.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mjl6514

    I was standing in line with the author of this article........ either U win or U dont.... odds 50/50... go get a ticket!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      50/50, hey you're not wrong. Either you win, or you don't. There is no in-between there. You can even say that the dice is heavily weighted on one side, but if that was the case, then no one will win at all. I like it.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Her logic was far more superior than yours

      March 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. joe

    Or, you could look at it like this; the chance of winning is half the population of the US, so theoretically if everyone bought one ticket, one person would HAVE to win. To become President is statistically MUCH lower than winning the lottery.

    March 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Well, actually, no, this would not guaratee a winner unless we all got togeher and insured that all possible number combinations were covered. This is similar to advice given on GMA to always choose a number that had never won before because there have never been any winning numbers that repeated. A previous winning combinations is jsut as probable as any other, it's not like the ping pong balls have memory.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michelle

    According to Askville by Amazon http://askville.amazon.com/people-won-Mega-Millions-jackpot-existed/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=43282801
    325 million people have won the Mega Millions jackpot since it has existed.
    If that's true, what does that say about your odds? Also, if those odds are correct, don't you find it funny how frequently people win the jackpot? It was reported this AM that someone bought 2 quick picks in a row that came up with exactly the same numbers... I wonder what the odds of THAT happening are. I'm convinced it's fixed. If it wasn't I don't think people would win so often. Just my opinion. I still play and make plans. It's FUN! :)

    March 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom C

      Most of those "wins" are the tiny prizes like $3 for getting the MegaMillions ball.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • crookedarm

      325 million winners? Uh huh sure. Want to buy some oceanfront property in AZ?.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Luca

    I could pretty much guarantee a win. if I had 175.4 Million dollars to invest. If I could purchase all 175.4 million combinations of all the numbers in the lottery system it would cost me $175.4 Million to make my money grow to 640 Million overnight. That's a 350 percent increase. Not bad for a little math work.

    March 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lean6

      It would be fitting if somebody like Donald Trump does just that and wins. There would be a few...disappointed people out there....

      March 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ry

      Don't forget about the taxes :)

      March 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You (and many others) are forgetting that multiple winning tickets could be generated. If three other winners are out there you just lost 175m (less your share).

      March 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Except for the fact that if someone else won (which someone will), you would lose money.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Yes, you can buy all possible combinations of numbers. But according to another article, it would take 28 years to fill out the bubble scan sheets (assuming 5 seconds per ticket). So, you better get moving on that!

      March 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Murkus

      well, you would want to think of the following first: How do you plan on buying 175, 400, 000 tickets with all different possible combinations. I don't think you will have a pencil in hand as part of your plan. Then how can you guarantee that no one else buys the winning combination. Alas, one winner would totally bust your plan (because the actual payoff is closer to just double your initial investment). Just saying, some math is not enough. Gotta do more math :) Now two additional plans will put you in trouble, do the math.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian J.

      unfortunately thats not allowed.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • voice of reason

      even if you had the cash to invest, do you have any idea how long it would take to actually buy that many tickets? got a few lifetimes?

      March 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      @Lean6:
      If someone like Trump won, I think we would see a lot of torches and pitchforks storming the castle Trump Towers...

      March 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • littlexav

      That wouldn't work if more than a couple of people did it, since they'd have to split the jackpot.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      If you buy that many, sure you would win, but that doesn't mean that you will be the only one winning, meaning you might not see an increase like that, infact you may just break even.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lean6

    With my luck, there will be a Bruce Almighty scenario tonight with a few million co-winners and I won't win enough to pay for the gas that I burned going to buy my tickets!

    March 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. This Article Sucks

    This article is absolute abomination. You, author, are a sorry piece of work who is lifeless and full of negativity. Let us common folk enjoy our day dreams – you keep on with your day job of writing unwitty, unfunny, uninteresting columns. By the way, good job starting sentences with a preposition, using excessive colons, and reminding us dimwits (compared to you, author) of the odds with each and every bullet point that you listed.

    March 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Karen

    "– 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."

    I am 100% likely to hit a deer with my car in Hawaii if I aim for it. Your argument is invalid!

    March 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Reneeski

    ...all these numbers... yeah, I know my chances of winning are pretty darn slim... but if I DON'T buy a ticket, my chances are for sure NIL!!!! I'll buy my few tickets, day dream a bit on it – and rejoice with the winner! Which could be me!!!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mel

    It's fun to dream. It's worth the dollar just to fantasize and dream off what I will do with the money. I'm no expert, but it seems healthy to imagine once in a while.
    If the Man upstairs wants you to win, then you will. That's why I only buy one ticket, If it's meant to be then one dollar is all you need to part with. Just ask the people who seem to win the jack pot at least twice in their lives. Now what's the mathematical odds off that ever happening, it still happened though. That's my dream.

    March 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • wright

      If you apply that logic then you would only have to play once in your lifetime. Cause whenever you played would be the time you were "meant" to win. Otherwise you're just throwing money away for it's own sake. I imagine 99% of lotto players are theists of some kind and believe that their god will bestow upon them of all people a win. Because who deserves it more than you right? The other 1% knows the odds, and that they may live out the rest of their days never winning, but don't care and are willing to shell out the dough anyway for s and g.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. phearfactor

    As Han would say "never tell me the odds!"

    March 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      The very existence of life is predicated on beating these odds:
      –> 1 out of 300 million sperms hits the jackpot and the world population is getting bigger and bigger.
      –>Of the billions and billions of stars the odds of life are small, yet here we are teaming with people and now as is universally believed hundreds of more planets like us with some form of life.
      - There are several more examples. To hope against all odds and then beat those odds is what human spirit is all about. So best of luck of everybody. Whoever the winner, he/she had the audacity of taking that leap of faith!!

      March 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ron

    so you're saying I still have a chance.....

    March 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Coastal0ne

    As Han Solo said, "Never tell me the odds." ;-)

    March 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BW96

    Someone's gotta win :)

    March 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
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